Generations: The Legacy actress Pearl Monama (27) chats to Kwanele Mathebula about the dynamics of working in television and theatre. Picture: Hema Patel
Drama helped me gain confidence. I was a shy child and only began coming out of my shell after joining the Sibikwa Arts Academy in Benoni when I was in grade eight. I did drama, drumming, marimba, tap and African dancing. Two years later, I joined my high school’s drama club, Hoerskool Brandwag in Benoni. I matriculated in 2008 with the intention to pursue interior design studies at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).
My application to study interior design was unsuccessful. After being rejected at UJ, I applied for drama at the University of Pretoria because my parents were not keen on me taking a gap year. Unfortunately, it was full and only the theology and education departments had openings. I opted for education, and changed to drama after one year. I completed my bachelor of arts in drama and film degree in 2013 and honours degree in movement and drama in 2014. Studying drama was an incredible experience as the department was small and the students were close. I got a chance to work behind the scenes and was exposed to the professional environment. By the time I graduated in 2014, I left feeling confident that I could take on acting professionally.
Generations: The Legacy is my break out role. My first professional job was a role in the local movie, Suurlemoen. In 2013, I performed a two-minute scene of Mike van Graan’s play, Green Man Flashing, in Afrikaans as part of my final year showcase in front of acting agents. Althea Valence who was one of the agents was impressed, and signed me to her agency. A few weeks later, she sent me to audition for a role in the movie. I went to the audition feeling nervous, but I did well and got the part. I went on to do a play with poet and playwright, Napo Masheane called A New Song at the Market Theatre. In 2016, I received a brief from Generations: The Legacy for a young, Zulu-speaking princess who was a doctor. I was nervous at the audition because television was unfamiliar territory for me. Fortunately, the casting director was nice and helped calm me down. I went back for two call backs with some of the cast members before I got the role. I cried after receiving the news because I couldn’t believe it.
Transitioning from theatre to television has had its challenges. Most of the work I did before Generations: The Legacy was in theatre. On stage, you must be animated and your energy has to be felt across the room. On screen, the acting is more restricted as there are microphones to pick up the sound. Fortunately, switching between the two hasn’t been difficult for me. I always have to remember how to act for the different mediums. Also, because television is so fast paced, de-roling and getting over a scene is much easier than it is in theatre.
I am looking forward to doing more projects this year. My role on Generations is going to keep things interesting in the next few months. I also want to do other projects that will showcase more of my talent, and I am excited to get back to theatre and dancing.