Actor Siv Ngesi takes us behind the scenes of 3 big Showmax originals
Siv Ngesi has 5 big reasons why you should add Showmax to your DStv bill – and he’s ready to talk about his 3 latest projects.
2020 was a busy year for actor Siv Ngesi with 3 Showmax original productions stacked together late in the year. Blood Psalms wrapped on Friday, 2 October, after an 83-day shoot. DAM wrapped on Wednesday, 28 October, after an 8-week shoot; and Tali’s Baby Diary shot from Monday, 9 November, to Saturday, 12 December. In fact, Siv self-taped his audition for Tali’s Baby Diary while he was on set working on DAM.
2021 is pretty hectic too. Siv is currently also appearing in the brand-new season of the macho local lifestyle series, The Man Cave, on Saturdays on M-Net (DStv channel 101) at 21:30.
Siv on Showmax
This Showmax original series is a small-town psychological thriller set in the Eastern Cape. Yola (Lea Vivier, Wonderlus) returns from Chile to bury her estranged father. He’s left her the family farm, but as she starts to receive a series of eerie warnings from her childhood house and their land, viewers will start to wonder if there are supernatural forces at work, or whether a different kind of family curse, an inherited insanity, is at play. Siv plays Victor, a biker gang's enforcer.
Tali’s Baby Diary
In this eagerly awaited sequel to the Showmax original local comedy series, Tali’s Wedding Diary, an unexpected pregnancy forces Tali (Julia Anastasopoulos, aka SuzelleDIY) to pivot from being an Insta-influencer to becoming a wholesome momfluencer. Siv plays those sneaky Seleibowitzes’ (Tali’s husband, Anton, and his partner, Rael’s, rivals in the property business) new partner, Selebi.
Coming up later in 2021, Showmax's 10-episode original series, Blood Psalms, will tell stories from Africa’s pre-colonial mythology. The series centres around teenage queen Zazi (Bokang Phelane from Keeping Score, Emoyeni), who guides her people through seemingly endless cycles of war and backstabbing politics in an effort to help them escape an apocalyptic prophecy. Siv plays Onyo, Lord of the Netherworld.
Speaking of Siv
We got Siv to take a little time out and answer some questions about his roles as Victor in DAM, Selebi in Tali’s Baby Diary, and Onyo, Lord of the Netherworld in Blood Psalms, and how everything came together…
Tell us a little about how you landed each role
Siv: With Blood Psalms, I’m very good friends with Layla and Jahmil, (Layla Swart and Jahmil X.T Qubeka, the heads of Yellowbone Entertainment). I've worked with them before on Knuckle City, which is on Showmax. Then I auditioned for DAM for the lead. But I was like, “I’m not right for this” and they gave me another part. Then I auditioned for Tali’s Baby Diary while I was on DAM. But I knew the lead actor and I had worked with the director. So between you and me, I was pretty confident.
Talk a little bit about how you prepared for the roles
Siv: For Blood Psalms, Jahmil wanted me to be very big, so I'd been training for months. But luckily they did it a few months after I had done a Men's Health (magazine) cover, so I was really pretty big. He was quite a silent character. So this is brilliant, I never had to learn too many lines, but he's quite prominent. He’s quite a big character. And I did some fighting scenes, but that’s great for me. I box so it was very simple. I did fight scenes with 9 people. And we did a bit of a training camp before, like an army training camp, to try to be a team and that was incredible.
In DAM, I played a bad guy so please, don't say I never play the bad guy. I really deepened the voice to make him quite menacing and very, very different to all the other characters. I try to make every single character I play as different as possible. My biggest challenge is that I want to be seen as an actor, a very talented actor – and currently I'm seen as a personality. You know? Like, “Oh some guy, the TV personality.” But if you look at my repertoire, you'll be able to see that there's more to me than just this. And then Tali’s Baby Diary, is just literally like comedy. And drama and comedy are so close together. They're closer than you can ever imagine. It's all about real realism. It's all about truth and the timing. Just a different kind of timing. I really love to talk. And I can just let go in Tali’s Baby Diary.
With each of your characters, tell us a little bit about how you transformed into this new person.
