Boat-building patriarch Ben Myburgh (SAFTA nominee Dawid Minnaar) is dead. This brings his three daughters – Julia (Die Byl’s Milan Murray), Anna (Silwerskerm and Fleur du Cap nominee Rolanda Marais) and Kate (Die Boekklub’s Trix Vivier) – back to the family business at the Cape Town harbour. But only one of them will inherit – and not what she expected – in this dark story of secrets, sibling rivalry and gentrification.
Silwerkskerm winners Albert Pretorius and Erica Wessels; Fleur du Cap winners Charlton Lee George, Paul du Toit and Stian Bam; and 2017 SAFTA nominee Neels van Jaarsveld co-star alongside familiar faces like Edwin van der Walt (Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling), Hannes van Wyk (Kwela, Egoli, danZ!), Joanie Combrink and Marvin Lee Beukes (Die Byl) and Tarryn Wyngaard (Noem My Skollie).
But the real star of the show is the V&A Waterfront. “It’s such a wonderful place and has never been used in a drama series like this,” says producer Herman Binge from Lion’s Head Productions. He admits that having an all-access pass to shoot anywhere owned by the Waterfront came with a downside though: “There’s no way to know which way to look at the shot because you can film anything here and it’s beautiful.”
The series is a reminder that this beauty came at a price: the gentrification that followed the development of the shopping centre in the 80s meant that not all of the Waterfront’s neighbours could afford to stay on what had become prime property. Even the likes of the Myburghs were put under immense pressure to move.
“When I was a child, the Waterfront was a kind of a ship dock,” remembers cast member Euodia Samson (Die Byl). “It was a fantastic world because there were people and fishermen everywhere. Nowadays, it’s so prim and proper you have to wear heels when you come here.”
Charlton Lee George (Die Boland Moorde) agrees. “It’s changed a lot since the eighties. This used to be a dangerous place, so it’s been very interesting to see it become a tourist mecca.”
Waterfront was originally envisaged as a soap opera – it was shortlisted with The Wild when M-Net was looking for a soap, and again with Suidooster when kykNET wanted one.
But when Fleur du Cap and KKNK-winning director Jaco Bouwer (Rooiland, Samsa-Masjien) got involved, his references were rather family dramas like Bloodline and Nordic noir like The Killing.
Together with screenwriter Leon Kruger, Bouwer rebooted the show to focus on the complicated human relationships at the heart of the story, shifting the primary locations from the brightly lit shopping mall to the shadowy nooks and crannies of the harbour. “I didn’t want to write a goodie and a baddie,” says Kruger, who as an actor had worked with Bouwer on the popular kykNET crime series DIe Boland Moorde. “I just wanted to write something grey.”
Bouwer believes the show is a new direction for South African television, as complex structurally as it is morally, with up to five storylines running at a time, single scenes split across 13 episodes, and both flashbacks and flashforwards. “I hope and I trust that the local audience is ready for this,” says Bouwer. “I don’t think we’ve seen something like Waterfront on local TV.”
Waterfront replaces Die Boekklub on kykNET (DStv Channel 144) on 10 October 2017 at 20:00 SAST, coming to Showmax express the next day. New episodes will screen weekly.