Netflix is leaning heavily into producing a diverse library exclusive content. They’re doing it by investing in local stories – such as Blood & Water – from countries around the world and give voice to stories we may otherwise not have been told.

Blood & Water is the second South African original Netflix production following on from the successful release of Queen Sono which has already been renewed for a second season.

The show follows a group of teenagers as they find themselves in the middle of a mystery which could challenge everything they think they know about themselves and their families.

‘Blood & Water’ – Gail Mabalane and Cindy Mahlangu

We had the opportunity to talk to some of the talent behind Blood & Water and discussed the experience of being part of South Africa’s second Netflix exclusive.

The dynamic cast helps to propel the story forward as they show us the deal with the stresses of high school and the politics that come with it.

Lockdown vibes

We’re living in strange times: South Africa was in lockdown level and 5 and level 4 since 26 March. While being lockdown impacted our day-to-day lives, the impact was also felt in the film industry.

We were curious as to whether it was more stressful for the actors to be on set filming, or waiting during lockdown while the rest of the world catches up with their hard work.

While the biggest challenge for Ama Qamata (who portrays Puleng Khumalo) was not having a premiere, Cindy Mahlangu (who portrays Zama Bolton) explained:

“I was very nervous of my character, to be very specific. She’s ‘out there’, and not everyone will be for someone who’s like Zama. It was very nerve-wracking to me not knowing how people will receive her”.

Blood & Water: Character portrayal: Thandeka and Zama

Superb performance of a mother’s trauma

Gail’s portrayal of a mother who lost a child is worthy of an Oscar nomination, and finding the inspiration to bring Thandeka Khumalo was no small feat.

Added to the complexity of the role, we can only imagine that something so deep and heartbreaking would seep into an actor’s off-screen life, on some level.

Gail explains that she’s been working with an acting coach throughout her career and that it’s vital to “sit down and breakdown the scripts and scenes” when preparing for a new character. She adds:

“A lot of research went into this one. I’ve spoken to people who’ve lost children, I actually know someone whose child has been missing for years”.

That said, she adds that everybody deals with trauma differently and she wanted Thandeka to have her own experience. She explains that it also helped shooting in Cape Town:

“I was able to let all those emotions go and leave them in Cape Town and fly back to Joburg and be a mom and a wife and carry on with my life. The moment I got back on a flight to Cape Town again, I was Thandeka. That’s how I dealt with it”.

Cindy’s colourful portrayal of Zama Bolton in ‘Blood & Water’

Finding inspiration for Cindy’s colourful character must have been an interesting journey, and Cindy explains that the portraying a character so different from her own personality played a big part.

“Zama is crazy; she’s the total opposite to [me]. For me, it was a welcome challenge being able to tap into a part of myself that I’ve never experienced before.”

Cindy was overwhelmed by and grateful for the success of the show. Blood & Water premiered in more than 190 countries to more than 183 million subscribers. It was also the most viewed show in America soon after its release.

“Getting people DM’ing (direct messaging) you from Brazil, telling me they love the character. Honestly, France! I can’t explain it […] I get tagged in posts of people speaking other languages. It’s all love”.

Also read – ‘Blood & Water’ cast: In conversation with Khosi Ngema and Ama Qamata

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Presh JM Reporter

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