Siv: I am solid (muscle) in Blood Psalms. I had been gymming, eating differently for months, really building the muscle as much as possible. I think the biggest concern was the muscles. That is definitely the biggest costume. I think a lot of South African actors don't spend enough time on their body. And I'm gonna say that outright, I think a lot of them have become very lazy as soon as they become popular and they stop going to gym.
Jahmil was quite cognisant of telling us all that we would have to work out because in those days you wouldn't have fat warriors. And then wardrobe put me in as minimal clothing as possible, like a loincloth. But the best work was done definitely by make-up. It took a good three 3-and-a-half hours of make-up to really put scars. And whip marks on my back to be able to show what this guy has experienced in his painful life. You could see that there's always blood on my back, and there was always whipping, so I think make-up and wardrobe really did a great number.
But months in the gym were what put on the real wardrobe for him.
Then for Tali’s Baby Diary, I made him quite snappy, and move-y and smiley. One of those characters who are really trying to act like they’re in full control of everything. So he was always in well-fitted clothing, making sure he's matching with colours and wearing suits and never one layer. There's always 2 layers, it's always something else to get multi-layered jewellery and rings and stuff like that. I think he's one of those guys who wants to show his money on the outside more than the inside. It's new money, so he's spending a lot of money on the exterior of himself. He's a bit like a peacock.
Now DAM was quite interesting. He’s a black motorbiker. There's not many of those. I ride motorbikes myself. When I get to the traffic light, people are always like (Siv does a double-take). I really wanted him to look as stereotypically American as possible because he plays in that conundrum of this black guy who speaks as if he is just mean as hell, but he believes in this American biker culture of the big jacket and fingers filled with rings and chains and all-black. He doesn't wear a single other colour except black. And the writing on his back (of his jacket) will be white.
He’s a stereotypical character, Victor, but I never wanted his performance to be stereotypical. I really wanted to be as layered (in my performance) as the amount of clothing that he was wearing and not just being a typical badass biker. With Victor, so my normal voice is here, right? It's quite deep, but then I put him here (Siv gestures lower, like sub-basement depths of lowness). It was here. I really put him in my stomach. So people who are used to hearing me will be able to hear that that's not me. But I really put him here and I kept his movements very, very still. When he smiled, you knew you were in trouble, and I think a lot of the times when Alex (Yazbek), the director, gave me a note I would do his note and then I'll do the opposite because the opposite usually would be that sweet spot. So if they're going, “Now you're very angry, scream at him,” I would go, “Okay cool, let me laugh.” And you see the power in that laugh. There's like a danger in the laugh. And that's what we did.”
Tell us a little about your big day on set for each of the productions
Siv: All these three characters are in big storylines. There's always a lot of stuff but they're never the biggest character. With Blood Psalms, I had a day of fight scenes that I had to learn fight scenes (choreography) for and had to fight off nine people. And the interesting thing is that I am Cape Town-based. So when you land (in Joburg), you are now at an altitude where it’s very difficult to do nine fight scenes because the air is so thin. But when you have a director like Jahmil, who knows everything I can do, he knows my physicality. He knows that I come from a boxing background. He was like, “I know you can do it.” So we trained and we did this incredible fight scene that actually makes the trailer and it's going to be great to see on television. And Psalms was 3½ hours in a make-up chair. Putting the scars on my back and making sure that I look worse than when I came in.
And then in DAM, we had a lot of chase scenes. I had to ride motorbikes the entire day and run in these motorbike boots. Have you ever tried to run in motorbike boots? It is painful! It is debilitating! My feet would start bleeding. There's definitely pain involved. So yeah, I think those are the craziest days.
In Tali’s Baby Diary, I had to play with an imaginary character because we were twins. So I had an early shoot where I played one character, and then they’d written it that he would take off his clothing and play another character, so it is quite time-consuming. We had to do things twice and act to a place where there's no one (standing opposite him). It is quite an interesting experience to be able to act with nothing.
5 reasons to watch
We asked Siv to give us 5 reasons to watch each of his shows:
- Blood Psalms is about this incredible out-of-this-world world. It’s like Game of Thrones. I would watch that with my best friend, Phaki.
- It's never been done on African soil.
- It’s mind-blowing.
- Cinematography is world-class. I think it could be nominated for an Emmy or a Golden Globe. I definitely think they get nominated for an Emmy Golden Globe for make-up, for cinematography and everything else.
