Lemogang Tsipa is an up-and-coming South African actor best known for his TV roles as Dini Masilela in the detective drama series, Traffic!, and Smiley in Jab. More recently, Tsipa has been making a name for himself as a film actor with a supporting role in Gavin Hood's Eye in the Sky and a leading role opposite Grant Swanby as Duma in Craig Freimond's Beyond the River, which opens in South Africa on 28 April.
Can you tell us a bit about your character and how you came to be involved in Beyond the River?
The character that I played is a young man by the name of Duma, who is caught between two worlds. He's really poor, living a life of crime and gets pulled into something as part of his life that forces him to pick a side and move forward. They held auditions, I did as best as I could and got the role. Just tried to make magic from there.
It's based on a true story, did you get a chance to meet Pierce and Siseko?
Yes we did, originally it was a lot closer to their real lives and stories, however the writers discovered that Pierce is too nice, so we had to take a bit of creative licence to make the story more dramatic and more interesting. The same was true for the character that I played, based on Siseko. A movie about two really nice guys who come together after a few ups and downs isn't as dramatic, so we took a bit of poetic licence. We managed to meet the guys and draw from them as much as we could to tell their story.
What was it like working with Grant Swanby?
Even before shooting the film I remember seeing him and his work, he's a legend in this country, one of the best. I was initially very intimidated and excited to work with him... luckily we had a couple of months of training beforehand, so I really got to bond with him. He's a really amazing guy and phenomenal actor so it was a pleasure, we never clashed heads, we had great chemistry from the onset.
It's always useful to come across with a sense of history, it helps inform the characters and Grant has got such a wealth of experience, if you had to say one thing that he gave you... any nuggets of wisdom?
I received a goldmine from that guy. One thing I did note was his level of discipline and dedication to his work, I think what we do is both easy and not easy, depending on how much you commit. He taught me a lesson of how far you can push your commitment to your work while not being obsessed about it or letting it take over. Where you commit and give it your all, but don't let it consume you, which is a line some people often blur... lost in the work, they lose the initial vision of what it was they were going for. He's a master, who's balanced it quite well and I'm figuring it out slowly.
It sounds like you spent quite a bit time time with him, developing your character, how did you prepare in terms of rowing, your fitness and diet?
A lot of falling in the water initially, we just needed to know how to swim. Canoeing is hard... I always say that canoeing is similar to trying to ride a unicycle on a tightrope. The first thing we had to gain was the balance of sitting in the canoe. That had to do with our core strength, so sit ups, joining the boxing gym... as much of anything conventional, unconventional to get my core strong, the focus was on upper body.
Diet-wise I just continued eating clean... proteins, no carbs or at least non-processed carbs. I felt myself bulking up and I had an eight pack. As much as it would be good to get him to look like that, it's wasn't ideal. Realistically, being a guy from an informal settlement I didn't want to look like I had a Virgin Active membership and got food from Woolies everyday. I had to tone down a bit about a month before the shoot... I think I found a balancing point there.
There's a wonderful cross-cultural contrast between the co-leads. Do you think it's a uniquely South African story and will it travel?
Definitely I think it's uniquely South African in so many respects. The dynamics, looking at a poor black person and middle-class white person and the challenges we go through everyday. Even though much of it is universal, it's still specific to South Africa. I think it also has a strong universal message, which everybody will be able to relate to around the world.
What was it like working with Craig Freimond?
Craig is a crazy genius! He's amazing, full of ideas and is very creative, he's got a solid vision and knows exactly what he wants. He also gets you to give your input as an artist, to make it more collaborative. His body of work speaks for itself. He's a man that loves films... whenever I'd go to his place or have a conversation with him over coffee or tea, we'd discuss film. You can see he has a real affinity for it and that has such a great influence over his work. You are whatever you put into your system... he puts great films in and produces great films.
After doing this film, do you have any desire to do the Dusi in the future?
