Coffee Break with | Lea Vivier

Article by: Katlego Mance |

Lea Vivier is a Silwerskerm award winning South African actress who has been in projects such as Binnelanders, Mense Mense and Wonderlus. Lea is no stranger to the art of acting, her mother Adri Troskie was a drama teacher, and her sister Trix Vivier is also an actress who starred in the South African short series Trackers. Lea is part of an all star cast of the new show Dam a psychological thriller set in the Eastern Cape. We met up with Lea for a coffee break and had a little chat with her about her new role.

Lea, looking at the current climate that we are in with the COVID Pandemic, we’ve had to go through a whole mental shift in the way we do things, as an Actor how have you centred yourself through all of this?

I keep finding and discovering new ways on a daily basis, to tell you the honest truth. Because what worked yesterday, might not work for me today! But in general, I am very focused on keeping up a good exercise regime, which was also my saving grace pre-pandemic. As an actor, I obviously enjoy storytelling, so I’m a huge bookworm. Delving into a good novel and allowing myself to become entirely immersed might not necessarily centre me, but it brings new perspective and insights. And then, last but not least… I’m big on good food and family. There’s nothing like a home cooked meal on a Sunday, shared amongst loved ones. So those are the pillars that keep me relatively centred. Oh and finally! Yoga. Lots and lots of yoga. To such an extent that I am currently taking a break from it because… Well – sometimes absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.

Shooting in a pandemic calls for added measures and less physical connection, how did you manage to create a connection with your co-stars?

Well, we still bonded with our masks and visors on! But on a less playful note, we started meeting and talking to one another via Zoom. Natasha (Loring), who plays my sister, and I had to do an on-screen chemistry test via Zoom, which was very strange. But I could immediately sense that we’d get along like a house on fire, and then we just kept building on that. But as an actor, you’re placed in very tricky situations, because you can only remain REALLY safe up until the point where the cameras start rolling. Then you have to remove your mask and you’re exposed, no matter how strict the protocols that are in place. So sometimes you do less ‘social distancing’ when you find yourself amongst your co-actors, because the thinking goes ‘I just had to shout into your face a minute or so ago on camera’. I’m in no way saying this is right, and by all means we try our best to keep to the protocols, but the complete avoidance of physical connection unfortunately is not possible as an actor if you want to make work that is believable. Nowadays when I walk up the street, people are physically engaged with their friends and family members. Our need and desire to receive and engage in physical touch goes very, very deep.

When you got the call that you would be playing lead on the @showmax DAM, what different prep did you undertake?

Where do I begin?! First and foremost, I read the scripts back to front. Then I read it again. The entire season. And again. And probably five or six more times. Then I went ahead and learnt my lines. For the entire season. I wanted Yola’s dialogue to go and rest in the back of my mind. And in doing so, I wanted it to feel like the words belonged to me. That it’s not a script that I’ve gone ahead and remembered… But rather dialogue that comes organically – spontaneous everyday speech… Natural and unrehearsed. During this time, I also kept a diary for Yola’s inner thoughts. I wrote down what she felt towards every single character in the series, and I also jotted down random inner monologues that had nothing to do with the series. This helped me to fill in and build an inner emotional world for her – one that I created, and therefore knew better than anyone else. I then went back to the scripts and worked out her emotional journey (or emotional through-line, as actors like to call it), the subtext of every single scene, and what Yola wants and needs from every encounter. That was more or less it, but I started dreaming about her too… And yes, I also wrote that down. Oh, and did I mention her playlist?! Yola has her own playlist that I created, and I listened to it every single morning before arriving on set.

Image by Justin Munitz

Dam is a psychological thriller with some dark moments, how did you keep the mental boundary between you and Yola Fischer?

Truth be told, I didn’t. Acting is the art of being, and I lived, breathed and felt Yola for the greater part of the eight weeks that we were filming in the Eastern Cape. Having said that, I have enough experience as an actor to know that this is my process and it’s how I deliver my best work. So I also know how to maintain a sense of stability within this losing of one’s self. My greatest reminders are my family and my life partner. I spoke to them every Sunday, and they reminded me of who I am, and my life back in Cape Town with them. My partner also visited me three times and took me away from the locations that we were filming on. This gave me some breathing space, and a few moments to come back to myself. And then a good bubble bath also works wonders after a long day on set!

Mental Health is a real challenge that we’ve all had to address and ensure we are engaging at the right levels and supporting each other, Yola struggles with this, what has she taught you about mental health?

That you cannot hide away from it. The best way to get over it, is to go through it. You have to be brave and face the inner demons head-on. There’s simply no other way.

You led some scenes solo but they never felt empty, you gave much to audiences. If you had to choose between doing a one-character silent film and a film led with dialogue, which would you go for?

Thank you for your kind words. Oh, you had to ask, didn’t you! Can’t I choose both? I’d want to choose both, because we all want our bread buttered on both sides haha! But if I was forced to choose only one, then I’d go for a silent film. But never a solo performance, because I hate being alone on set! It is so boring and simply dreadful. We’re pack animals, even if I do think of myself as a bit of an introvert.

If there is one thing you could take from Yola, what would that be?

Her energy! That woman never sleeps. And she’s brave. I hope some of her bravery rubbed off on me.

Dam has an all star cast, who was your biggest inspiration on set and why?

You can’t place me in such a sticky situation! My co-stars might read this and refuse to speak to me again haha! No, I’m just kidding. We all love one another way too much. They might just be angry with me for a day or two. Honestly, I learnt so much from every single actor on set. But I was acutely aware of Neil (Sandilands) and Faniswa (Yisa) when they were on set. I studied them and their behaviour, and the way that they went about their craft. It’s important not to try and emulate other actors, because our differences are what makes us special. But Neil and Faniswa allowed and were comfortable in this overwhelming sense of play… And I want to incorporate more of that into my work. They aren’t afraid of trying new and unexpected things, and perhaps failing… But it’s often our so-called mistakes that make for the best viewing material.

Any advice for an aspiring actor trying to stay focussed during this pandemic?

Oh my!… I think I’d advise them to just keep on keeping on… Keep finding new things that excite you! Keep on going to those auditions! Keep honing your craft. Never, ever stop honing your craft and expanding your capabilities. For instance, I am currently learning how to write dialogue for telenovelas and soapies! I just thought it would be interesting, so why not! Never become idle. Allow yourself idle moments, yes. These are important. But never become it. As Mark Ruffalo said, “You’re always working. It’s never done”

Stream DAM @Showmax

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