IN CONVERSATION WITH | CAST OFF SAVAGE BEAUTY SEASON 2

True to Grace Bhengu’s driving force “Image is Everything!”… The highly anticipated second season of Netflix’s Savage Beauty produced by Quizzical Pictures, is nothing short of upholding and lifting what season one established.

The new season recently premiered, leaving audiences in awe through each episode with its gripping plot twists and intense Bhengu Beauty drama. As the season unfolds, the stakes are higher than ever.

We caught up with the talented cast to delve into the making of this exciting second season.

We first sit down with the legendary Nthati Moshesh (Grace) and Dumisani Mbebe (Don) who share their process of bringing such compelling on-screen chemistry to life.

Felicia Naiwa Sithebe :

How did you ensure that you continue to fall in love with these characters, you had to come back in season 2 but still love this person that you’re playing?”

Dumisani Mbebe : it’s a journey that started in season 1 and it’s just that in terms of craft and it’s not difficult to fall in love with these characters, especially in season two.

Nthati Moshesh: For me I think, working with Dumisani has been such a gift. Something shifted in season 2 and it’s almost like we had days when we would look at each other and he’s like what just happened or I say what just happened because you’re so caught up in the moment, so caught up in the beautiful writing, in how three dimensional these characters are, how layered and complex Don and Grace’s relationship is and as an Actor to uncover those layers, it’s like an onion so just when you think you know these two and even us as actors it’s an element of surprise in the writing which kept us excited.

Savage Beauty:S2. Nthati Moshesh as Grace in Savage Beauty:S2. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2024

Dumisani: In fact I remember when we went back it felt like we were on production break, it didn’t feel like we were away for such a long time. So that’s how beautiful these characters are.

Felicia Naiwa: The two of you are obviously extending your roles, as standalone legends in the industry and as legends who are playing parents, one could clearly see that the dynamic of guiding and showing love in being a parent on set was very evident, particularly with the new Actors that we saw come on to season 2, there was definitely a comfort. Why is it so important to you to create that safe space for Actors coming into an established production such as Savage Beauty?

Dumisani: We step onto set to do one thing, play. Tell a story. And to be given an opportunity to play with other people, new Actors, it’s actually quite something we always welcome cause it also helps you play your character in a totally different manner, it gives your character a totally different colour as well, especially if they’re in the same story world. With season two, I got to play, even if we were not all really in the same story world but to know that they’re there is just beautiful, you just can’t wait to step in and play, Actors wanna do one thing, they’re wanna act.

Savage Beauty:S2. Dumisani Mbebe as Don in Savage Beauty:S2. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2024

Nthati: And for me, acting is all about energy, it becomes a new energy. New characters, new energy which then in a way makes you up your game even more, so it’s always taking it up a notch higher because they’re bringing in a different energy. I’m thinking in particular Lebohang, who’s a trained Actor and very prepared, very focused and for me she then becomes a reminder of remember you were a Lebohang, you were just as focused, you are just as passionate so then the passion is taken to another level again because it’s a new energy that is stepping on. They’re nervous because they’re stepping into an established world, we’re excited because we now have new energy that’s stepping into this established world and then it becomes a give and take. They’re bringing it in and they’re making us work even harder then we’ve worked before because we’re so used to each other we’ve had four months of getting used to each others energies now this new energy comes in, we must include this new energy but all it can do is take it up to another level and I believe season 2 has done exactly that.

Felicia Naiwa: As people our experiences shape us, so just like the characters, what they have gone through has shaped them, coming into season 2 and the experiences that the characters are now going through, what would you say was your process to level up and meet that character at that point of growth, it’s years later there are things that have happened, relationships have grown, there are new dynamics, how did you level up or consciously go through the process of ensuring that the character has grown and is timed to be there?

Dumisani: I feel like it’s continuity, it takes you there. Look at Don, the last image we see of Don in season 1 is this man who is perceived to be a monster in the boot, what is it that he is going to do in season 2 is actually shaped by what he goes through. Remember that Don is pretty much on his own, Ndu is not there, Grace is not there, Phila is not there and the woman that he believes he is going to marry is the one who actually put him in the boot. Now what do you do when someone does that to you, in reality, what do you do? How do you step out of that boot and once you step out of that boot what is highly likely to happen? So already with that understanding it takes you to another world, it’s rage. That’s what drives Dawn throughout the season and the constant calculation of cause. There’s Grace, she wants to take over and he’s thinking no ways, it’s not gonna happen.

Nthati: And why does Grace want to take over, Grace wants to take over because Grace is actually the Brains behind the empire, Grace created the skin range empire.