No, not at all. It's actually a very tough and grueling race. I have not done the Comrades marathon but I jog a bit. I would easily say it's tougher than the Comrades. It's not something you just wake up and decide to do, especially since so much can go wrong. When Grant and I were rehearsing, falling underwater, it's very dangerous and some people have lost their lives to paddling. I'm a super amateur and I wouldn't try and put myself in a position like that because I was even struggling with little baby rapids. I've seen some footage of the actual Dusi, there are some rapids you cannot avoid, you have to go down them and I would die, which is not something I'm looking forward to doing any time soon(!)
It features some spectacular backdrops in KwaZulu-Natal, did you have a favourite shooting location?
The Valley of a Thousand Hills is the most gorgeous place I've ever seen, bearing in mind I've lived in Cape Town for quite some time. You have amazing views here... Chapman's Peak, Signal Hill, the mountains are breathtaking but the Valley of a Thousand Hills… it's got a thousand hills, not literally but it seems like it. It's so untouched and the water down there is peaceful. I'm a KZN boy so I think I may be a bit biased. The weather was really hot, which I usually enjoy, but I think the next time I visit will be in winter...
The film was shot mostly outdoors, did this make it much more challenging?
We were fighting a lot of battles: with light, continuity of light, the elements... There was a stage when we were filming in Soweto Dam and one of the biggest Highveld thunderstorms I've ever seen rolled in. It started hailing and boards were falling off of the highway, it was crazy and pretty scary to see the clouds and lightning approaching so quickly.
And your favourite memory from Beyond the River?
There was a scene I did with Israel Makoe... it was just one of those moments that happens, it wasn't a thing I had any control over. I wish I could take credit for it but it was just one of those magical moments where the scene just took over and I wish I could work at that level every single time. I was bouncing off of Israel's energy and he of course is a legend in his own right. That was one of the highlights of my life.
So you've got two films down with him now, are you looking for a third, fourth or fifth?
Definitely, I remember when I worked on the second film with him him he kept saying that every time he works, I work. I really look forward to working with him, he's so much more than the characters he plays, charismatic, funny, smart and business-orientated. I think this film will unlock a number of different viewpoints on him and hopefully open up a lot more opportunities other than him just playing a gangster.
He is a human being with so much depth and he's an amazing storyteller. He plays a motivational guy, who is one of my mentors in the film. Just coming from that angle, he doesn't have to be one of these hard-core guys, but you really see him open up and be more vulnerable. He's an amazing actor, not just a one character, one dimensional man. He is a "full chicken" actor as I like to say!
If you could choose, who would you like to work with in the future?
One guy I have to work with is Edward Norton. He's a genius, the thing I love and respect about him is that he's very selective about his work, you can see he's a man who takes this craft very seriously. I could really learn a lot from him and his choices, what he brings to the table is quite amazing. Then Tom Hanks, I don't even need to elaborate, he is Tom Hanks! The third man who would push me to unlock levels I don't think I can, is Daniel Day Lewis, he is a god. By virtue of working with him it's almost like running a relay with Usain Bolt, the pressure of performing with such an amazing talent - it's motivating.
Unlike Usain Bolt, he won't be stripped of one of his Oscars...
Oh no definitely, there's no doping in acting as far as I know.
What do you think audiences will take away from Beyond the River?
I think the biggest thing that we should take away as South Africans is re-opening dialogue that seem to have been swept under the rug. Being a middle-class black African in South Africa I've been exposed to both sides of the world, black sides from poor to rich, white sides from poor to rich and I think there's a huge disconnect in us as South Africans. As much as the rainbow nation has healed, I think there's a lot more that can be done to bring the two worlds together and I think that's a strong message. At the end of the day we are all human beings and we can all learn from each other.
In late 2015, Spling visited the set of 'Resident Evil: The Final Chapter' when they were shooting in Cape Town, where he interviewed the cast of 'Resident Evil: The Final Chapter' and star, Milla Jovovich, in her trailer. Here's a recording of the interview...
