Showmax and kykNET have released the first trailer for Waterfront, a star-studded family noir set in the dark underbelly of one of South Africa’s most popular tourist attractions.
Boat-building patriarch Ben Myburgh (SAFTA nominee Dawid Minnaar) is dead. This brings his three daughters – Julia (Die Byl’s Milan Murray), Anna (Silwerskerm and Fleur du Cap nominee Rolanda Marais) and Kate (Die Boekklub’s Trix Vivier) – back to the family business at the Cape Town harbour. But only one of them will inherit – and not what she expected – in this dark story of secrets, sibling rivalry and gentrification.
Silwerkskerm winners Albert Pretorius and Erica Wessels; Fleur du Cap winners Charlton Lee George, Paul du Toit and Stian Bam; and 2017 SAFTA nominee Neels van Jaarsveld co-star alongside familiar faces like Edwin van der Walt (Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling), Hannes van Wyk (Kwela, Egoli, danZ!), Joanie Combrink and Marvin Lee Beukes (Die Byl) and Tarryn Wyngaard (Noem My Skollie).
But the real star of the show is the V&A Waterfront. “It’s such a wonderful place and has never been used in a drama series like this,” says producer Herman Binge from Lion’s Head Productions. He admits that having an all-access pass to shoot anywhere owned by the Waterfront came with a downside though: “There’s no way to know which way to look at the shot because you can film anything here and it’s beautiful.”
The series is a reminder that this beauty came at a price: the gentrification that followed the development of the shopping centre in the 80s meant that not all of the Waterfront’s neighbours could afford to stay on what had become prime property. Even the likes of the Myburghs were put under immense pressure to move.
“When I was a child, the Waterfront was a kind of a ship dock,” remembers cast member Euodia Samson (Die Byl). “It was a fantastic world because there were people and fishermen everywhere. Nowadays, it’s so prim and proper you have to wear heels when you come here.”
Charlton Lee George (Die Boland Moorde) agrees. “It’s changed a lot since the eighties. This used to be a dangerous place, so it’s been very interesting to see it become a tourist mecca.”
Waterfront was originally envisaged as a soap opera – it was shortlisted with The Wild when M-Net was looking for a soap, and again with Suidooster when kykNET wanted one.
But when Fleur du Cap and KKNK-winning director Jaco Bouwer (Rooiland, Samsa-Masjien) got involved, his references were rather family dramas like Bloodline and Nordic noir like The Killing.
Together with screenwriter Leon Kruger, Bouwer rebooted the show to focus on the complicated human relationships at the heart of the story, shifting the primary locations from the brightly lit shopping mall to the shadowy nooks and crannies of the harbour. “I didn’t want to write a goodie and a baddie,” says Kruger, who as an actor had worked with Bouwer on the popular kykNET crime series DIe Boland Moorde. “I just wanted to write something grey.”
Bouwer believes the show is a new direction for South African television, as complex structurally as it is morally, with up to five storylines running at a time, single scenes split across 13 episodes, and both flashbacks and flashforwards. “I hope and I trust that the local audience is ready for this,” says Bouwer. “I don’t think we’ve seen something like Waterfront on local TV.”
Waterfront replaces Die Boekklub on kykNET (DStv Channel 144) on 10 October 2017 at 20:00 SAST, coming to Showmax express the next day. New episodes will screen weekly.
Netflix to make SA series
The world leader in streaming movies has announced the first South African production to join its Originals roster.
World leader in entertainment streaming services Netflix this week announced its first Original series in Africa, with South African series Queen Sono.
The news comes immediately in the wake of local rival Showmax announcing it’s first original drama production. In this context, it heralds a new phase in the evolution of streaming video-on-demand in South Africa.
The action-packed series follows Queen Sono, the highly trained top spy in a South African agency whose purpose is to better the lives of African citizens. While taking on her most dangerous mission yet, she must also face changing relationships in her personal life. The series will be created by Director, Kagiso Lediga and Executive producer Tamsin Andersson.
South African actress, Pearl Thusi, will star as Queen Sono, with the character having been created with her in mind. Thusi is also known for her performance in the romantic dramedy, Catching Feelings, available on Netflix.
“We are excited to be working with Kagiso and Pearl, to bring the story of Queen Sono to life, and we expect it to be embraced by our South African users and global audiences alike.” said Erik Barmack, Vice President of International Original Series at Netflix.