Nthati: Additionally, it’s about survival isn’t it, how we all survive in this world, that becomes paramount for me. It’s always such a challenge for me on how I can play each character different from what I’ve done before so that’s a constant internal battle that I have, I’ll be honest I’m never completely comfortable because then I think “ohhh” , maybe that had a little bit of that character or that character before and then that’s when now it really does become team effort, it’s then what Don brings to the table for me to act or react to or what he’s doing that’s when you rely on your directors cause a director will then know that you played that in season 1, how about we do a different take in season 2, that’s where your cast, your crew, your fellow actors help. It really is a team effort, I can only be a better villain based on who I’m working with so we all make each other look good.

Felicia Naiwa: You spoke about all that actors want to do is to play but that is also on account that the space is conducive for the actor to play. What would you say for you are some of the beautiful highlights on this set that allowed you and gave you that room, how was that for you, what were the things where you’re like that allowed me to actually win?

Dumisani: It helps to not be on time cause being on time means you won’t have time to chat with your fellow Actors, to discuss the scenes that you’re going to shoot, just to establish that energy for the day cause everyday is different and once you’re done with that you’re like okay let’s get the feel of it, how are we going to play this. It helps to be on set way before, so that you’re able to play and to sit with your own character. It’s something that goes back to what Nthati said: being comfortable with your co-players is the best thing ever, that trust element, you trust them. Once you step on that set you’re like okay, you know what let’s play. It’s very nice.

Felicia Naiwa: The weight of lines on story! One line that kept coming back is “image is everything” and then the family dynamic of it came in, sometimes lines are just lines but as a team, as a collective there was work put on those lines, what would you say, to the aspiring actor that’s really trying to make it and the established actor that might be feeling stagnant, when you get that script how do you commit and ensure that you’re going to bring every line alive?

Nthati: Please may I compliment Dumisan right now? Dumisani is that actor, there’s a scene, I think he had two pages of dialogue where he speaks alone, he does it in his sleep so when he’s on set it becomes a masterclass for aspiring young actors who are watching this and it’s the level of commitment, it’s the level of devotion to the word, it’s the level of respect for your craft and so I’ll be like “Dumisani how’d you remember lines” and he gets through it, it’s the consistency of ten takes later, different angles later. So for young actors consistency, professionalism, preparation and again, consistency, passion and more consistency because if you’re not gonna be consistent in what you’re doing, you’re not gonna enjoy acting, it’s gonna then become the “yoh” they keep repeating things all the time. So Dumisani really like, I’ve never told you my friend, but you, it’s really like a masterclass on how to love your craft. I used to tell you all the time.

Dumisani: Thank you, I know other actors don’t really read. I read, I never read because I just wanna learn lines, cause yeah sure you’ve learnt the lines but what are you gonna do with those lines?

ROSEMARY ZIMU, NAMBITHA BEN-MAZWI AND ANGELA SIHOLE

Felicia Naiwa:

You land the script for season 2, what was that like for you, when you first went through the script and you saw all of those plot twists?

Rosemary Zimu : Before the script, they took us out for dinner to let us know like what’s happening, where the storyline is going for each character, as much as they could squeeze in those 3 hours, it felt like the whole night but it was like 3 or 4 hours of the day, they really just tried to give us everything so that when we do read it, it was already “Ohhs and ahhs and whats,” we were like okay we are ready for some of the stuff, some of the big stuff that’s happening, we were ready for. It was a journey from the time they told us to the reading, it got us to really settle into everything, it got us to heal from whatever we needed to heal from and just go in there knowing that I’m here to tell a story, that’s it.

Nambitha Ben-Mazwi: I would echo most of what Rosemary said because it’s also two years later for us and a lot has changed in our lives physically, emotionally, mentally, we’ve gone through things, we’ve matured but then we have a direct pick up and there’s also that challenge of saying okay now let me get back into Linda Bhengu’s clothes, who is she, what was she out for and also being purpose driven in this story, understanding this is what the purpose of telling this story is, the purpose of telling this love story, this is the purpose of telling the relatable part of Linda Bhengu, her identity thus everything that she goes through in season 2. So it was also that, while also just receiving these new characters and also working on that chemistry. It’s great to go back into this but now we’ve mourned certain things, we were like now we have these new characters and the synergy that it’s gonna add to the story, we were also on the edge of our seats, we felt like the audience, we had to take breaks. So we felt that we can’t even fathom how the audience is gonna respond and we’re excited for that.