Since I can remember, the name Milla Jovovich has been imprinted on my mind. Her enchanting beauty and natural screen presence gives her an elusive star quality. It's her secret weapon, something that has won her many lead roles over her prolific film career from The Fifth Element to Resident Evil. Her enigmatic core and striking beauty has made her the teen crush of many, myself included.
So when the opportunity to do a Resident Evil: The Last Chapter set visit at Durbanville Quarry near Cape Town presented itself during the course of shooting the film in South Africa, I was there like a zombie horde. Watching Milla in The Fifth Element, I never imagined I'd have the chance of meeting and interviewing the star herself, renowned director Paul W.S. Anderson and a host of established and up-and-coming actors.
The sixth and final installment of the Resident Evil film series finds Alice and her friends betrayed by Albert Wesker as he summons the forces of Umbrella to launch a decisive blow against the apocalypse survivors. Being the most successful video game franchise, arguably the best, it seemed fitting that we get to grips with the shockwaves the film and character have sent across the globe since 2002.
After being told "I looked like a Resident Evil type" by our media liaison, I knew the stars were aligning for an epic set visit by night. The location was secretive and after meeting at a hotel and being bussed into a set that looked more like a circus, based on the number of tents and cars, we arrived just in time for breakfast. "Breakfast" because when you're shooting until 6am, you only start the day around 6pm... think of it as brainwashing. Armed with my digital recorder, pen, paper and press lanyard, we were plunged deep into a well-oiled film culture.
Joking about the sausages at the "breakfast" canteen with Fraser James, a delightful supporting actor, and watching zombies get churned out of the make up department, it wasn't long before our South African press contingent were transported to where the action was happening near a burnt out yellow school bus at the top of the quarry. After watching a few takes of the core cast in silence, possibly awe, we were escorted to our press quarters, a makeshift tent. We knew it was "makeshift" because it was a tent, it housed a table covered by an '80s style kitchen table cloth and felt somewhat cramped like an interrogation room replete with video camera and lighting. The cast arrived in our den literally by-the-numbers (they're each assigned numbers in the daily shot schedule) when they had a moment. The atmosphere was upbeat and while we saw Milla Jovovich performing, she was scheduled as our final interview, if time permitted.
Ali Larter was Grace Kelly demure and Timotei beautiful. Ruby Rose was ready to trail blaze into the future as if she was driving the Delorean in reverse. Iain Glen was Iain Glen. Eoin Macken and Fraser James were on the cusp of a bromance and brought the tent down with hilarity, while the handsome and winning William Levy oozed with personable charm and star quality. Aubrey Shelton and Milton Schorr represented the South African stalwarts, with Shelton regaling his war stories from the frontline and Schorr keeping himself surprisingly grounded for such a lofty and gentle giant.
Thankfully, despite her hectic shooting schedule, we were granted a 30 minute window to interview the headline act. It was after 1am and we were led to her luxury trailer, where she welcomed us like a gracious rock star, still in wardrobe and fairly relaxed with a beer bottle in the background. The trailer was big enough to fit all of us into the spacious lounge area, where we encircled her ready to fire off a few choice questions. Sitting opposite her, the whole experience seemed quite surreal... finally getting a chance to meet the enigmatic woman behind the lights.
Having been told how funny she is by almost all of the other cast members, we weren't disappointed as she poked fun at herself, delivering thoughtful answers and making us feel right at home. Having held back at interviews for most of the night, I was eagerly anticipating a gap to ask a question... maybe even two. Listening to Milla answer while wondering if I was ever going to blurt out my question in the thirty minute allotment was torture, but it had to be done. What followed was this free-flowing dialogue as my big question ramped up the interview and for about 15 minutes it felt like I was the only other person in the room. Meeting Milla Jovovich was a highlight of my film career and ended a night of perfect timing and good spirits that seemed almost too good to be true. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter opens in South Africa on 3 February, 2017.
You're like a revolutionary. If you look at the male-dominated film and video game industry over the last decade, how would you say you've shaped and influenced them?
