Isidingo's new Charlie chats to YOU about her new role (and lukewarm fans she wants to win over)

By admin
10 February 2014

It hasn't been a smooth ride with fans for Isidingo's new Charlie. YOU chats to Michaella Russell about her new role and its challenges.

It's not always easy to win over fans who have grown to love a particular character. Isidingo's new Charlie discovered this when she recently took over the role of Charlie Holmes in the popular SABC3 soapie. Michaella Russell received a lukewarm response from Isidingo fans on social media. The 21-year-old took over from Jay Anstey, who was allegedly fired without her knowledge last year.

YOU caught up with Michaella for a Q&A.

At what age did you realise you had a passion for acting?

I was about 10 years old when I played Hagrid from the first Harry Potter book in a school play. I had to learn all of his lines from the original script, develop an English accent and wear a 4m tall costume made from a steel mesh frame covered in fabric and padding creating Hagrid's imposing appearance.

How are you and Charlie alike? Charlie and I have more differences than similarities in my opinion. I grew up in Johannesburg in a very stable, family-oriented background. I was your typical "good girl" working hard to make my parents proud and maintain a good reputation. I hardly ever rebelled and focused my energy into school and cultural extramurals. Charlie comes from a small town and a broken home, she has endured huge trauma from her rape and murder ordeals. She is rebellious by nature and at times inconsiderate of others, however she has matured and is more responsible and accountable now. I believe both Charlie and I are strong individuals. Plus I think that both Charlie and I have a thing for sportsmen as my partner is an avid soccer player and she clearly fancies Bradley the rugby star.

I have always strived to be independent. I never hide from a challenge and when I'm knocked down I get back up, just as Charlie has.

What was your biggest adjustment when you started shooting on Isidingo?

My biggest adjustment was and still is to lower my voice and speak from my core and also to maintain eye contact with other actors for what would normally be awkwardly long in real life. Ha ha.

It’s going to take some time for fans to warm up to the idea of a new Charlie. How do you handle the pressure of stepping into someone else’s shoes?

From day one I was prepared for the potential resistance I might receive from loyal fans trying to adjust. There was pressure. Not pressure to be the new Jay but rather to continue developing the character, honouring all that she gave to Charlie while taking the character even further. It is the integrity of the role that I feel pressure to uphold and I feel that, that is a positive not a negative.

Do you get stopped in the shopping mall now that you are on Isidingo?

Not yet, although I had a petrol attendant shake my hand through my car window. It made paying to fill up just a bit more bearable.

How was the experience of auditioning for the role of Charlie?

I am accustomed to going to massive auditions where one sits on the floor and waits for hours. The audition for Charlie was different, there were only five other girls (on that particular day) and we had a comfortable couch to sit on, with only a short wait. All and all it was a very pleasant experience. I tripped and cursed as I did in the audition on camera and was certain that I had blown my chances. So I was shocked in the most wonderful kind of way when I got a call-back three weeks later and then confirmed as the new Charlie the following day.

Five facts about Michaella:

1. Michaella was conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF).

2. Isidingo is her first acting job.

3. She is a model and is 1,71m tall.

4. She is currently studying towards a degree in Neuropsychology and Economics via correspondence.

5. She only has one sibling, her younger sister.

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