Carl Beukes (Isidingo fame) is poised to make inroads in Hollywood after bagging Syfy’s Dominion, Homeland 4 and Gavin Wood’s Eye in the Sky.
SOUTH Africa first bonded with Carl Beukes as Paul McPherson in SABC3’s Isidingo.
In playing Dylan Fourie in M-Net’s Binnelanders (then referred to as Binneland) and, thereafter, a host of dissimilar roles in movies (Jozi, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) and TV series (Wild at Heart, Silent Witness, The Res, Flikken Maastricht), the actor avoided being typecast by his popular former gay character.
And he also proved his versatility in whichever genre or role, which, in many ways, contributed to his international projects: Homeland 4, Gavin Hood’s Eye in the Sky and now Dominion.
Before delving into his role as Gabriel in Dominion, which has already been given the green light for a second instalment, he caught up Tonight on his past year.
“In the past year, getting married was probably the busiest part of it. It happened at the end of November. We organised the whole thing ourselves. We thought it would be cheaper. Not. But it turned out to be the most incredible day.”
After cautioning against planning a wedding without help, Beukes adds: “I also had a small stint in Eye in the Sky with Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman. I played a soldier, Sergeant Mike Gleeson.”
Recalling his scene with Mirren, he praises: “She is incredible, man. She knows her stuff. She works hard – there is no time for fun and games as there is a lot of work to be done. She made it seem like the easiest role, which it wasn’t. But was lovely.”
On working with celebrated South African export Hood, he shares, “I was blown away by that guy. I always wanted to work with him, but never got the chance. I’d work with him on anything he wanted to do. He is so hands-on. Treats everyone so well. He even sits down with the extras and discusses stuff – very unusual for a director.”
Back to Dominion, he reveals that it was a rather serendipitous undertaking. “I have a manager in LA. He sends me auditions for series that are coming up in America and I put something on tape and send it through. At the time, they were making a pilot – they didn’t get the green light from the studio. Anyway, I read for other roles and got a phone call saying that they wanted me to play Gabriel. I thought it a bit strange. The Americans are very strict on casting for the big characters. There are a series of auditions before you get it. So I was happy, but sceptical. When I did the pilot shoot, it started to make sense. He had one word and two scenes.”
In an effort to see what he could also bring to the character, he was then asked to study a two-page monologue and return to set the next morning. And he impressed big time.
“Two days later, I got a call from the creator. He said: ‘We absolutely loved your monologue and what you did. So if it gets picked up for a series, we would love to give you the role.”
At the time, the fall-back option, should the series have been rejected, was to make a made-for-TV release.
Although pretty good with accents, Beukes says that he worked on getting the American accent perfect with lots of voice coaching.
On embodying Gabriel in this TV reimagining of the movie Legion, where humans and angels are at war with each other, he offers: “My original idea of him was very dark. He wanted to wipe out all humans. But when we (the creatives and him) started talking, I realised he is also misunderstood. That he is fuelled by the pain of his father (God) leaving and that he is still an archangel. He believes if he wipes out the human race, his father will come back.”
Of course, the story is far from straightforward, especially with Gabriel’s brother Michael (played by Tom Widom) protecting the human race.
Beukes notes: “Gabriel is dark and yet somehow relatable. He still has love for his brother and the angels. In every episode, the cliffhangers keep on coming.”
As for working opposite Wisdom, he comments: “The one thing I love most, and it’s also the reason why I’m so excited to go back and shoot season two, is the vibe on set. Kim (Engelbrecht) is a force to be reckoned with. I have known her for years. She is a beautiful and clever actress. There’s so much comedy on set that you’d think it was a comedy. And I think that camaraderie comes out in production. There are no egos, especially with the international stars. Tom is great. He is tough. An incredibly professional actor. In season one, there wasn’t much time to get to know each other. Especially since he had a lot more scenes.”
On prepping for the upcoming shoot, he admits: “I’ve only read the first two episodes. But with me a series regular, I have more scenes.”
What’s next? “Straight after Dominion, I’m going to LA to work there for three months. My ideal goal would be to have a balance of homegrown and international work. I have always, since I was a kid, wanted to work with the big boys. I would love to make some American movies and get into that industry. At the moment, I have a foot in the door and I am starting to do that. I need to ride this wave while it is going. I want to come back and do more film. The South African film industry is budding and I don’t want to not be a part of it. It’s been my bread and butter all my life.”
Looks like Beukes is spreading his wings in more ways than one. Good on him!
• Dominion, which was shot in Cape Town with Film Afrika, airs on M-Net Edge (DStv channel 102), Mondays, 8pm.