Gosh, I wish I thought like you. I'd probably be a much more confident, like an "eff you" kind of person... like "I influence people!". To be honest, when we made the first Resident Evil it was so much about the passion for the game and I think that word keeps coming up in conversation. To me, having a passion for something is like the Holy Grail and finding a passion for something is the antidote for everything... being a happy, healthy, inspired person.
I do feel that when things are done with that kind of enthusiasm and passion, people respond. I've always said that no matter what you do, when you do it with honesty, you will always find an audience. It's when you're not sure about something that other people sort of go "uh, I don't know". I played the game with my little brother and that's how I found a way to connect with him on his level and spend time with him in a way he liked. It's like let's go to the zoo, let's do this, let's do that... but I knew that what he really wanted to do was just stay home and play Resident Evil. You've got to figure out ways to get him out the house, but then the evening would come and you know... let's play. Then suddenly it's four hours later and we've been playing and I'm like "Oh my God, I'm addicted to this game".
"...when the critics love something, at least for us, it's a recipe for disaster."
I came into the film before it turned into a franchise as a fan of the game. Michelle Rodriguez and Paul were big fans of the game... so you have this core team that love the source material and I think that's so important because it's not just another Hollywood video game adaptation that's going nowhere because the people are just doing it to earn a buck or just because whatever... it's a big action movie. It's that kind of honesty going on, it's not like anyone got paid to make the first movie, we were just all doing an independent European action horror flick. It was fun for us and exciting to be a part of the Resident Evil world, and zombies, and the undead and stuff. The movie was number one, it didn't do that amazingly in the cinema but it got really great reviews from the people who watched it. They did all the tests and we were reading the sheets the next day and the kids loved it. You know the critics hated it, but when the critics love something... at least for us, it's a recipe for disaster. The people loved it and they ended up buying it on DVD and watching it over and over.
A couple of years later they approached us to make a second one, which was shocking to me because I thought once we did it, that was it... move on. Then it was number 2, okay why not. People seemed to love it and I'd never done something like that before. I never thought that we'd be making a number 6. Even when we made number 3, when we were done I thought that was it. We never did a three picture deal or anything like that and even when Paul wrote number 3, it was very out of the blue.
"I really feel like I have all these apocalyptic existential thoughts going on in my head."
He just got inspired, wrote a new script and took it to the studio and they were like "let's do it". It was never something that had to be forced out of him. You have this creative flow about the franchise that was very natural and organic in that sense. I think maybe that's a huge part of what you're talking about. It's not so much something that I think about... we want to have fun and a good time making these movies and as long as we're having a good time making these movies and as long as we're excited about it, it translates well to people.
I think you've opened the door though, because you've got an allure but you've also got a physicality that translates really well to screen... you're one of the few actresses that can pull off this kind of role. I can't think of five other actresses that could do what you've done with Resident Evil. I'm talking about how you've opened the door for that strong sort of female lead character in an action movie. There are so many hybrid copies that have come after Resident Evil started the revolution...
When I did The Fifth Element it was really a study in belief and it opened up a door for me that I never knew existed for me as an actress. To really completely believe in what you're doing and sell this idea of something that's totally alien, strange and from another world. I think I fell in love with that aspect of acting. So for me, when I play Alice, I really feel it. I really feel like I have all these apocalyptic existential thoughts going on in my head. It's a really great place for me to channel them all. The things I think about on my own keep me up at night sometimes, it's awful. And poor Paul... "what do you think's going to happen?" "I don't know. Gotta be ready for whatever it is... we've got to be ready." Plus it's a lot of fun and you've got to sell it and buy it all at the same time.
"...let's go get a Starbucks and kill some zombies."
If I'm not buying it for myself, then I know we've got to do it again. It's about finding that comfort zone where you believe yourself and what's going on. Sometimes it doesn't happen. Like in number 2, I was really confused about who Alice really was. In number 1 she was this innocent person and then number 2 came along and I was like "I'm just going to be myself and I'm going to play this really natural" and I played it like me. Like who I am right now in this room with that voice... that nasal "hey everybody" and I'm like "come on guys, let's go, watch out" and real. When I saw, I don't even think I watched dailies back then, I was very like oh you know, natural. When I went to do ADR and I saw part of the movie and heard that, I was so mortified because it was so not what it needed to be.
