It’s an overcast morning in Johannesburg and the roads are freakishly quiet. It’s 5.30am – a crazy-early call time.
Twelve coffees steam the car windows as we navigate our way to the venue for Pearl’s COSMO cover shoot. Vibey music is emanating from a minimalist studio hidden in the heart of Jo’burg’s gritty CBD – think Afro beats, a touch of soothing gospel and some Spanish tracks. We draw closer to the door, juggling flat-whites as racks of stylish, local designer outfits blaze the room.
The crew members, who are all female, are prepping their stations for a day of shooting. Suddenly, a bold, infectious laugh from the woman of the moment floods the studio. It’s Pearl Thusi. Actress, TV host, mother, philanthropist and Mzansi’s own Mama Pantha. She is a ball of energy, chatting away to a friend on FaceTime while hair and makeup buzz around her like bees to a honeypot. She can’t wait to take a sip of the coffee heading in her direction. She ends the call. ‘Girl! Thank you!’ she says with a wink, as she grabs the cup and steals a moment to find just the right song from her playlist. Her vibrant, can-do energy makes the early call time a distant memory for all on set.
With her own haircare range, back-to-back endorsement deals and a dynamic showreel boasting only the most coveted film and television roles – both local and international – Pearl is no stranger to breaking boundaries. She has graced the global stage in lauded series such as ABC’s Quantico (starring alongside Priyanka Chopra) and, more recently, appeared in Netflix’s Catching Feelings. Now, Pearl owns the cover of COSMO to celebrate yet another first in her dynamic career.
The African Khaleesi, as fans affectionately call her, plays the lead role in the first-ever African Netflix Original series, Queen Sono. From script to screen, this production celebrates our continent’s talents and skills to tell the story of an unconventional spy working for an undercover South African agency devoted to protecting the people of Africa. Queen takes on her most dangerous mission yet and that is when the D.R.A.M.A. unfolds. Directed by the talented Kagiso Lediga and Tebogo Malope, and starring Vuyo Dabula, Sechaba Morojele, Chi Mhende and comedians Loyiso Madinga and Rob van Vuuren, the story unfolds in the heart of Johannesburg, making it the perfect location for Pearl’s COSMO cover shoot.
‘What drew me to the role was the character’s strength,’ Pearl says. ‘Queen represents the strength that is evident in all women. I want every woman to believe that she is a hero, even if she is the anti-hero. For me, the most important thing is for young women to find their inner queen.’ The inception of the series came about during a conversation over drinks between Pearl and Kagiso. In the meeting, Pearl shared her desire to see more complex and unconventional action-hero roles for black women. In trying to convince her Catching Feelings co-star, she pulled out video footage from her previous stunt training, and just like that she sold the idea to him. He then facilitated the buy-in from Netflix and got the green light for a script to be written.
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