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Elma Postma on 'n Man Soos My Pa

Elma Postma is probably best known in South Africa for her role as Dezzi Terreblanche on popular South African soap, Sewende Laan. She's gained a wealth of TV experience, acting in series like Binneland, The Mating Game and Kruispad, presenting shows like Boer Soek 'n Vrou and Ontbytsake and has also played a number of lead roles in theatre productions over the years. Postma plays Ellie in 'n Man Soos My Pa in a role that signals she's ready to spread her wings on the big screen too.

Elma Postmas as Ellie in 'n Man Soos My Pa

How did you get involved in this project?

I sent an audition recording to Sean via email and then after a conversation with him and some notes, I sent another one.  Luckily that was enough to land me the role as Ellie le Roux. I was so excited to be a part of this project because I liked the story and the character instantly. I knew this was something that I would be able to do whole-heartedly.

The film deals with the devastating consequences of addiction. Have you witnessed something similar with close friends or family in your life?

I have been lucky not to have to deal with a close person with a similar problem.

It's a nostalgic film. Did any of the props bring back a memory or two from your past?

Absolutely. There were a few things that rang a bell from my past.  The old carpets, the coffee containers in Attie and Nakkie’s kitchen…  Little things that were in most of our houses at a certain point in time. The braai scene – also something that we still do all the time.

The story is full of heartache... how did you prepare for your role?

I read and analysed the script many times to make sure that I understood my character’s past... because I only play the older Ellie, I had to know exactly what the younger one went through in order to understand her emotional frame of mind.  I had a long discussion with the director as well, which helped a lot.  Lara de Bruijn and I had a session with Sean to discuss what mannerisms we could give the character and what thought processes were necessary to make the character solid and believable.

I also had to delve deep into my own emotions to get the moments on screen.  I am generally quite connected to my emotional side, so with focus and knowledge of the character, it made things easier on set.  Of course when you’re in the scene, the other actors and their portrayal make it even easier to reach your emotional state, your honesty.  Everyone was so supportive of each other.

What would you say is the underlying message in this drama?

I think there are so many underlying messages in this drama, but for me the most important one is that the truth will set you free.  How many families live with secrets and difficult pasts which drive them apart?  If they could only open their eyes and communicate, things would resolve themselves.  You waste time if you don’t forgive each other until it's too late. Also, look at your own issues before judging someone else and realise that family is so very important in our lives – you have to cherish it.

How do you think audiences will respond to this film?

I think they will enjoy it and be touched by it.  I’m sure most people will see a little of themselves and their own lives in it and will be able to identify.

The ensemble is made up of some of South Africa's finest acting talent... who were you most excited to work with?

The people that I mainly worked with were Greg Kriek, Albert Maritz, Sandra Prinsloo and Shimmy Isaacs, and our little boy Jean Huisamen.  I was excited to work with all of them, but of course a highlight was to sit opposite Sandra and get the chance to see how this iconic actress works.  I admire her focus, integrity and generosity when she plays in a scene with you.  She gives you so much from her side that it makes it easy to completely be in the moment.

What was it like working with Sean Else?

Sean was completely in charge of the whole process.  He knew exactly what he wanted – that made me feel very safe during the shooting process.  He made sure that we hit the right emotional notes, that we understood the characters and the story line… it was just really amazing to work with him.

The casting of Ellie and her younger self is spot-on... was this just good casting?

I think Sean must have seen some similarities, maybe in our personalities as well as the look of the character.  When I met Lara, I could see that we share  a "sameness".  But we also had a discussion about what we think of our character and where we would like to place her, so we worked out subtle mannerisms and made sure we understood her in the same way.  I am so lucky that she played the younger Ellie, she did such beautiful work in the movie.  Zonika de Vries was also a wonderful choice as the little Ellie – she also set the scene for both of us to work from in the rest of the movie as the character grew older.

Did you know Greg before being cast, did you have any time to develop a shared history?

I didn’t know Greg before being cast, no, so I didn’t even have a reference.  But from the moment we met, we clicked and we worked as a team to integrate the characters. We had a day with Sean to talk about the journey of the characters and throughout shooting we discussed everything about the history of Ellie and Juan – even things that weren’t mentioned in the movie, to give it an extra layer for us to work from.  I am very grateful to have worked with such a committed actor.  I think we gave each other all the support we could to tell the story.