Alice was still percolating at that point and there was a bridge that needed to happen from number 1 to the next chapter. She now had all this knowledge and she was different to who she was in the beginning and I completely missed it as an actor. So I was watching it thinking "oh my god, this is a f**king disaster" like what am I going to do? She sounds like an LA chick, like "let's go get a Starbucks and kill some zombies". I realised that I had to change her voice. So I called Paul and said "this is a disaster, I sound awful... I have to redo the whole movie, like everything". So I dubbed my entire performance and I went from "hey guys" to "HEY" and the voice is here.
"I'm just going to be like Dirty Harriet."
I did everything in that voice, which was coming from my gut, which is not my normal voice. I was acting natural, it wasn't like I was overdoing stuff, I was just being myself. So visually it was fine, but when you opened your ears it was a disaster. So we changed everything and it just clicked in my head. So I was like "Wow, there she is!", the voice and attitude matches and that ADR session was the birth in my head of Alice. In number 3, I just ran with that... it was like the female Clint Eastwood. I'm just going to be like Dirty Harriet, but I also thought it'd be nice for girls to have their own Clint Eastwood, like guys have that, girls have Alice to relate to on that level, like a... tough lady.
"There's an innocence that's always been there about Alice."
It's funny because I have a lot of female fans that come from these very oppressive, conservative countries and are from families that don't respect them or a very old-fashioned. "You inspired me to stand up for myself, I come from this family that are upset that they didn't have a son and I hated myself growing up and then I saw your movies and then I knew I could do anything." It's so amazing to know that you affected some amazing, incredible young person that way and helped them find their feet and learn to run. It's so important to have that in their life, to have these role models, idealistic figures that you can relate to in your imagination to comfort you and make you feel like that in your personal own world, you're like that.
I think what's special about Alice is that she's tough, but she's still got that femininity to her. She doesn't lose that in the process...
It's funny that you should say that because I was saying "tough lady", but she's not just a tough lady. There's an innocence that's always been there about her. She's super tough but then there's another part of her that's really inexperienced. She doesn't really have a boyfriend, she doesn't really know how to be normal with people. She's not the kind of person who's going to do a barbecue and invite people you know, cook dinner in the kitchen or have a normal conversation. She's never really experienced love, there's a lot of really interesting elements to her that I think about all the time and they're kind of sad you know.
Adam Croasdell is a multi-talented and versatile international actor, who was born in Zimbabwe, studied in South Africa and has worked extensively in Britain and the United States. Having started his career performing opposite the likes of Helen Mirren and the late Alan Rickman at the Royal National Theatre, he moved into television with roles in Peak Practice, The Chase, EastEnders, Supernatural, Nikita, Body of Proof, Once Upon A Time and NCIS.
He's also known for his voice work, which includes: Middle Earth - Shadow of Mordor and Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV and has performed in films such as Werewolf: The Beast Among Us, The Prince & Me 3 and Extraction. Croasdell'smost recent role sees him playing "Izzy", a confrontational stand up comic, who tries to uncover a dangerous plot in Hatchet Hour.
How did you get involved in this film?
I knew the director, Judy Naidoo, from my time studying drama at Wits University in Johannesburg. We lost touch for a long time but a couple of years ago I happened to be in a bookstore in Heathrow airport on my way to LA and I heard a voice behind me saying, “Adam? Is that you?” It was Judy.
We ended up having a long talk about where we were at in our lives and what we were doing. At the end of it Judy said she was mounting this film called Hatchet Hour and that she thought she had a part for me in it. We spent several months discussing the project and my character - Izzy - over Skype, and, after doing some rewrites together, got him to a place that resonated strongly with me. Then I jumped right in.
Have you done stand-up comedy before?
