Bonnie Henna has appeared in international movies such as Clint Eastwood’s Oscar-winning Invictus, Drum and Catch a Fire. She has also landed roles in several TV series, including Soul City, Home Affairs, Backstage and Rhythm City. Munya Vomo spoke to her about her lead role in e.tv’s new cop drama, Traffic.
When you see actress Bonnie Henna you can tell she takes care of herself. She is almost always toned, as if she is that cool personal trainer everyone in the gym admires. With her good looks and acting talent, she is the right candidate for a lead role in Traffic, a cop drama coming to e.tv.
“I had to do some serious karate and self-defence classes so that I could be ready for the demands of the role,” said Henna.
Since the show is about a detective who is on the trail of a serial killer, it was important that Henna be fit for the many action scenes her character would be involved in.
“They had to choreograph some fight scenes for me and I spent a lot of time doing the physical stuff,” she said proudly.
Because Traffic is a cop drama that attempts to be of a similar standard as its international counterparts, it was important for all the parties concerned to study their characters and research the subject as much possible. For Henna this meant watching a number of international shows with a very critical eye.
“I watched a lot of Crime and Investigation shows that I like because my character is very different from anything I have played before. Even the personality is very different so I had to go to a very dry and practical place,” she explained.
Henna plays a detective called Lungi who has a series of disappearances in her jurisdiction to deal with and it appears there is a serial killer on the loose.
“Lungi has had it rough growing up because she’s had to take care of her siblings from a very young age. She has a sister who’s a bit of a rebel and they live together. She also has a daughter who lives with her mother in the Eastern Cape.
“Through different events that happen it turns out that her daughter is in danger and she tries to save her life. She also has a crazy ex who is involved in criminal activities so the line between her professional and personal lives quickly gets blurred and it’s hard on her emotionally. Being a mother myself, I know what it means to be in a position where your kids are in danger,” she said.
Though Henna enjoyed playing Lungi and found her a fascinating character because Lungi and she share so few similarities, she had to dig deep to come up with convincing performances.
“My character is unlike me in many ways, as I am playful and easygoing, so this is a challenging role on many levels. But most of all the physicality was challenging.
“I remember one morning I had to shoot one fight scene and it took us five hours to shoot it as it was take after take. And on TV the scene will only last about one minute,” she said.
“It is probably because they had to shoot from many angles and had to do different takes like close-ups and so on, and then there is the dialogue in-between, so it took a while.”
For Henna this role is a breath of fresh air as it has challenged her to do something different.
“I think I like the idea of playing an action hero and hopefully I will play more roles like this in the future.”
That said, with all the effort that Henna and team have put into making Traffic a stand-alone, memorable show, she still is not 100 percent happy with herself.
“I am very critical of myself. I have never looked at anything I’ve done and said ‘this is great’. That’s just how I am. But I did put in a lot of work and drive myself pretty hard.
“I haven’t seen the final footage because it is still too raw for me to watch,” she said.
Some of her criticisms are on things the untrained eye might miss, but Henna wanted everything to be right so she tried to have her act as polished as possible.
“Sometimes I might not be that convincing with the gun because there were scenes where I held it in a professional way and if I got emotional in a scene, then I started holding that gun like gangsters do. You know, like when they hold it sideways. They had to cut and remind me that I am not a gangster,” she said, giggling.
Just to show her diversity and why she is one of the most sought- after actresses in the country, Henna had another job waiting for her after shooting Traffic ended.
“I had to go and shoot Rockville after we were done with Traffic and there I play a totally different character,” she said.
• Traffic airs on e.tv and eKasi+ from February 12 (time TBA).