Michelle Botes is ready to take on the entertainment industry again!
The 57-year-old is known for playing the infamous Cherel de Villiers-Haines character on the hit soapie Isidingo.
However, when her journey with the production came to an end, all the mom-of-two wanted was a break to rediscover herself before continuing on another journey as an actress.
“I left the industry for a while and isolated myself,” Michelle tells YOU from her home in Johannesburg.
“I didn’t want to act for a long time. I was a bit burnt out and the next thing for me was to not act any part. That was my challenge after being in so many different parts.
“It was the real challenge because I’d been acting since I was 19 or 20, and then in my fifties, suddenly there was a point where I was just like ‘who am I even’.
“For me, the next part was finding who I am without a character? If there was no character then what was there?”
Michelle embarked on travelling and started writing, pampered herself, and moved from one to place to another on a quest to discover her true self.
“I went on until I ran out of money,” she said jokingly. “I wanted to change my life. I discovered many things and I found that in life we all act.
“I went to the forest but not one fixed address. I just moved on and it’s nice, and it makes you want to play the next part again and the next part makes you realise how special life is,” she added.
On her travels, the actress discovered how the role of Cherel had grown on her and even helped build her character.
“She taught me a lot. I would’ve given up many times but Cherel never gave up. Often I don’t have the courage to follow my passion as she did.
“Cherel was such a force, and I found her in me . . . a confusing force. She certainly rattled my cage in good ways and in bad ways, pushed me to where I’ve never been to find places within myself I never knew were there.
“She’s taught me to be vocal to have my own back . . . there are so many things I wasn’t before Cherel and now I am after Cherel. If I knew what she’d be in the end I wouldn’t have thought I’d play the role.”
After years with Isidingo, Michelle joined M-Net’s Binnelanders soap on Kyknet and later returned to Isidingo in June 2010 for a short stint. She rejoined Binnelanders in 2019.
“I’ve got a few favourites among the characters I played in my career but Cherel definitely, along with Princess on the show Arende – she was totally different. Mary on Palang van Dwaal as well, there was something about being that woman.
“I’ve suffered for a long time to not be Cherel and that took me nine years. Even after I came back people were still saying where’s Cherel and that’s unheard of.
“It’s difficult to get away from something when everywhere you go people see that. I found it very sticky, that was hard. However, she’s left a very rich legacy for me, I can’t imagine not having had the privilege of knowing her.”
Michelle added: “When Isidingo ended the first thing that came to me was that all stories end. In a way it’s brave to end them because then new stories can come. So in a way, I like the fact that it’s making space for new stories.
“At this point I don’t care whether I’m acting or not, or where I am, as long as you’re plugging in somewhere.”
Although Michelle is now back in the swing of the things in her Joburg home, she says she often reminisces about her time away in the woods.
“I literally didn’t see people for months at the beginning of the lockdown. It’s really rough not having a cat or anything. I didn’t realise how much I miss nature,” she says.
Early June, Michelle Botes joined M-Net’s new telenovela Legacy, playing the role of the wife of a former lawyer
“I said I’d never do it and here I am, stepping into the acting space starting Legacy,” she says.
“It’s me starting again and it’s also looking to express the part that wants to come through me. It’s a journey and I find that quite exciting because now there’s space for another journey and I have no clue how it’s going to be.”