Jolene Martin on the 'honour of a lifetime' portraying strong 'Arendsvlei' character Principal Beatrice

Jolene Martin in 'Arendsvlei' as Beatrice. Picture: Supplied

Jolene Martin in 'Arendsvlei' as Beatrice. Picture: Supplied

Published Nov 1, 2023


Arendsvlei’ was initially meant for only one season, but the characters crept so deep into viewers' hearts that kykNET ended up broadcasting the telenovela for six seasons.

Viewers have followed the Cupidos and Abrahams family lives since 2018 and in June 2024 viewers will be saying goodbye to kykNET’s first and only exclusive telenovela.

News of the two-time Safta Awards winner coming to an end was of course a hard one for viewers to swallow; they’ve gone on to connect and love the cast and the story.

The Vlei introduced viewers to characters such as Beatrice Abrahams, played by Jolene Martin, a teacher and vice-principal, of Arendsvlei High School.

Viewers have seen Beatrice walk various journeys, from the loss of her husband, her encounter with domestic violence, being kidnapped and finding love.

The role of Beatrice was Martin’s first lead role and it came with a new chapter for the former ‘Generations: The Legacy’ actress - a move to Cape Town.

Reflecting on the immense sacrifice she made for the project, Martin explained she knew there was “something different”.

“This entire ‘Arendsvlei’ walk has been quite an insular one. I’ve had extreme fun for maybe 20 percent of the time but for the rest of it, Beatrice became my best friend as I channelled the passion and frustration of the inhabitants of the Cape Flats through her.”

Martin wholeheartedly threw herself into her character, designing and researching who Beatrice is and was; also getting an understanding of what education means to brown people.

The cast of ‘Arendsvlei’ on set. Picture: Supplied

“I wanted to understand what ‘School life’ was like for Beatrice in her early days of study and teaching. She certainly knew about the student uprisings of the late 70’s and eighties.”

The actress admitted it will be sad to say goodbye to Beatrice but acknowledged how much the “titan” has taught her, even about herself.

One of Beatrice’s biggest traits is her strength, something many viewers praise her for, with some even identifying a role model in her.

“It’s been the honour of a lifetime,” said Martin when asked how it has been portraying the character.

“She was introduced as a victim of domestic violence and she clawed her way back to being fully in charge of all her faculties. Being allowed to show this type of resilience and fortitude is a gift to a storyteller.

“Being able to do so over an extended period allowed for a deep dive into her psyche which was not only intriguing to me, but it struck a chord with the audience too.”

The character resonated with girls from primary to a grandmother who has seen her fair share of life’s trials, and even me.

“Through Beatrice, I think they (men) learnt a lot about patriarchy, toxic masculinity etc and how it impacts women and the community at large.

“I feel honoured that the audience was willing to stare at the mirror that was Bea and in doing so, allow their reflection to show them things about themselves, good and bad alike. That’s what art should be.

“This role was never about the magazine covers and accolades. It was a rare opportunity to heal. I believe art has the power to heal - both the storyteller and the audience.”

Jolene Martin on set. Picture: Supplied

Beatrice has had quite the journey that pushed Martin to showcase her abilities as an actress; when she was kidnapped and held hostage, her stunt sequence left her ribs bruised and body black and blue.

Her domestic violence arc with Oscar Pietersen is one that stands out for her. “We pushed the boundaries knowing that those first few episodes of season one would dictate everything.

“The stunts performed were potentially dangerous but I was determined to show the gut-wrenching reality of a woman being physically abused.”

The COVID-19 pandemic threw a spanner for production houses, with the show needing to go on while also taking into consideration the lockdown health protocols.

During this time, the Penguin Films production began shooing the romance arc between Beatrice and Clint.

“We courageously faced extreme health measures whilst filming in the mountains of Stellenbosch. It was scary but we needed to provide our viewers with quality content whilst they were in isolation and locked up in their homes.

“That period was so special as the cast and crew went to great lengths to ensure the health and safety of each other.”

As with most workplace environments, colleagues become friends and for Martin, she and her co-star Clayton Evertson (Jake Sylvester) have become best of friends, in real life.

“We often say that if we went to high school together, we would’ve been expelled. We honestly do not know how our directors deal with us because we are constantly crying with laughter.

“We literally just look at each other and burst into laughter. That kind of chemistry translates into pure magic on screen and it is extremely rare. What a blessing!”

Not only has Martin gained friends, but she has also gained a legion of fans thanks to Beatrice and the Vlei community.

“I thought handling people’s money as host of the National Lottery was personal but this takes the cake,” she said of her interactions with fans. “I’ve had people quivering and crying in my embrace.

“A man in a wheelchair blew me away as he spoke about what this role means to people. Then I ended the conversation with ‘Please keep us in prayer’. He then said he’d pray for me right there and then in the middle of the mall.

“The girl learners at Parkwood Primary School made me cry when they said they wanted to be a school principal just like me. And then the three sisters a little older than me showed me who could do the ‘Beatrice walk’ better by turning the Canal Walk walkway into a runway.”

When Martin first heard the news that ‘Arendvlei’ would be coming to an end, she felt a “feeling of contentment” as the assignment had been crushed.

Cast of kykNET&kie's first and only exclusive telenovela 'Arendsvlei'. Picture: Supplied

The first person she told the news to was her biggest fan - her father - who has always been her biggest cheerleader.

“I felt the last pages of the novel nearing. It was a GRAND novel and I so wished that our top brass would close the book in the same manner that Jerry Seinfeld ended ‘Seinfeld’.

“As a storyteller, I believe in leaving your audience at the height of the love affair, rather than at the tail end when the love has fizzled out.”

There are still a few months until the last episode of ‘Arendsvlei’ but leading up to that, viewers can expect the cast's best performance ever!