Lea Vivier and Alex Yazbek shed more light on the hair-raising series 'DAM'
Award-winning actress Lea Vivier plays Yola Fischer, the lead in the star-studded psychological thriller “DAM”, which is currently streaming on Showmax.
The eight-part series, which premiered on Monday, February 22, is written and directed by four-time Safta winner, Alex Yazbek.
Filmed in the locations of Bedford and Adelaide, the show gives viewers a front-row seat to the life of Yola, who is forced to face past demons as she returns from Chile to her hometown in the Eastern Cape to bury her father.
After her father’s funeral, Yola discovers that daddy dearest has left his farm to her, much to the annoyance and shock of her sister, Sienna.
Her inheritance, however, turns out to be more of a curse than a blessing as the house seems to be trying to tell her something.
But with her mother institutionalised, and her own meds running out, Yola wonders if there is real evil going on or it’s just her mind playing games with her.
We caught up with Vivier, who admits this is the most challenging role of her entire acting career.
Elaborating on her role, she offers: “Yola is based in South America and she obviously doesn't want to come back because her hometown is very much a place where a lot of trauma took place.
“But she has to come back in order to bury her father and support her sister.”
She adds: “As she (Yola) starts spending more time on the farm, a lot of secrets from the past start surfacing and she needs to determine whether those secrets are due to her losing her grip on reality or if those secrets are in fact things that happened to her and the demons she needs to face head-on.”
Vivier says she secured the role in May 2020, during the hard lockdown, and only started shooting in September, which gave her plenty of time to prepare herself physically and mentally to walk in Yola’s shoes.
“The first time I saw the script I fell in love with it immediately.
“I knew that I had to portray this character. She just spoke to me.
“And I think the reason why I was so enthralled and had fun love with her from the get-go is that she was so complex.
“And there was so much that I could do with her and so many routes that I could explore with her because it is such a big and vast array of interpretations and so much space to fill her up.
“And I think I really wanted to portray her because I knew that she was going to be extremely challenging, and she's going to push me as an actress.
“And the first thing that I said to Alex was, ‘I want to go to places where I've never been before as an actor.’"
The “Wonderlus” actress says she likes her character because she's complex.
“I think as human beings we are so complex ... that's the thing with Yola, she's strong, but she's broken, she’s vulnerable, but she's stubborn.
“So active, but she’s traumatised, and that's how we are as human beings, we are not just one thing, we are wholly different, vast, a complex assortment of things. And that's why I just fell in love with her.”
Vivier says had to dig deep to ensure she brought out the emotional range demanded by the character.
She adds: “I would just like everyone to see how much talent there is in storytelling in the South African industry if given the right amount of time, and when the right group of people come together, what we can deliver as South Africans in the film and TV industry is amazing.”
Echoing Vivier’s sentiments is Yazbek.
The director extraordinaire shares: “I wanted to create the kind of show I want to see. I’ve done challenging, explicit shows like Gaz'lam ... and the audiences were absolutely behind the show.
“From that experience, I’ve never doubted the South African audience’s intelligence or felt that we need to over-explain and patronise our audience.
“My experience on ’Gaz'lam’ has led me to believe our audiences are incredibly film- and TV-literate. So I wanted to make something that I wanted to see, because if I like it, hopefully, some other audience members will respond positively too.”
He adds: “On ’DAM’, I’m using the cosmologies and mythologies and psychologies and histories of South Africa and African literature.
“The belief in ancestors, that the dead are with us, the connection between people and the natural world, these are all things that are very real for us as South Africans.
"There are various aspects of the South African experience which I don’t see on TV. I’m annoyed by the way we still box things into categories and make content for various people. It reminds me of the bad old days.
"What I really wanted to do is make TV that shows a South Africa that looks similar to my experience of the country and the people, where there’s a variety of us and we speak various languages and look different and wonderful and we all have a place.
“Where I can understand some of the dialogue and read subtitles of the rest, but be engrossed by a good story well told. So I wanted the series to move towards a broader culture.”
“DAM” is streaming on Showmax.