- Me! The performances are just to die for. I’m very proud of this project and it's South African. I have a feeling it's going to be big overseas before it's big in South Africa. You know, why are Africans, why do we always do that? We want to work with the world to enjoy something before we get into it.
- DAM is just a fascinating, fascinating story of this young woman who comes back after her father dies, and she now is investigating what happened to her father. She's like, “Something's haunted,” and there are little stories that happen around her. This one, I would definitely watch with my friend, Pinci. He loves this type of stuff.
- Another script like I've never seen in South Africa.
- And the performances are really ground-breaking.
- The cinematography is incredible, and the script is different to anything I've ever seen in South Africa. And that genre is quite popular at the moment overseas, that kind of horror thriller. You know what's happening, but it's multi-layered and multi-faceted.
- Uhm, and everyone is my friend there. Support my friends. They're really good people.
Tali’s Baby Diary
- Tali’s Baby Diary is about this young lady who in S1, became an influencer. And it turns out she's pregnant and wants to become a mommy influencer. Very fascinating, very funny. Now I would watch that with my mother because my mother won't do the other two because they're too gory and she doesn't do horror.
- The director for me, Ari Kruger, I think is one of our greatest exports.
- And Julia, the lead, is just ground-breaking. And very talented at moving in and out of characters.
- It’s funny as hellaaah! It's not cringey South African slapstick comedy all the way. There's a very strong realness in comedy, and I really like the realness of it
- And lastly, I'm in it and I think I'm quite funny in it.
The dating game
Siv gives us Bachelorette-style introductions to each of his characters.
Meet Victor (DAM)
Victor seems like the kind of guy who wouldn't even bother to chat up a lady.
He will just tell her to come here, right? He's on a motorbike, so he's got this crazy sex appeal. He speaks slowly, so he's the kind of guy that ladies go for if they are trying to disappoint their parents. He's just that guy. I think he’ll be able to cook dinner because he’s always travelling around, but he's always surrounded by women. He's part of a gang and he's just a badass. And what I've learned over the years is ladies love badasses. I’m not a badass, Siv’s not a badass, but Victor is.
Meet Selebi (Tali’s Baby Diary)
Now he's just the smoothest, the flashiest. He attracts the girls who are what we call gold diggers and girls who love sugar daddies. And he doesn't mind because he's got all the money in the world. So ladies will definitely come his way because they want to be impressed. He's the kind of guy who will get a private chef to cook everything for everyone and make a girl feel very special. He won't clean the dishes. He won't be getting his hands dirty. He'll be saying all the amazing things with the best bottle of wine and amazing, cute films and go full-out for the lady. But he won't lift up his finger once.
Meet Onyo, Lord of the Netherworld (Blood Psalms)
To be truthful, I don't think he has time for women. He is just too busy saving the world, and he's stuck in this big pit with a lot of prisoners, so there's no time to think about women. I think when he was a kid he was in love and someone broke his heart and he's never cared ever since.
What makes each of these productions especially South African?
Siv: Blood Psalms is only in African languages and only in South African languages. There's not a single word of English. In outer space and different worlds, kind of things like that, we could have taken the easy way out by just speaking English, but we wanted it to be authentic and so you have different characters speaking Xhosa to each other. Someone speaking Zulu, it's just different.
Tali’s Baby diary is about a certain kind of people who are very South African and the comedy is very South African. The timing is very cemented in the landscape it’s based in. The jokes are very South African.
And then DAM is set in the Eastern Cape. It’s this beautiful, lush, unbelievable area in the Eastern Cape that people don't even know exists.
South African content creation has come a long way and we should be very proud to be South African. Showmax is doing a great job. I think they definitely are under pressure to create incredible content. Incredible originals. Incredible South African content. I think people should really support them, really back them. I love the content that's on there. It's great to be South African and be part of it.
I think we as South Africans need to be able to support great African quality content, and I don't think you should support content because it's all African. You should support content because it's quality.
And even more
On Showmax you can also watch Siv in…
In this M-Net (DStv channel 101) original series, Siv plays T-Boss, a successful doctor standing between two worlds, those of the domestic worker mother who raised him and the world of the household she worked in, who made him part of their family too.