Angela Sithole: We are really excited as to how the audience is going to receive it as much as it shocked us. There’s just so much drama. By the time we started shooting we had already accepted this and we’re like okay, this is what’s happening in season 2 but we were still like “no way or like oh my gosh this scene or this episode is like so hectic,” but all I can say is that we definitely gave our best and that’s gonna be a banger.

Rosemary: I think the fact we were able to carry each other through every single thing that happened was very important, I’m so grateful for this family cause never would I have made it without them, never.

Savage Beauty:S2. Rosemary Zimu as Zinhle in Savage Beauty:S2. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2024

Felicia Naiwa: Still on you Rosemary, often you hear established actors talking about not judging characters, take them, understand them and breathe life into them. We saw how you sympathised with Zinhle, there was that clear separation on who’s Zinhle and who’s Rosemary. What would you say was your process for that, to sit and be like this is what Zinhle is going through and this is how I’m going to give that truthful performance and do right by her?

Rosesmary: I won’t lie, I did judge her, I really did but I had the time to not judge her, I had the time to sympathise with her, I had the time to also be empathetic. She really really goes through the most from day one, she’s just been going through it and the scars were always a reminder. I think as Rosemary I took the scars now into my own heart, Zinhles scars are now my own scars. How do I now portray her, especially in this season with her pain? How do I show that she is actually not okay, how do I do that? I had to go to therapy to, as Rosemary because I did not want to take her pain too much to the point where you don’t see the separation between Rosemary and her, so I had to make sure that I did my own self-healing so I don’t get triggered by any of Zinhle’s traumas. That’s how I made sure.

Felicia Naiwa: Linda & Thando: We’ve seen some actors, when they play a queer couple, they play too much into the queerness and not “I’m just in love with another human being,” cause love is love and we saw that with you. What was your conscious process of ensuring that you are just going to give love and not “segmented love” like this is queer love, this is hetro love, love is love?. How do you ensure that people will receive it so that when I’m watching with my parents they don’t say comments that they shouldn’t but they look at this and think these people are just genuinely in love.

Savage Beauty:S2. Nambitha Ben-Mazwi as Linda in Savage Beauty:S2. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2024

Angela: it’s not my first time playing a character like this, also I’ve got friends that I know who are just like Thando and Linda and with Nambitha, when we first started from season 1 we had the conversation, we wanted to play this love story as authentically as possible so that when the viewer is watching, all they see is love and not see two women, we’re also now in 2024 like it should be something that is normal for everyone to see. But that was our mission, so thank you very much for saying that because we stressed about it at the very beginning but I told her we’ve got this and the most important thing was just also how we look at each other.

Nambitha Ben Mazwi:

Rosemary: Can I just add one thing, shoutout to our directors and also to our DOP for actually being able to capture those little love moments that they had. Literally with you guys words were not even needed, you could see it in your eyes that there was love there. So shout out to the people that captured it and now everybody can see it.

Felicia Naiwa: Savage Beauty has a lot of beautiful things, from the location, the wardrobe, the deco, the script, there’s a whole thorough process in it, personally for me and Tumelo when we watched, it really felt like there was a 360 happening in building this world. For you coming on set and finding that as a Actor you’ve got a wardrobe that speaks to this character, it lives in the right place, it eats the right things, speaks the relevant things, has the walk and talk. What did that mean to you as an Actor coming to work, allowing you to bring your best?

Angela: I really think with a production like that being Quizzical Pictures, they just make things a lot easier because everyone knows their job, so when I come to set I expect wardrobe to know their job, I expect makeup to understand how Thando is suppose to look, I expect to walk onto set having maybe art department coming to ask me, “would Thando have sparkling water or still or would she have some whisky”, there’s no one who understands your character like you. The set, the dressing needs to just make sense, to make it so much easier for us to just get there and start playing because we come prepared as well and we do expect production and every other department to come prepared and know their role.

Nambitha: Season 2 is an elevation and that’s something we need to highlight, you thought season 1 was something but we said we were worth the wait. So what that personally did for me is, the stakes were now high and I think we all internalised that pressure in our own ways but I think the way Quizzical Pictures also just laid the foundation and eased us into it with that dinner they took us to, I’m a very spiritual person so for me it’s like this is the purpose of this role for me, this is the purpose of what I do as a thespian let me go and really give my all into this, let me align with God with this, let me go into my detox phase, let me do all that I need to do. I think in hindsight we all understood how big this is and what it will expect from us and the sacrifices so when we got onto that set and we saw the elevation in every single part we also elevated.

Rosemary:

Felicia Naiwa: We were saying to Mme Nthati, that all of you guys were a tight unit, everybody was having fun, you could see that you guys were giving each other high fives in between takes and that’s beautiful to see. So thank you for that, I was blown away. Well done.