“We are delighted to create this original series with Netflix, and are super excited by their undeniable ability to take this homegrown South African story to a global audience. We believe Queen Sono will kick the door open for more awesome stories from this part of the world” added the director and executive producer of the series, Kagiso Lediga.
The series is due to start production in 2019.
Showmax shoots its first local drama
Showmax has completed filming its first commissioned drama, as it builds out its roster of original content.
The Girl From St Agnes, Showmax’s first original drama, wrapped on 28 November 2018 after filming in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and Johannesburg. The eight-part whodunnit premieres on Showmax on 31 January 2019. It is the second series in a programme designed to build out its roster of exclusive, original content.
As Netflix takes hold as South Africa’s preferred streaming video-on-demand service, Showmax owner MultiChoice has made a string of strategic announcements designed to take the DStv paid satellite broadcasting service into the streaming era. Original content is critical to this strategy, as Netflix is on track to become the world’s biggest movie studio.
Showmax is available in 70 countries.
“Our first Original – last year’s light-hearted comedy Tali’s Wedding Diary – had the most successful launch day of any series on Showmax ever,” says Candice Fangueiro, head of content at Showmax. “This is a complete change of direction: The Girl From St Agnes is a dark murder mystery that will keep you guessing and taps into the current conversations in South Africa about #metoo and teen sexuality.”
At St Agnes, a prestigious all-girls boarding school in the Midlands, a popular and beautiful student is found dead at the base of the old mill. Fearful of the scandal it might cause, the school is quick to declare the death of Lexi Summerveld a tragic accident.
But drama teacher Kate Ballard doesn’t believe it. On the night of her death, an upset Lexi had been trying to contact her, and Kate had ignored her. Now wracked with guilt, Kate attempts to piece together the terrible truth.
The more she investigates, the more Kate realises that she didn’t know Lexi or the school at all. Behind the imposing walls of St Agnes, Lexi’s killer won’t be the only person exposed…
Newcomer Jane De Wet was handpicked to play Lexi by legendary South African casting director Moonyeenn Lee (Tsotsi), who’s been nominated for two Emmy Awards in the last three years, for The Looming Tower and Roots.
Kate is played by Nina Milner, who modelled for Vogue Germany and at Paris Fashion Week last year and most recently starred in Troy: Fall Of A City as Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons.
Jane and Nina are joined by an impressive supporting cast that includes internationally recognised South African talent like Robert Hobbs (District9), Tyrone Keogh (24 Hours To Live), Tessa Jubber (Wallander), Karl Thaning (Dredd) and Shamilla Miller (Troy: Fall Of A City) opposite local favourites like Celeste Khumalo (The Queen), Richard Lukunku (Happiness Is A Four-Letter Word), Zakeeya Patel (High Rollers), Graham Hopkins (The Lab) and three-time South African Film and Television Award (SAFTA) winner Jerry Mofokeng (Heist, Tsotsi), not to mention hot new talent like Paige Bonnin and Tristan de Beer.
The Girl From St Agnes is being produced by Quizzical Pictures, winners of the SAFTA for Best Drama for six of the last eight years, as well as a Peabody. Producer Harriet Gavshon, Quizzical Pictures’ managing director, is drawing on her own private school experiences, which sparked the original idea for the show. This is the first time Harriet has produced a series, rather than just executive producing, since 2009’s Hopeville, which won Best Drama and Miniseries at Rose d’Or, was nominated for an International Emmy, and was a finalist at Monte Carlo.
Catharine Cooke, who won this year’s Best Director In a TV Drama SAFTA for iNumber Number, co-directed the shoot with Cindy Lee, a commercials director helming her first drama series, having previously worked as the social media director on the Emmy-winning Black Mirror. Double SAFTA winner Gillian Breslin (Umlilo; 4Play: Sex Tips For Girls) is head writer. This makes Girl From St Agnes a rare TV series commissioned, produced, written and directed by women.
“What links Girl From St Agnes, Tali’s Wedding Diary and the other Showmax Originals in the pipeline is our aim to work with the best South African talent and be the home for brave, quirky and at times edgy local stories you wouldn’t find anywhere else,” says Candice. “Creating new characters that audiences come to love and follow is an incredibly rewarding experience and we want to establish a platform for more ‘Tali’s’ across varied genres.”
All eight episodes can be binged on Showmax from 31 January 2019.