After starring in kykNET (DStv channel 144) drama Die Boekklub, Geon Nel, Albert Pretorius and De Klerk Oelofse are all back together again, this time playing estranged brothers on a drought-stricken farm called Nêrens, somewhere in the Northern Cape. We’ll see them tackle issues with their widowed father, Lourens Adendorff (Frank Opperman), along with uncovering big secrets like the truth about their mother Katja’s (Tinarie van Wyk-Loots) tragic death.
Now Geon takes us inside the story and his head-in-the-clouds, conflicted character, Frans, who’s currently the farm manager at Nêrens.
“I think the three leads, myself, De Klerk Oelofse and Albert Pretorius, were already comfortably established in our characters because we played those same roles in the stage production of the same name in 2017,” says Geon. “Before filming started in March 2021, we’d already had enough time to hone the performances and we could even add our own insights. Frans, for example, has a little of myself in him, because just like him I’ve wrestled a lot with strange dreams. But luckily people didn’t think I was born with a caul (which indicates a gift of prescience) unlike, so many people assume with Frans.”
Down on the farm
While Geon has some things in common with Frans, he doesn’t believe he could cut it as a farmer or farm manager, though. “I wouldn’t have the first idea where to begin farming. It always seems so romantic to farm, and the quiet and wide open spaces of farm life look and sound rather attractive, but when it’s so dry and you’re patiently waiting for that rain that you’re completely dependent on, that’s another story. It’s almost like being a freelance actor and not knowing where your next job will come from! On the other hand, I think you get born into that world and that way of life,” he adds.
These elements and the environment have had a noticeable impact on Frans, according to Geon. “I think the stillness allows Frans to be introspective, but I don’t know that that’s always a good thing,” he warns. Geon experienced that same overwhelming stillness when they shot scenes in the Gannabos (which is renowned for its quiver trees) near Nieuwoudtville in the Northern Cape. “That silence definitely brings about a deepening of your humanity. It was a great privilege filming in that environment,” he says.
From stage to screen
Nico Scheepers, the series (and the play’s) creator, co-director and scriptwriter, reveals that his cast and his story had to make some major adaptations to transition to the small screen. “The plays actually consisted of three monologues, that is, the three brothers’ inner monologues. And there were just three characters, those three brothers, on the stage. For the TV series, I had to construct the brothers’ story worlds and work in loads of characters. But they (the brothers) still have to come to the same katharsis. It was a complex process.”
He was thrilled that Geon, De Klerk and Albert were eager to reprise their roles. “All three rooted themselves deep into their characters on the stage. If they hadn’t been available, it would have felt like not having your family together for Christmas Day!” And Nico is hoping that audiences will identify with the brothers. “Loads of us have had broken relationships, unfulfilled relationships, or we are estranged from someone in our lives,” he says. “I think magic often lies locked in everyday and honest stories.”
A touch of magic
Nico’s use of the word magic might prick 39-year-old Geon’s ears. “At the age of 9, I single mindedly wanted to become a magician. I had already started reading books about magic. Gansbaai, where I grew up, didn’t exactly have the biggest library, so I had to teach myself a lot of the tricks,” he reveals.
After he matriculated in 1999, Geon moved to London, where he worked in toy shops and in construction, while refining his magic act on club stages. That’s when he realised that he loved entertaining audiences. “Magic is really nothing more than fooling the eye. You learn to ‘control’ the audience and intercept their thought processes. But it also takes plenty of self-confidence. At the end of the day, people are paying you to fool them.”
So, think of that when you see Frans staring morosely at the horizon – that there might be a magician’s string of handkerchiefs hidden in his pocket.
Watch Nêrens, Noord-Kaap S1 Tuesdays on kykNET (DStv channel 144) at 20:00