LEBOGANG FISHER, ABENA AYIVOR AND JESSE SUNTELE

Felicia Naiwa: Lebogang a little birdie told me that you had auditioned on Zoom for this role and I think as an industry we are going through a weird time where other actors are like “I don’t wanna do this online audition because I feel like I’m not there present with you in the audition room, I can’t connect.” But you clearly embraced it and impressed a lot of people across shores. How was that for you, taking on the challenge? Obviously you’re no longer based in SA, you’re based in London but getting on that Zoom and saying this is my role and there in South Africa they’re gonna get it and believe feel it.

Lebogang Fisher : First round was the self-tape which is sort of industry standard if you’re not in the location wherever they’re filming at the time. It’s sort of something that I’ve experienced working in New York, working in London and a bit in South Africa but this infamous Zoom call, I thought it would only be like 15 minutes and it ended up being an hour, I was like okay we are really pushing and digging deep and that also was like really interesting to me cause I kind of thought okay why is this happening and they really liked what I was doing and wanted to see where else I could go and what I could do with this character which is simultaneously really lovely but also challenging cause there’s a bit of fear in like what am I going to do, am I doing this right or am I not doing this right. But in terms of embracing that whole mode of Zoom and like self taping in general I think it’s a really good move as it levels the playing field for actors who can’t show up in person, in terms of actors internationally, South African actors are being seen for American productions, English productions in ways that we hadn’t before because we have the talent, we have the means and production companies they have the money, they want to find new faces so I feel like it’s just a shift in mindset also as actor that you need to embrace, it’s not that this thing is difficult, it’s that this thing is a challenge that will help me reach a new audience.

Felicia Naiwa: Thank you. Abena, it’s so beautiful to see more and more brown women that represent a lot of us, looking at the previous cast and looking at you guys coming in season 2, that curation of talent is lovely, real women that aren’t the typical look that’s expected but a “real me on-screen representing me”. How did that feel like for you coming in, did it feel like a nice beautiful fit in this production with the new family members that you now have in your corner, did it feel comfortable in your skin?

Abena Ayivor:

Felicia Naiwa: As an actor I want to understand your process of thought in finding comfort in that being, knowing that Mutale can just look at you and you know what she’s saying to you, she doesn’t have to change it up?

Abena: I think it’s an experience thing. I know when I was younger, like my natural rhythm when I speak is very fast, when I’m still very excited or still get kid like in a lot of ways but as an Actor I know when I started out I was nervous so I would like race through all the lines and I remember when I started out in Generations it was Connie who was like slow down and I think as I get older; you realise that whole less is more thing, it really works, so I actually appreciate actors, young actors who get that because it took me at least ten years to get there. That slow down, there’s more power in stillness than there is in being loud so it’s a matter of centring yourself as a character and I have been told for such a loud person that when they say action there’s a stillness that happens but it’s also watching like your favourite actors and realise that’s where the power is, it really is in the stillness. When you try to do too much because the camera is right here and you don’t have to do as much as you do in real life and it’s just like trust whatever you’re feeling inside, whatever you’re internalising will come out if you’re feeling it and you don’t have to try and show it on your face but just trust you felt it.

Felicia Naiwa: Charlie & Phila, what a beautiful love dynamic. You know sometimes as a viewer when you watch a sex scene, you cringe but you reminded me that there sex and there is love-making and I saw that, I got it and it was beautiful. Having two actors really bringing you into that vulnerable space and make it so beautiful and so real, Jesse we see your character crying and it’s touching, so there’s like a realness and a relatability of it that you obviously brought in but that is built from chemistry. What was the work that you had to put in off set to ensure that on set it’s going to be that real?

Lebogang:

Jesse Suntele: For me I think to answer your question about what we did offset, I think a lot of the work we did unintentionally but I think that’s where I learnt the lesson with this season, with this production, working with Lebo it made me realise something about all the other productions that I’ve worked on, the relationships and not just romantic relationships, friendships, parent family dynamics, whatever relationship a writer writes for you, I realise now after working with Lebo, it just clicked that it’s always been like that it’s so much easier to get into these kinds of scenes and develop a chemistry on-screen with your co-star if off-screen you’re friends. So we had kid conversations naturally not intentionally, not trying to know each other. We weren’t like we need to talk to each other more so that when we get on set we feel not more comfortable, it wasn’t like that, it was off set we just realised that the more we chat, the more we have in common, we became such good friends off-set that when we got on-set, the difference between before and after those conversations those scenes were so much easier, it was hi friend let’s do this again. It just made me click that that’s actually one of the biggest differences between whether or not you will be comfortable and not just comfortable but also communicate that chemistry, you can’t fake it. You have to be a really brilliant actor or actress to fake that kind of chemistry but like when you’re friends, you’re automatically comfortable and you mentioned vulnerability for example, for me it’s been over the years that I’ve realised that it’s so difficult to act vulnerable if you’re not vulnerable with the people around you. We had very vulnerable conversations off set about things that are happening in our lives that are happy, sad, exciting, things that make us angry and so naturally I feel vulnerable with my friend Lebo so to get on set and it’s a vulnerable scene it’s like yeah, I can do it and so Phila can cry in front of Charlie. I found that very insightful.

