IN HER SHOES
Buhle Mbonambi chats to Michaella Russell, Isidingo’s new Charlie
When Isidingo broke the news late last year that they have replaced Jay Anstey with Michaella Russell, many of us raised out eyebrows. Jay had basically become Charlie Holmes and was doing well as Isidingo’s girl-next-door and while her character, Charlie, had been away for story-line purposes, we expected her to return. It was not to be. Which brings us to Michaella Russell, who like Jay, is also a model and Charlie is her first role on a TV series. I met Michaella in December at a SABC shindig and we spoke for a few minutes, mainly about how nervous she was about taking on the role. I called her a month later to talk about Charlie, what she thinks of the mixed reaction from fans of the show and what to expect next on the show.
Has it been hard making Charlie Holmes your own?
It has been. Jay developed the character, so I have had the challenge of fleshing her out and taking her on a new direction. We have both contributed to how Charlie is and it’s now my responsibility to carry on and give her more depth.
Jay made Charlie her own- the mannerisms- did you feel like you had to watch her reel to get the feel of her performance or did you decide to just do your own thing?
Well, I’m not Jay. I can’t be Jay. We are going to give different performances and see the character differently. I respect Jay and what she did with Charlie. I’m doing my own thing and portraying her as I see her, so I hope I’m given a chance to be able to do her justice. For me it’s the story that matters and I’m just the vehicle used to make sure that the message in the story is conveyed.
People have had a mixed reaction to the new Charlie. How do you feel about that? Do you think fans should give you a chance?
Oh yes, definitely. I totally get that people may feel weird seeing me as Charlie, especially since Jay was on the show for a while and was the original Charlie. But yes, I think I should be given a chance to do my best with Charlie before they write me off. I’m trying my best and I hope they will grow to like me and I’m working very hard to make sure that I do the role justice.
So, Charlie has been back in the Deep for a few weeks now, acting as if everything is fine, but now the cracks are showing. Will she ever come to terms with her rape and start healing?
Maybe with time she will heal, but it’s still a very messed up situation for her. She acts as if she’s okay, but she lashes out at her friends even when they are trying to be there for her. She’s dealing with all this baggage and it’s clear she’s not really handling it as well as she wants to or wants people to think she is.
Did you do any research to prepare for this storyline?
Yes I did. I reached out to rape survivors and it was a really harrowing experience. The ones I spoke to are still very angry that it happened to them and I channelled some of that anger into the role. I can’t ever imagine dealing with rape in real life. It makes me angry! It’s very difficult to even come to terms that someone would do something so terrible to you. I put myself in those women’s shoes and asked myself how Charlie would feel like talking to them. It’s immensely difficult for any woman to deal with such an ordeal.
The matter of Quinton’s death- does she wish it didn’t happen?
That’s one of her primary concerns. She hates him, but she hates that she also killed him and it’s eating her up. She wishes she could have handled it another way. The messed up thing is that she feels like she can’t tell anyone about this, especially her dad, Eddie, who’s such an upstanding cop.
She finally told Ben about it- was this a good plan?
Well, it was massive relief for her to finally tell someone about this. She knows that she can trust Benjamin as he always has her back at all times. He would never betray her, even if it could make a great story for ON!
We’ve seen her lashing out to everyone about Cherel’s disappearance- is it because she feels for her dad or more of a selfish reason- she wants Cherel to be there for her and get her through this Quinton nightmare?
It’s mixed emotions. She wishes Cherel was there so they can talk about it and what they will do; but she’s also scared that Cherel will sell her out to the police and Charlie will have to take the fall for both of them killing Quinton. Another part of her is genuinely concerned about her dad and she sees how Cherel going AWOL is killing him.
I always feel like Charlie doesn’t want to grow up and face her problems, choosing to rather run away. Will she ever fix her issues with both her mom and her dad?
I think we all run away when we have a problem. It takes a strong person to take their issues head on. I really don’t blame Charlie for always running away. She’s 21. And I think she’s very strong to have dealt with the rape and still continuing to. It’s not an easy thing. I’m also 21 and I can’t imagine having to face all my problems head on.
So onto less dreary news. Romance is on the cards for Charlie soon. Is it serious?
Oh it just popped up, totally unexpected. It has the potential to be a special, serious relationship. I guess we’ll see. I can’t reveal much at the moment, but it’s going to be a good thing for her.
Will her issues come into play again and potentially mess up the relationship?
Oh they will. But then this person makes Charlie feel great and he will do anything to make sure she’s happy. Help her heal.
How’s the time on set been like?
It’s a different world. The best thing about this is the advice and love I’ve been getting from my colleagues. They’ve helped me improve. It’s honestly the little things- I always say that it’s the best therapy session being on set and with this storyline, I really need it.
Catch Michaella as Charlie on Isidingo weekdays at 7.30pm