- Nosipho Dumisa and Gail Mabalane say that Blood & Water isn't just for teenagers, there is an important lesson for parents too.
- Although the series centres around Puleng's investigation into her sister's disappearance, Nosipho says the overarching theme in Blood & Water is "identity".
- Nosipho and Gail hope a take away from the series would be for parents to want to build a more open relationship with their children.
Following the release of Africa's second original Netflix series, Blood & Water, Channel24 caught up with writer and director Nosipho Dumisa and actress Gail Mabalane to talk about the show's important message to parents.
Although the series is geared toward young adults, according to Nosipho and Gail, Blood & Water is not just for teens, there is also a major life lesson for parents when it comes to addressing those awkward conversations about the birds and the bees.
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About the rollercoaster weeks that follow the show's global debut, Nosipho says: "[What we set out to do] was to be able to tell a story that would resonate with South Africans but also with the world. And I think as much as we wanted to do that, I don't think we actually believed that it would do this well and in so many countries, people would really find it to resonate with them. I was receiving messages from Brazil yesterday being like: 'You know, we love this show. Thank you so much for telling the story. Feels like it was made for us.' And it's really been such a pleasure. I'm feeling immensely grateful."
Gail, who portrays the role of Thandeka, a grieving mother who struggles to come terms with the abduction of her infant daughter, share Nosipho's sentiments.
"We are completely blown away by the response that the show has gotten. We are appreciative. We are grateful to the international audiences. But I think also for me, just the feedback from our local audiences has been incredible. I mean, South Africa has really come out to support, to encourage, to congratulate. And it's been so good to see and to feel that love. You know, it's great to get love internationally because it is on a global platform and we are grateful for that. But to get love from home, there is nothing like it," she says.
Blowing up on social media, Blood & Water has been compared to other young adult series like Elite, Riverdale and Gossip Girl. Nosipho explains that together with Gambit films, they have been working on the project since 2017, after their debut film Nommer 37.
When asked why she decided to tell the story in this particular way, she says: "What was fascinating about this is at the time, I think the statistic was something like every five hours a child goes missing in South Africa. And to think about the trauma that families have to deal with after that. And in telling the stories through a young girl's eyes, and how she has to live in the shadows of her missing sibling, was what appealed to us."
Although the series centres around Puleng's investigation into her sister's disappearance, Nosipho says the overarching theme in Blood & Water is "identity".
Gail agrees, saying that she hopes a take away from the series would be for parents to want to build a more open relationship with their children.
"Especially when they are young teenagers, you know, giving them a platform to express themselves, giving them the opportunity for their voice to be heard. Young people want to have a voice. Young people want to be acknowledged. I exist," she says.
This message became particularly clear to Gail, in a scene where Thandeka broaches the subject of sex with Puleng, and it's uncomfortable for mother and daughter.
Nosipho hopes this will help parents navigate those "awkward situations".
She says: "Because the truth is, young adults, a lot of them are experimenting, whether it be sexual or whether it's in other ways, they are experimenting and figuring out who they are. And this is the time to engage in that conversation and not to assume that they can figure it out later."
Gail's emotionally charged portrayal of a grieving mother is haunting, and according to her, tapping into those dark emotions hit close to home.
"Even in my personal life, I've experienced some level of trauma with loss. But I think just being a mom and being able to tap into the reality of what losing a child is like. It happens so often in South Africa. Children get abducted so regularly that when you just take a moment and actually reflect on how lucky we are, how lucky I am to raise my children and lucky to have seen them grow from babies to where they are now, it's easy to tap into those emotions," she says, talking about drawing inspiration from personal experiences.
Season 1 ended on a huge cliff-hanger, and Netflix recently announced that the series had been picked up for season two.
About season 2, Nosipho says: "[Viewers] can absolutely expect to just dig further into these characters, their backgrounds, more into the mystery and what happened and who is Fikile Bhele? And is she the sister? And also just more fresh voices I think that we can introduce to the show and more opportunity also for music because music plays such a huge role in the show as well. And musicians were so generous with their music. And I think more opportunities to find new songs and new artists as well."