Devil’s Peak, which will premiere exclusively on M-Net (DStv Channel 101) on 29 October at 20:00, has been lauded by its cast members for expanding local production horizons.
“The production value showed what we can do in South Africa and that makes me very proud,” says legendary actor Soli Philander, who plays Princess in Devil’s Peak.
Bonds on set
Hilton Pelser, who plays troubled detective Benny Griessel, comments about how collaborative the team was and how the cast bonded during filming.
“I felt so much love and care on set and that makes working so much easier.” He explains that playing a heavy character such as Benny was exhausting, because he had to carry the character’s energy, addiction, and anxiety. “I was often exhausted on set – everyone was so sensitive to what I needed and were always there to offer help in whatever shape or form that would take. I don’t see doing a role like this without a cast and crew behind you like that.”
Shamilla Miller, who plays the role of Benny’s wife Anna, adds that, from the moment she arrived on set, she felt like she was looked after. “I think Jozua as a director really created a good space, and he was so good at pulling the things that he needed to pull from me as an actress. Everything was just structured in a way that I felt like ‘Okay, this is why I do this job'.”
Masasa Mbangeni, who plays Mbali Kaleni, agrees.
“The quality of the work is indicative of the degree of care each person took in their respective portfolio. Whether you were a writer, an actor or part of the crew, everyone understood the importance of honouring such a great story. I hope South Africa and the world sees it in the end-product.”
She also praises her co-actors: “It was so amazing to learn from actors like Gerard [Rudolf] and Tshamano [Sebe]. They were so generous with their experience and talent. They are legends in South Africa and to sit at their feet and learn – it was such an honour.”
Authentic character development
“The story of Devil’s Peak is something that every South African should be able to relate to. It’s a story of South Africans that find themselves amongst chaos. And for that reason, I was really focused on making sure that our cast is representative of who we are as South Africans. Not focusing on who the world thinks we are but looking internally and asking questions like ‘who do I work with?’, ‘who lives next to me?’, and ‘who lives in the suburbs around me?’.”
The legendary actor Tshamano Sebe, who’s seen as the gangster boss Madison Madikiza, says he knew men like Madison when he was growing up. “But when I’m acting, I try not to go to the stereotype. I always bring something different.”
Mbangeni mentions that she knows avid readers of Deon Meyer’s books might have an idea of what detective Mbali Kaleni looks like that might not fit with how she looks on screen. “But I’m hopeful and sure that the story and the characters will have them glued from episode one.”
From book to screen
Though some of the actors have read Deon Meyer’s books before they were part of the series, some of them only became a fan whilst preparing for their roles. Mbangeni is one of the actors that is now a major Deon Meyer fan.
Devil’s Peak is based on the internationally acclaimed best-selling novel by Meyer. It was a critical and commercial hit and has sold over 1-million copies worldwide, won several literary awards and helped to establish the writer as a major international author.
British screenwriter Matthew Orton was responsible for the adaptation of Devil’s Peak from book to screenplay. Malherbe praises Orton for taking on this great challenge: “Matt did such a great job on the script,” says Miller. “You know the character that you need to portray because you are given all of that. I feel the script was such a good adaption that the characters were already there.”
Orton first garnered attention when his spec Operation Finale was picked up by MGM with Oscar Isaac starring and Chris Weitz directing. He was also hired to write Night of the Hunter for Universal and was a writer on the Marvel series Moon Knight. Prior to this, he was hired by Disney to write Knights Templar as well as Battle for Britain for Ridley Scott.
Stunt and action sequences
“Taryn [Wyngaard] was put in a hole and she had to run away from people barefoot. Hilton did a lot of physical fighting, as well as Sisanda,” says Malherbe.
When Sisanda Henna agreed to play the role of Thobela Mpayipheli, he insisted on doing his own stunts. “I experienced being 40 by trying to do Devil’s Peak. Ten years ago, I wanted to do all this action – now when the role came, I realised I wasn’t quite ready for the action – I forgot that my body is 40-years old!”, he jokes.
South African audiences can look forward to a truly groundbreaking show that’s not only rich in production-value, but emotionally gripping.
Devil’s Peak premieres Sunday from 29 October 2023 on M-Net (DStv Channel 101) – the home of entertainment.
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