No, I had never done stand-up before. It’s a very specific, very specialized talent and I have huge respect for comedians who do it. In my case, I decided at a particular point in my preparation that I wasn’t going to make Izzy a stand-up who goes only for the laughs, but a guy who is quite dark and cynical; more a satirist and a social-commentator. Izzy is a guy who is intelligent and not afraid to make people feel uncomfortable with his observations.
How did you prepare for the role of “Izzy” and where did you take inspiration?
Preparing for Izzy was a multi-faceted process. Firstly, the look for me was very important. I wanted him to feel like he comes from a difficult background and has the scars to prove it. I started growing my hair and beard out and used a nutritionist to lose weight. I worked with the very talented costume and make-up departments, and designed tattoos for him, which sent out a very particular message that speaks to where he’s come from.
Also, I walked around Johannesburg looking like this and interacted with people a lot to gauge their reaction, which proved pretty interesting at times. One of the other influences I used was to dig into the work of the late Bill Hicks, who was a tortured, brilliant man. In my work in the UK and in America, I tend to play a lot of characters who operate on the peripherals of society. Izzy is no exception.
Your South African accent sounds quite natural, I see you were born in Zimbabwe, can you tell us a bit about your upbringing?
Yes, I was born in Zimbabwe and lived there until the age of 13 at which point my parents sent me to boarding school in South Africa. I lived in SA until I was 22, and afterwards I headed out to the UK to work and later onto Los Angeles, which is where I live now.
What was the most grueling aspect of shooting ‘Hatchet Hour’?
The Braamfontein winter! When discussing the project with Judy, she talked about setting Hatchet Hour against the steel grey tones of a Johannesburg winter - which, incidentally Tom Marais - our Director Of Photography - captured beautifully. But starting work on the project, I had forgotten just how cold those Jozi winters can be. Bitter. We did a lot of work in the Magistrates Court and prisons downtown, and it was like operating inside a refrigerator. The endless summer that is LA has made me soft!
You’ve been described as “the love child of Robert Downey Jr. and Hugh Jackman” in this performance (by me)… which actors do you admire or see as role models?
Well that’s a huge compliment. They’re two of my favourite actors. I often get told that I look like those guys. In fact, one trip I was returning to California and as I was waiting in the Customs line at LAX, one of the Homeland Security officers came up to me and said, “Hey, you’re that guy. The guy from the movies.” I said, “Which guy from the movies?” and he said, “You know; the guy with the claws - Wolverine!” I should have just nodded and he would’ve fast-tracked me.
I’m a huge fan of Downey Jr. for his wit and intelligence, and of Jackman who’s completely multi-talented. Other actor role-models for me are Brando, Newman, Streep, Ruffalo, DiCaprio, Sarandon and Brand. Not only great performers, but people who use their platform to make the world a better place.
What was it like playing opposite Erica and Petronella?
Fantastic. Two very beautiful, very talented actresses. Erica is a big star in Afrikaans-language films and Petronella has her own, large following too as a black South African actress. I play Petronella’s boyfriend in the film and I have a deep, love/hate relationship with Erica’s character. It was great to see these two women come together to play best friends in a story that transcends the issues of race in South Africa, in what is now an international, award-winning film.
How do you think audiences will respond to this film?
I hope that they love it. It’s a moody thriller with edgy, eccentric characters. It’s shot beautifully by Tom Marais (iNumber Number) and has a twisted plot and a great score. A great evening of cinema.
What was it like working with Judy Naidoo?
Exciting and also very challenging at times. Judy has a great sense of purpose about her projects. She’s one of the only film directors that I’ve worked with who has managed to build almost 2 weeks of rehearsal into the process prior to shooting, which is unheard of, but which for an actor is an absolute gift. Her talent is for fusing sometimes very disparate elements into a unified whole; Indian influences in the score whilst the audience looks at quintessentially African landscapes; comedy and violence intermingling; empowerment and disempowerment revolving around one another. She has put so much of herself into this film through every stage of the process. It’s hard not to admire that.
Are you planning on visiting South Africa again?
Africa is in my blood. South Africa’s under my skin. I’ll be back.