Johannesburg – Pearl Thusi was clearly homesick. “I even missed the problems we have in South Africa and the crazy newspaper headlines you’d only find in this country,” she giggled.
The 28-year-old actress longed to speak in her mother tongue to her friends and family.
“I miss speaking Zulu. I miss that like crazy,” she said.
“I made it a point to start learning other African languages. I miss being corrected when I attempt Xhosa, Tswana, Sesotho and even Nigerian phrases.”
Thusi spent the last few months conquering New York City as she settled into her role on popular US TV show Quantico, but recently returned home for a second stint of hosting MTV Base Africa’s Lip Sync Battle Africa.
While busy on set as co-host of the music show, she was thrilled to have time to spend with her loved ones, especially her daughter.
“It’s great to be home, with my family, my partner, friends. And the weather and food are just great.
“South Africa is home and that will never change. My heart is always here no matter where my mind and career go.”
But Thusi had few complaints of life in New York and said she had fallen in love with the Big Apple.
“It’s such an incredibly diverse and magical place with lots of vibrancy and energy. It feels like home. As much as I miss home and all my loved ones, I’m feeling very fulfilled and happy there.
“Even in New York I’ve made so many connections through people from home.”
Thusi also revealed what life is like as a foreigner in the US since Donald Trump was elected president.
“The election results and the subsequent headlines upset most New Yorkers because there’s a strong belief in equality and assimilation.
“Although I’ve had the odd pro-Trump conversation that has offered an interesting perspective, I come from a country that fought hard for democracy. And what happened in America is democracy.
“The world is seeing a version of America it doesn’t often see in the movies. I’m an actor. I observe. I try not to judge.”
Her work life has been amazing. The actress says she has been treated like “gold” on the set of Quantico.
“I feel unbelievably blessed and favoured. The team I work with all love their work (so much) that I’ve found myself reaching heights with my own level of investment in my work.”
Thusi stars alongside an array of talent such as Bollywood superstar Priyanka Chopra and Blair Underwood.
She says it has been an “unbelievable” experience working with such talented actors.
“They are all such a diverse group of people, a melting pot of talent, brains and nations.
“Every conversation is different and has so many perspectives: politics, religion, food and any other topic becomes a learning experience and an opportunity to learn, grow and challenge yourself.
“I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve worked with a group of such kind, humble, giving and gracious people.”
While Thusi looks forward to getting back to the Quantico set, she says all her focus was on co-hosting Lip Sync Battle Africa.
“I’m a big believer in African entertainers interacting and working together so the idea of this show is more than just work for me.
“It feeds into my own African dream – where borders are merely lines in a map and we are a unified and stronger continent that sustains itself and is so strong in every way that we never need aiding again,” Thusi says.
“Africa is the motherland – the rest of the world should be looking to us for guidance.
“Doing this show is planting the seeds to grow that vision.”