New char­ac­ters? Soapie writ­ers must con­sider the three Cs: con­nec­tions, cul­ture & con­flict.

TV Plus (South Africa) - - IN THIS ISSUE -

It takes a lot of care­ful work to bring a new fam­ily into a soapie. tv­plus spoke to Scan­dal!’s (2005- cur­rent, see p16) cre­ative pro­ducer Grace Mahlaba, Isidingo’s (1998- cur­rent, see p24) se­nior head­writer Bongi Nd­aba and Gen­er­a­tions’ (1994- cur­rent, see p20) pub­li­cist Gaaratwe Mokhethi about more fas­ci­nat­ing con­sid­er­a­tions that went into the process of in­tro­duc­ing their new soapie fam­i­lies last year (see the 1 March is­sue for Part 1 of this story).


Bring­ing in a new fam­ily re­quires a strong con­nec­tion with ex­ist­ing on­screen favourites – you can’t just crash the party. When Gen­er­a­tions – The Legacy brought back ma­jor vil­lain Jack Mabaso (Vusi Kunene), they not only dug him out of his grave, they pulled his fam­ily up with him and con­nected them with the Morokas. “We used the Moroka fam­ily, namely Karabo (Con­nie Fer­gu­son) and Mazwi (Musa Ngema), since the gaps in their sto­ry­line made it eas­ier to link them to the new fam­ily,” says Gaaratwe. Scan­dal!’s Grace adds, “The Thebes came in and the most im­por­tant thing was to link them with the vil­lain of the show, who was Lu­cas (Sello Maake Ka-Ncube) at that time. We heard there were drugs in prison be­ing dealt by Neo (Jerry Mofokeng) and Lu­cas. Hec­tor Thebe (Tu­misho Masha) heard how his son died (of an over­dose in prison) and found out that Lu­cas was a big player, so his mis­sion was to go and take re­venge for his son’s death. Then when Sello said he’s leav­ing, we had to think of what do we do. Where do we take the story? And we came up with the Lan­gas. We have Siskeo Langa (Hlomla Dan­dala), who shares the same fa­ther as Hec­tor, but they have dif­fer­ent moth­ers, so al­ready there’s a his­tory be­fore they even en­ter our world”


In for­eign soapies, view­ers ba­si­cally have rich and poor peo­ple. South Africa’s soapie writ­ers have so much more to play with. “We had a lot of fol­low­ers who were Xhosa and they loved Them­beka, played by Masasa Mban­geni, so when she left we had to find some strong Xhosa ac­tors,” says Grace. “We thought of bring­ing in Hlomla. You also need a vil­lain­ess of the show, so we brought in Yvonne (Kgo­motso Christo­pher). Yet we still needed to serve the Xhosa peo­ple, so we needed to find a wife for Siseko and we brought in Bon­iswa (Lu­sanda Mbane). There’s a per­cep­tion that Xhosa women are loud or vul­gar – you know how peo­ple stereo­type other peo­ple, so it was im­por­tant for us to bring in some­one else like Bon­iswa, who’s a lady and a mother,” says Grace.

Gaaratwe adds that in Gen­er­a­tions, “Jack’s fam­ily is strongly rooted in the Nguni cul­ture and through them we are able to ex­plore dif­fer­ent is­sues Nguni peo­ple face. Plus, Jack Mabaso has al­ways been an af­flu­ent guy and that’s where the roy­alty theme came in; his wife is of royal de­scent and so are his step- chil­dren.”


Fi­nally, noth­ing ex­pands and il­lus­trates a char­ac­ter bet­ter than con­flict and new fam­i­lies are per­fect for bring­ing that out. Isidingo’s Bongi ex­plains, “We look at a char­ac­ter and you ask: what is it that they rep­re­sent? An­gelique (Shan­non Esra) is so­phis­ti­cated, she is a lawyer, she’s well- ed­u­cated, but you have to ex­plain why the fam­ily hasn’t been around. Her fam­ily is ‘low grade’ and she doesn’t want to con­nect with them. They do things that she’s against. But when we bring them in, it’s some­thing that she can’t avoid. An­gelique’s dad Con­rad (Deon Coet­zee), her niece Daniella’s (Shamilla Miller) grand­fa­ther, turned Daniella into a drug mule. There is a moral dilemma she’s go­ing to have – you can deal with a crim­i­nal who has no blood con­nec­tion to you, but if the crim­i­nal is in the house, what do you do?” In our case as view­ers, we sit back and en­joy the new-fam­ily fire­works!

Isidingo used con­flict to in­tro­duce Angie’s dad Con­rad and jail­bird niece Daniella.

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