Felicia Naiwa: All of your characters showered strength, you were each leaders, you were fighting something, Charlie to avenge her mothers death, Phila & Mutale fighting for the company’, trying to create control to ensure that there’s order, did you have a personal reference point to draw from, be it how you grew up, something that happened were you had to stand up or make your voice be heard, so is there a personal reference point to help lift the character up for those strong moments?

Lebogang: That’s a really good question. Like I said the day to day of Charlie’s life is very different to my day to day, she’s a cheese girl but there’s a lot I understand in terms of being away from your family cause I’m not in South Africa, there’s also a lot that I understand about losing someone very close to you and that’s happened in my life also around the time I was playing Charlie so that for me I was like, art imitates life and sometimes characters come into your life to help you through something and that for me was definitely an aspect of Charlie I understood but unlike Charlie I had support and so I can only imagine what it was to feel what I’m feeling without that and how because I had that support I could stand up for myself in a different way but without it, Charlie is a bit feral and so I also understood what that does to you and why she’s sort of spiking the way she’s spiking and why she puts on the masks that she does and hides certain aspects of herself the way she does, so it’s that sort of real life understanding. I think emotionally through that specific lens of what it is to lose someone and how that changes you. That was my lesson from this and that’s the way I understood what it is to like put on a mask and stand up for yourself in a particular kind of way.

Jesse: 100% yes, to answer your question, yes there is definitely a personal well I needed to draw from to play this character because the funny thing is that it’s not like past experience actually, I’m still currently going through the question “what are you doing for yourself and what are you doing to please others?” I feel like that’s a constant question in my life, I’m naturally a people pleaser, I like walking into the room and make everybody feel happy and comfortable, I don’t like not being liked because I don’t get it, what’s not to like, what could I have done to offend you. I’m the nicest human being on the planet. It’s learning that A, that’s impossible not matter how nice you are somebody can just not like you cause they don’t agree with you or agree with something you said or your energy or your vibe – like why are you wearing green that’s so weird, you know what I mean, it could be anything so that’s impossible, that’s the first thing I had to answer for myself and answer for Phila and that’s what he figures out in this season as well and so the only thing that’s worth substance is figuring out what’s good for you and no matter how hard you try this is not gonna work. Making everybody happy is not gonna work so that’s the personal question I answer for myself constantly and that I had to take into the season.

Abena: When I think of Mutale, everyone else goes through so many ups and downs and breaking down and picking themselves up, I don’t think she’s afforded that luxury. She’s the one who has to keep things together all the time and I think there was a responsibility with that. Like Jesse said about being almost a people pleaser and I’m kind of the same, I don’t like conflict, I avoid it, I don’t see why do you think being a cow is cool like I really don’t get that, I think respect is so important and I love human beings, I love other people, I love the fact that we are all so different and you could say something and teach me something new regardless of age. I’m so aware that I could get something from everybody I meet, that’s the way I go into the world. So you never feel like you’re the person people are gonna look to, to keep things together. It’s almost like maybe this is seen as a weakness or fragile, a fragility about it so almost that dichotomy, that juxtaposition with the character of someone that has to be so together and not bend, kind of like feeds into yourself and you just feel like your accessing some sort of yourself that maybe you haven’t had to harness before but it’s there and it gives you some sense of assurance within yourself because no matter what, no matter how different a character is from you, it’s still an extension of you. In order for you to play it, you’re still accessing some part of yourself that you may not use regularly but it’s an extension of you so I think the way she holds things together makes me feel like I can hold things together no matter what.

This conversation was insightful and definitely one for the books! What’s even better is seeing season 2 for yourself, it’s evident that the second season delivers even more drama, intrigue, and unforgettable moments. If you haven’t yet dived into the intense world of Savage Beauty S2 now is the perfect time to catch up on Netflix.

 

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