Larona, 22, says when she auditioned for One Magic’s The River last year, she was just trying her luck. The only drama background she has is participating in high school plays. “I’ve always had a keen interest in the entertainment industry and specifically acting. I guess the universe was on my side because I took a chance and told myself ‘let me try this’ and to my surprise, I got it,” she says.
The full-time BA Law student had no idea she was auditioning for a lead role and describes the audition as nerve wrecking. “I love trying out new things and I avoid allowing fear to get in the way. So when the opportunity came, I did my best.”
When she got the role, she says she couldn’t sleep for a week. “I kept asking myself: am I dreaming? Is this really happening? I was so excited – my world turned around because my dream had finally become a reality.”
After receiving the character bible, Larona says she had to dig deep to understand the character and her background, to make Itumeleng as realistic as possible. “Preparing for the role meant I go to different townships, observing the people and also the young women. I also interacted with the people from there, to hone the character as a whole.”
In her first year of varsity, the talented actress signed up for drama at Wits but only did it for a week because it wasn’t as fulfilling as she thought it would be.
“I really wanted the world to see what I have, I believed in my talent but the institution wasn’t giving me what I had anticipated and what I had wanted at a tertiary level.
Because law had been something I’d always wanted to do, I thought to myself; maybe the timing for law is now, and I switched courses,” she says.
Larona admits that balancing both her career and school isn’t easy, but one has to make it work. “You need to prioritise and keep focused. On days that I’m not working, I push as much schoolwork as I can. There’s also not much going out during the weekends,” she says.
Speaking on the differences of her character and herself, Larona believes Itumeleng went from selfless to selfish, a character trait she says isn’t a reflection of her. “I wouldn’t leave things down and under, I believe in working things out – especially with family.”
She adds that her on-screen character isn’t street smart. “Tumi’s thinking and my thinking are worlds apart.”
What she loves about her on-screen character is her warmth, ability to love and drive. “We’re both head-strong. Once we decide on something, we’ll do it and see it through, no matter. I love the fire and drive she has, which is how I am too,” she says.
Because she is not a trained actress, Larona admits that getting into emotional and heavy scenes was something she finds challenging, although she believes she’s getting there. Shooting the kitchen table scenes in the Mokoena household and working alongside Presley Chweneyagae is a highlight for the actress. “He’s just something else,” she giggles.
On what advice she has for those who are trying to get in the industry, Larona maintains one should believe in their craft and keep going even when it gets challenging. “If something is meant for you, it will happen,” she concludes.