CAPE Town has become a desirable location for international TV shows and movies. The landscape lends itself marvellously to mirroring different places around world. But in Universal Channel’s latest TV series, Cape Town, which is adapted from crime author Deon Meyer’s Dead Before Dying, the Mother City becomes a character in the story. There are plenty of magnificent night and day aerial shots of the vibrant city.
The series opens on a poignant note: a grief-stricken Mat Joubert (Trond Espen Seim), is seen holding a gun under his chin, with his fingers dangerously close to the trigger…In flashbacks, viewers see him in happy moments with his wife, also on the police force. These are then juxtaposed with images of a dishevelled Mat, paralysed after a boozing session. However, there is context to his state of despair – his wife was murdered, but the case was never solved.
Back to the present, he is back on the job. However, his new superior has a few questions about him and assigns Sanctus Snook (Boris Kodjoe) as his partner. Of course, this doesn’t bode well with Mat, who prefers to work alone. While their partnership is initially strained by work politics, there is an unspoken respect for each other. And with the murders of several men – all killed with the same German weapon – turning up along with that of a female model, they have little time for niceties as there is much work to do.
As haunted as he is about his wife’s murder, Mat doesn’t allow it to get in the way of his cases. He is more old-school with his interrogation tactics, unlike Sanctus, who is blunt to a fault. Mat relies on his gut instinct and observes people and situations, while Sanctus, who has tactical training, is a stickler for forensic evidence.
At the launch of Cape Town, creator Annette Reeker, who co-wrote the series with Mark Needham, was joined by Meyer and Espen Seim. Reeker, who has a heavy German accent, first shed light on choosing an opulent home in Camps Bay as one of the locations for the shoot. She says: “We found the location two years ago, before we wrote the script.
“Reeker has been sitting with the screen rights for five years, though. However, it took a while before this project could reach fruition. She explains: “It took a while to finance it. Deon Meyer is very popular around the world and in Germany. In the beginning, we intended to do two 90-minute movies and then the TV business opened up and now it was more possible to have a series like this one. The interest was, from the beginning, to have an international programme. And everything was shot in Cape Town.”
Meyer, who has a cameo in the series, shares: “I loved it. I’m just so proud. It’s probably the best TV series that has been made on my work.”
Before being approached for the role of Mat, the Norwegian reveals: “I read the book first. My reaction was great or else I wouldn’t do it.”
When a journalist praised him on nailing the Afrikaans accent, he gushed: “Ek is lief vir jou!”
What did Espen Seim enjoy the most about this project?
“I loved the food, the crew. The best part for me was working here. The best day was the first day. I did find it strange, driving on the other side of the road (laughs),” he offers.
As for his co-star, Kodjoe, who is also a producer on the series, he admits: “Our dynamics were superb. He is a hard-working actor and we had a fantastic time.”
The actor is a man of few words. And his responses at the press conference were always short and funny. One of Meyer’s favourite scenes was the disturbing opening shot. He adds: “And Trond played it so incredibly well. I think Boris is fantastic. I got to know him a bit on the shoot. For an American, he not only did the South African accent very well, he also got the Cape Flats lingo. That was an exceptional accomplishment.”
With the book released in 1994, Reeker adapted the storyline to ensure it had a more contemporary setting. However, it doesn’t compromise the storytelling. Cape Town is slick, fast-paced, engaging and don’t even get me started on the magnetism of Espen Seim and Kodjoe. They are going to get a serious drool fest going. That this series is bound to be a hit, is evident.
As for whether, like other TV shows that surpassed the novel they were based on á la Orange is the New Black and Game of Thrones, there is life for more seasons remains to be seen. Reeker confirms: “Yes, the characters are believable. You want to follow Mat and how he solves the problem. He is always engaged, personally. We are working on the second season and are nearly finished with the script. And Deon Meyer has many books…”
Cape Town, Universal Channel (DStv channel 117), Wednesday, 8.50pm.