Johannesburg – Local actress Kim Engelbrecht admits she was scared to worked with famous British actor Iain Glen on the local crime series, Reyka.
“I was scared to meet him actually as I am a huge fan of his work, as many of the cast and crew were,” Engelbrecht said of her co-star Glen, who is well-known for his roles in Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey.
“The writer Rohan Dickson advised me to try and delay meeting him and avoid too much interaction to aid the story, which I did. When I eventually met him he was open and honest about the material and very committed.
“He was very generous and when it came to doing the work, he shared some invaluable lessons with me which I will treasure.”
Engelbrecht, who is best known for her roles as Lolly de Klerk in the soap opera Isidingo, and Sergeant Noma Banks on the syfy TV show Dominion, stars opposite Glen in M-Net and Fremantle's eight-part contemporary crime drama.
Reyka centres on a flawed but brilliant criminal profiler, Reyka Gama (Engelbrecht). Haunted by her past, she investigates a string of brutal murders committed by a serial killer in the sugar cane fields of KwaZulu-Natal.
Having been abducted as a child by a farmer named Speelman (Glen), Reyka is traumatised by the experience, but this also helps her enter the minds of Africa's most notorious criminals and turn them inside out.
Manipulative and charming, Speelman’s hold on Reyka, 20 years later, forms part of the backbone of the story, as does Reyka's relationship with her mother Elsa, played by Anna-Mart van der Merwe.
Reyka exposes the secrets and lies, truth and trust, damage, healing and forgiveness. With a dramatic backdrop of sugar cane fields, tropical beaches, stifling heat, dangerous wildlife, a criminal underworld, and shadowy politics – each place is connected by sugar but divided in so many other ways.
“Reyka is a damaged but brilliant profiler who is caught between having a new beginning and living in the past. She was kidnapped when she was 12 by a delusional banana farmer, played brilliantly by Iain Glen. He captures and holds her for a few years before she escapes.
“We find her years later trying to have a normal life. We see her trying to have a real and meaningful relationship with her mother, whom she knows had stopped looking for her.
“This fills her with resentment . She also has the strangest relationship with her daughter who she cannot connect with. She is fighting a strange obsession she still has with a man who captured her, all of this while having to find a brutal serial killer.”
Other cast members include Hamilton Dhlamini, Kenneth Nkosi, Nokuthula Ledwaba, Desmond Dube, Gerald Stein, Ian Roberts, Fiona Ramsey, David Butler, Thando Thabethe, and Jessica Hayes.
The series is directed by Zee Ntuli (Hard to Get) and Catharine Cooke (The Girl from St Agnes) and created and written by award-winning screenwriter Rohan Dickson (Husk, Welcome to Hawaii), and is set for release next month.
The Cape Town born actress has described her role as Reyka Gama as one of the most exciting acting roles she has played.
“Having the opportunity to work this closely with Glen who has totally immersed himself in this character in this world, was amazing. I so appreciated working on a fully South African set. All the writing , directing, performance is South African at its highest level, apart from Serena Cullen our fantastic producer /creative producer (UK).
“The level of investment in this project has been incredible. Every person was invested, they knew the story. We were all aware of how sensitive the material was. The amount of care and dedication to having the story told well was unmatched.
“Reyka is such a complex and complicated girl so naturally every character she comes into contact with they too become complex.”
Her role had also challenged the 40-year-old, mentally and physically.
“The stories are very challenging to deal with,” says Engelbrecht. “The subject matter needs to be dealt with, with immense compassion and empathy as they deal with attacks that are very disturbing.
“I was very worried about that, but I tried to focus solely on the work . I tried to keep myself separate from the material as much as I could when I was not working.”
It also took extensive research to prepare for her role.
“There was an extensive character bible sent to me, which dealt with Reyka's entire life, her psychology, her mannerisms, her nature and then I had to learn the material and think of nothing else while we were shooting.
“My saving grace was Serena Cullen, our producer who has been trying to make this project for nine years. She was always ready to brainstorm. Serena was on set from day one, she knew every beat of the script. Having her there was the most important piece of the puzzle, she kept the shape of this show on point from day one.”
She also expressed her delight at working with directors Zee Ntuli and Catharine Cooke.
“Zee was the first person I met after signing on to do the show, he was my first exposure to what the show was physically going to look and feel like. He knew the material and you could see he was totally committed to making Reyka the way he had envisioned.
“He set up a shooting style which is very unique. He also didn’t mind having long conversations with all cast members about scenes and character development as we shot out of sequence.
“Lovely Catherine, I had never worked with before this. She is awesome and has a flair for the big action sequences and then also the insanely emotional ones.
“Having a strong yet sensitive female touch directing this show was very important. I can’t mention Cat and Zee without mentioning our DOP (Director of Photography) Tom Marais. He is the reason why Reyka looks this amazing. His shots are incredible.”
The series was also shot throughout the lockdown, which Engelbrecht admits had its challenges.
“Trying to remain safe throughout the four months was a challenge. I consider myself lucky to be able to work during this period.”
The series will also open at the internationally renowned Monte-Carlo Television Festival.
“This is more than just a local production,” said Engelbrecht. “This is a compelling and real show that anyone in the world can watch and enjoy. This is also Fremantle's first South African show of this nature, which is exciting for more shows to come from that stable.
“Also the fact that it opens the The Monte-Carlo Television Festival, now in its 60th year, it is a renowned international event organized under the honorary presidency of Prince Albert II of Monaco. This is so prestigious and a huge honour.”