LAST year, a very pregnant Nicky Greenwall, under the auspices of her production house – Greenwall Productions – launched The Close Up: A Showbiz Special Report on e.tv.
At the time, it was an apt replacement for The Showbiz Report while she was off on maternity leave.
Her hotbed of talent in the industry, including Locnville, Simphiwe Dana, Kenneth Nkosi, Tamara Dey, DJ Black Coffee, Jack Parow and Lee-Ann Liebenberg, proved a hit with viewers. And so e.tv gave the second season of The Close Up the green light.
Talking about the shoot for the follow-on series, which features Terry Pheto, Jeannie D, Amu, Zolani Mahola, Gina Athans, Tony Kgoroge, Leon Schuster, Michelle McLean, Unathi Msengana and one other celebrity yet to be finalised, Greenwall says: “My daughter Georgie was actually with us on most of the shoots.
“She was about 10 weeks when we started and she’s nearly eight months now.
“We shot most of the episodes at our house and at my mom’s house, which is nearby, so we didn’t have to travel too far.
“Her father (Robin Fryer) shot the still images of the celebs for the opening sequence of the show so I looked after her while he worked and he and my mom looked after her while I worked.”
I pushed the presenter-producer for more intimate feedback on the first season.
“It was really well received, which I am really proud of. Tamara Dey’s was one of the most talked about – specifically the fact that she only met her biological father when she was in her twenties.
“I think audiences related to Locnville’s episode because of the way the twins dealt with their parents’ divorce.
“We also got a lot of positive feedback on Simphiwe Dana’s interview where she revealed how insecure she felt after her car accident, and DJ Black Coffee was applauded by his fans for being so candid about how he became disabled and how his disability has influenced his choices in life,” she shares.
Short-listing the celebrities wasn’t difficult, Greenwall tells me.
She admits: “To be honest, we don’t really agonise over it. It’s pretty obvious from the start who we want to interview and why. We just go out (gutsy like) and hope for the best.”
Now the musicians, actors and Leon Schuster I can understand Greenwall approaching. What was a tad baffling is the decision to zero in on presenter Jeannie D.
Greenwall says: “Jeannie has been on SA television for nearly 10 years and as a result is someone audiences think they know, but don’t.
“Her job requires her to be upbeat and ‘fun’ all the time. We thought it would be interesting to discover what she’s really like and where she comes from.”
At the moment, Terry Pheto is a beacon of success for South Africa and an obvious choice for an interview, more so as she will be on the small screen in SABC1’s The Bold and the Beautiful.
Greenwall adds: “I first met Terry on the red carpet at the Oscars. At the time, I thought she was timid and reserved.
“Only now, after interviewing her for The Close Up, do I understand the real reason behind her behaviour and it had nothing to do with being star-struck or nervous.
“I think the papers have a tendency to be very glib about her so-called ‘rags to riches’ story. There’s a lot more to it than that.
“She’s experienced family dramas that have nothing to do with poverty or wealth.”
Now South African viewers are looking forward to Schuster’s next slapstick endeavour, Mad Buddies. On bagging a chat with him, she says, “No. Mad Buddies doesn’t even feature in the interview.
“It’s important to note that these shows have no PR agenda – we’re not selling the celebrity or their work – we’re telling their story for entertainment purposes.
“Leon is a very sensitive soul and, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t feel the need to be funny all the time.”
Given Kgoroge’s controversy stemming from his legal battle with M-Net over its fledgling soap, The Wild, I asked her what his interview touches on.
She admits, “We speak about that in the show. Tony is that rare breed of actor who actually values acting over fame and fortune.
“In his episode he speaks about the reasons why he feels this way and how he hopes to rally support from local actors to help make the SA TV and film industry on a par with the Hollywood system.”
Greenwall also hints that the musos on the show have stories that are rare and touching.
She ends: “These are not just celebrity stories, they’re human stories, stories about how people deal with disappointment and fear of failure, how they bounce back from tragedy and pick themselves up when things go wrong.
“They’re hopefully inspiring, motivating – and above all entertaining.”
By the by, look out for new “evolved” celebrity chat show, ScreenTime with Nicky Greenwall, which debuts on August 11.
• The Close Up airs on Saturday at 7.30pm on e.tv.