Lerato Marabe and Oratile Maitisa play best friends Pretty and Eunice on Skeem Saam, keeping fans riveted every weekday with their schoolgirl antics on the hit SABC1 show. We grabbed the two sassy kids away from their hectic schedules to speak to them about their roles, their lives and what they still hope to achieve.

ROLE PLAYING

Lerato (18) started acting when she was just four years old and appeared in adverts for kids’ programme Takalani Sesame for  years. She was 11 when she auditioned for the role of Pretty and was thri lled when she got the job. “When my agent told my mom the news, we couldn’t believe it  because this is what I’d always wanted to do. And there it was!” She loves playing Pretty because she understands her as they’re the same age – but they aren’t that much alike, she adds. “Pretty is a mam’gobhozi (gossip) and I’m not like that, no ways! She’s also quite naïve, but I see things for how they are. But the fact she’s out- spoken and straightforward is where her and I meet,” she says. Oratile (19) may be the shy one of  the two but her quiet confidence shines through when she starts talking about her character. “Eunice is a reserved person – well, not so much right now because she’s just started university and is trying to break out of her shell and stuff.” Her character is a bit of a nerd, Oratile adds with a grin, and they’re quite different in that respect. “For instance, I like singing and dancing – even though I can’t! I also love fashion and helping my mom with her sewing business.” The girls say they love being part of  an educational show like Skeem Saam

where they feel they can make a difference. “The youth of 1976 went through a lot to ensure people like us have a bright future,” Lerato says. The students involved in the uprising are an inspiration to them, she adds. “They were so young but the impact  of what they did can still be felt today  by people they’ll never know. And it’s important for us to use the platforms we have, to educate and make a difference, and that’s what we’re doing through acting.”

 FAMILY FOREVER

Ask Lerato and Oratile what they’re most grateful for and they answer in unison: “My mother!” Oratile’s mom, Mmatebu (51), started a sewing business a few years ago. She was a teacher but decided to retire early because she’s diabetic and had been in and out of hospital. “But even through all of that, her strength was so inspiring,” Oratile says. “When you see her, you’d never say she’s been through a lot because she’s strong and she doesn’t make others carry her load.” She’s also very close to big brother, Lesedi (32). “He’s so open, we talk about everything. My other brother, Matlatse (29), is also cool but he isn’t as forthcoming.”  Lerato’s mom, Matshidiso (55), is a teacher and has been a great influence on her, she says. “She’s such a phenomenal woman. Every time I pray before bedtime I thank the Lord she’s had this day, and I pray she has more as there’s still so much I need to learn from her.” One of Lerato’s favourite things about her mom, who raised her children on her own, is that she pushes her and inspires her daughter to go on when she feels like giving up. Lerato also enjoys spending time with her brother, Thabo (27). “He’s such an a m a zing big brother. He’s an editor in  the film industry and that’s exactly what I intend to do in the future.”

 LOOKING FOR LOVE

Both teenagers are currently in relationships but they won’t name their boyfriends. “My partner and I have been together for two years and he’s such an amazing person,” Lerato says. “He’s also one of the people patient enough to deal with my personality.  He refuses to go to malls with me though because so many people recognise me and walk up to me. “But there’s honestly nothing better than having a partner who puts in the effort to be more understanding. Effort is so attractive.” Oratile has been in a relationship for six months and says things are looking promising. “I’m a very spiritual person – I love God. And the fact he also loves God and wants to know about Him and experience Him is such a beautiful thing.”

GROWING UP IN SHOWBIZ

Lerato was 11 and Oratile 13 when they started working on Skeem Saam so they’ve practically grown up in front of viewers’ eyes. It hasn’t always been easy, they say,  especially trying to have lives outside  the show. Lerato shares an experience she once went through. “In high school my friends and I decided to go to KFC after school. So while we were waiting in the queue, this one lady walked up to me and slapped me across the face because of the storyline at the time. I was so upset – I called my mother and asked her to pick me up because I just couldn’t believe it.” “Some people really don’t understand that acting on Skeem Saam is a job and not our real lives,” Oratile says. “And sometimes they expect us to be dolls  and always be happy. I’m human too – I have bad days too, just like you. It’s not realistic to always be happy.”

FUTURE PLANS

The girls have both finished matric – Lerato at Boksburg High School in 2017 and Oratile at Capricorn High School in 2016 – and have been concentrating on their acting work this year. But they still want to study further.  After 14 years in front of the camera, Lerato wants to learn more about what happens behind the scenes. “I want to have my own production company one day, so it’s important for me to study the ins and outs of the business,” she says. Oratile’s still deciding what she wants to study, but is looking at industrial  psychology. “I just want a job where I can help people,” she says. For now though, entertaining people is their joy.