Death on set

The sud­den pass­ing of a soapie ac­tor can turn the show on its head, but there is a so­lu­tion.

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How do soapies han­dle the sud­den death or de­par­ture of an ac­tor? – FRIKKIE, VIA SMS

It’s not pleas­ant to think about, but some soapies are pre­pared, like in Fe­bru­ary 2008 when Isidingo (1998- cur­rent) had to deal with the tragic death of Ash­ley Cal­lie, who played Lee Haines from 2000. She was in a fa­tal car ac­ci­dent and Isidingo’s then-head­writer Ro­han Dick­son says, “We have a sys­tem in place that al­lows us to en­gage with cur­rent news and write a scene as it is hap­pen­ing. For ex­am­ple, when some­one dies, we weave it into our sto­ry­lines.” As it turns out, Isidingo had Lee die in a car crash while away from The Deep on busi­ness.

Skeem Saam (2011- cur­rent) pub­li­cist Percy Vi­lakazi adds, “It’s tricky to ad­just sto­ry­lines be­cause we write four months in ad­vance. We make a plan in the story to seam­lessly write the ac­tor out but it’s tricky when an ac­tor passes away while in pro­duc­tion. For­tu­nately, we’ve never had that ex­pe­ri­ence. Touch wood”.

Even if an ac­tor van­ishes, a sto­ry­line can be adapted. Back in 2007, Scan­dal! (2005cur­rent) ac­tor Luthuli Dlamini (Stan Ny­athi) was fired and scenes were rewrit­ten to make it seem like Stan left the coun­try. A ro­man­tic sto­ry­line was dropped and Daniel Ny­athi was cre­ated to bring in ac­tor Sello Maake Ka-Ncube as the male lead.

The late Ash­ley Cal­lie.

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