BY BILLY SUTER
SHOWMAX, the popular online subscription video-on-demand service which launched in South Africa in August 2015, is poised to introduce its first original drama series, a KwaZulu-Natal Midlands murder mystery titled The Girl From St Agnes.
Filming wrapped yesterday (November 28) on the eight-part series which was shot in the Midlands and Johannesburg. The eight-part whodunnit premieres on Showmax on January 31, 2019.
“Our first original programme – last year’s light-hearted comedy Tali’s Wedding Diary – had the most successful launch day of any series on Showmax ever,” says Candice Fangueiro, head of content at Showmax.
“The new series is a complete change of direction: The Girl From St Agnes is a dark murder mystery that will keep you guessing and taps into the current conversations in South Africa about #metoo and teen sexuality.”
At St Agnes, a prestigious all-girls boarding school in the Midlands, a popular and beautiful student is found dead at the base of the old mill. Fearful of the scandal it might cause, the school is quick to declare the death of Lexi Summerveld a tragic accident.
However, drama teacher Kate Ballard doesn’t believe it. On the night of her death, an upset Lexi had been trying to contact her, and Kate had ignored her. Now wracked with guilt, Kate attempts to piece together the terrible truth.
The more she investigates, the more Kate realises that she didn’t know Lexi or the school at all. Behind the imposing walls of St Agnes, Lexi’s killer won’t be the only person exposed…
Newcomer Jane de Wet was handpicked to play Lexi by legendary South African casting director Moonyeenn Lee (Tsotsi), who has been nominated for two Emmy Awards in the last three years, for The Looming Tower and Roots.
Kate is played by Nina Milner, who modelled for Vogue Germany and at Paris Fashion Week last year, and most recently starred in Troy: Fall of a City, as Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons.
An impressive supporting cast includes internationally recognised South African talent like Robert Hobbs (District 9), Tyrone Keogh (24 Hours To Live), Tessa Jubber (Wallander), Karl Thaning (Dredd) and Shamilla Miller (Troy: Fall Of A City).
Also featured in the series are Celeste Khumalo (The Queen), Richard Lukunku (Happiness is a Four-Letter Word), Zakeeya Patel (Isidingo), Graham Hopkins (The Lab) and three-time South African Film and Television Award (Safta) winner Jerry Mofokeng (Heist, Tsotsi), Newcomers include Paige Bonnin and Tristan de Beer.
The Girl From St Agnes is being produced by Quizzical Pictures, winners of the Safta for Best Drama for six of the past eight years, as well as a Peabody.
Producer Harriet Gavshon, Quizzical Pictures’ managing director, is drawing on her own private school experiences, which sparked the original idea for the show.
This is the first time Harriet has produced a series, rather than just executive producing, since 2009’s Hopeville, which won Best Drama and Miniseries at Rose d’Or, was nominated for an International Emmy, and was a finalist at Monte Carlo.
Catharine Cooke, who won this year’s Best Director In a TV Drama Safta for iNumber Number, co-directed the shoot with Cindy Lee, an ads director helming her first drama series. She previously worked as the social media director on the Emmy-winning Black Mirror.
Double Safta winner Gillian Breslin (Umlilo; 4Play: Sex Tips For Girls) is head writer. This makes Girl From St Agnes a rare TV series commissioned, produced, written and directed by women.
“What links Girl From St Agnes, Tali’s Wedding Diary and the other Showmax originals in the pipeline is our aim to work with the best South African talent and be the home for brave, quirky and at times edgy local stories you wouldn’t find anywhere else,” says Candice.
“Creating new characters that audiences come to love and follow is an incredibly rewarding experience and we want to establish a platform for more ‘Tali’s’ across varied genres.”
Binge all eight episodes first and only on Showmax from January 31.
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