We’re just one week away from Showmax’s highly-anticipated debut original drama series ‘The Girl From St Agnes’. Critics have been praising the proudly South African and thrilling drama – which tells a tale by South Africans for South Africans. In the series, the death of student Lexi Summerveld rocks the St Agnes boarding school in the Midlands. However, while authorities are quick to rule it out as a terrible accident, the school’s drama teacher Kate Ballard thinks there is more to the story than anyone realises. But, the more Kate investigates the accident, the more she realises that she didn’t know Lexi, or the school, at all.
We sat down with Nina ahead of the series’ exciting debut where she opens up about the show, her role and life outside of the series.
What attracted you to the role of Kate Ballard?
When I realised that I would be solving a murder. At the time I was very involved in the running of my family business New York Bagels in Cape Town. So at the time I sent in my audition, I wasn’t sure I would be able to take time off. But my entire nuclear family vocabulary is based on anecdotes from the thousands of sleuth stories we’ve collectively ingested, so I was like, ‘I think we’re all going to say yes to this.’
How different is this show from other drama series out there?
The skeleton that this is built on is familiar; binge-able crime stories and twisted dramas have become a staple. The story is about the teen psyche, a universally relevant subject, but what makes this show different to other drama series is our cultural and societal context. What this show does really successfully is set the crime-drama formula in a fresh, contemporary South African context. Our show also has women at its helm, handling a sensitive and hard-hitting narrative. The characters are mysterious, and the performances are rich – a true ensemble.
Tell us a little bit about your time on set and the filming process.
I was so nervous and so insecure for the first half of this production. I felt very inexperienced for the amount of psychological and professional responsibility I needed to take to play Kate. She is a demanding and complex character. It really sent my headspace for a loop working on this thing. We shot The Girl From St Agnes fast so it took a lot of instinct from everyone involved with making it and you can feel that raw energy, I think. We managed to capture a tension and an eerie atmosphere with a tight schedule and I’m so proud of all of us.
This is the first local drama ordered for a streaming service. How do you think this changes the landscape in South Africa?
The whole world has gone mad for shorter seasons of extremely watchable criminal content. Our eight-episode format is unlike most of South Africa’s locally produced TV shows. It’s brave and punchy and can stand beside original content commissioned by Netflix or Amazon. This show will appeal to local and international audiences.
Other that this series, what else can fans expect from you in 2019?
I don’t know yet! I will be continuing my studies in Cranio-Sacral Therapy and Kinesiology, and working on special projects at New York Bagels. But as far as acting or modelling is concerned, I simply have no idea. I never do with that stuff; it always seems to come out of the blue.
The Girl From St Agnes Premieres On Showmax on 31 January 2019.
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