‘Game of Thrones’ actress Natalie Dormer sheds light on helming the local crime thriller, ‘White Lies’

Natalie Dormer as Edie Jansen in ‘White Lies’. Picture: Supplied

Natalie Dormer as Edie Jansen in ‘White Lies’. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 15, 2024


Casting for a lead character is crucial, whether it is for a TV series or a movie. Of late, two offerings have looked abroad for a lead.

In Showmax’s “Catch Me A Killer”, British actress Charlotte Hope was cast to play Micki Pistorius, SA’s first serial killer profiler. Now, M-Net’s “White Lies” is helmed by Natalie Dormer, who is also from the UK.

“Game of Thrones” fans will recognise her as Margaery Tyrell. She was also in “The Tudors”, the last two films in the “Hunger Games” franchise, as well as the crime drama, “Elementary”.

For “White Lies”, Dormer slips into the skin of Edie Hansen, a hard-nosed investigative journalist.

The first episode centres on Edie finding out that she’s pregnant. Not long after, while having a bit of a meltdown moment in traffic, she gets a call summoning her to the Bishopscourt mansion, which belongs to her estranged brother, Andrew McKenzie (Langley Kirkwood).

When she gets there, she clashes with Detective Forty Bell (Brendan Daniels) over the team contaminating the crime scene and not following protocol, among other things.

On what drew her to the role, Dormer said: “I just thought it was a fascinating protagonist. Darrel (Bristow-Bovey) had written this wonderful eight hours that I was able to read the whole structure, from start to finish, which was an absolute luxury.

Brendan Daniels as Detective Forty Bell. Picture: Supplied

“And it was my first job, post-pandemic. Post-maternity leave. I was excited about getting my teeth into Edie. Just because of the nature of development and these things, it got pushed and I did a couple of features first.”

She added: “So it attracted my attention from the sheer quality of the script and just the themes. To have the universal themes that are there in this wonderful, fun, whodunit, the identity of politics, and inequality, which is prevalent around the world, but to have it in the microcosm of the beauty of Cape Town and South Africa, I was curious to explore that further.”

Interestingly, Dormer is no stranger to South Africa.

She revealed: “I had been to South Africa when I was a child, I have family out there. I had been there twice in the early 90s, so I had this distant memory of the sensation, the colour and the texture and vibrancy of the communities but I had never been to Cape Town.

“And I have been told by more than one person that there are so many shoots in Cape Town and I know quite a lot of people, who have shot in South Africa, and so many people say it is the most beautiful and incredible place, ‘You should go’.

“So I think it was a combination of that and the script being so strong. And the protagonist being so interesting to me. Also, this whisper at the back of my mind that I have a Dormer family in SA and that I should go and visit them.”

Playing a character from South Africa meant familiarising herself with the cultural nuances. But, in some ways, she felt like her character was art imitating life.

Dormer shared: “I spent hours and hours talking to Darrel, the writer. And I think the one week that we did a script breakdown, I think we spent about 8 to 10 hours talking about everything.

“Edie left South Africa as a teen and, probably at that time, she had no intention of going back, she turned her back and walked away.

“She reinvented herself in London as a journalist; she has a cosmopolitan feel about her and what she’s done. And then she has this pull to come back. And so art imitated life as such. I was an outsider with this SA ensemble cast.

“She’s a self-defined outsider, it gives her objectivity on the corruption of the SA police as she sees it or the cronies she finds.”

She added: “Also, I just listened to my cast and crew and I listened to people's experiences. And my directors’ were very instructive, like John Trengove.

“He really held my hand and, if I had questions, he answered them. I was very supported.”

When asked about her sharing the screen alongside the inimitable Daniels, she said, without any hesitation: “I love Brendan Daniels, he is such a wonderful actor. I was really impressed by the ensemble cast.

In the series, Edie looks into the murder of her brother and attempted murder of her sister-in-law Olivia McKenzie (Caely-Jo Levy), more so when her nephew and niece, Daniel (Daniel Schultz) and Jaime (Morgan Santo), become prime suspects.

In doing so, she locks horns with Bell, who is battling his own demons.

The supporting cast includes Avi Kapilevich as Daniel Janks, the lawyer defending Edie’s nephew and niece. He also has a history with Edie.

And there is Warrick Grier as Werner Weber, a wealthy German businessman living in SA for the past two decades. Married several times before, he is currently married to Nonzi (Katlego Lebogang), a former beauty queen.

Before out interview ended, Dormer sang the praises of the production house.

She said: “SA is no stranger to high quality behind the camera. International productions have been shooting in SA for so long and this is what’s exciting about ‘White Lies’.

“It is raising the game for you guys to grow in your ambition for your domestic drama. That’s the aim and Quizzical Pictures have done that with ‘Reyka’ and now with ‘White Lies’, hopefully, and you guys are just growing strong.

“Didn’t mean to make the ‘Game of Thrones’ reference, but there you go,” she laughed.

∎ “White Lies” airs on M-Net on Thursdays at 8pm.