Actress Faith Baloyi’s role as an outwardly hardened policewoman in Flatland had Variety magazine writing: “Baloyi’s superb Beauty Cuba, as cool and collected as the soap operas she compulsively watches ... feels like a character who could be serialised in future projects.”
Beauty’s layered persona no doubt comes down to director Jenna Bass’ vision of providing each actor in the film with a rough outline of their character and then instructing them to make it their own.
“Jenna didn’t give me a back story for Beauty,” Baloyi tells me over the phone.
“I had to create her. I think that’s what she means by ‘making the character your own’. So, for me to convey Beauty, I looked at her character journey on a professional, emotional and physical level.”
Baloyi says she tried to draw parallels between what’s happened to the policewoman in her personal life that affected her in her professional life, as well as the way she looks.
“From the onset, you see her watching a soapie, so you pick up that she’s obviously a hopeless romantic and that she’s super lonely, and has found comfort and solace in slacking,” she laughs.
Baloyi says she took subtextual elements out of the script to inform how she would play the character.
And the choice of velour tracksuits and glittery sneakers?
“That was all Jenna!” she laughs.
The pinpricks of comic relief in the film add to the sheer randomness of what you’re seeing.
“It’s what makes the movie a little strange at times, which is quite refreshing, because life is strange, isn’t it? Life is bizarre and random, and so it’s a nice layer she’s [Bass] put into the narrative.”
Baloyi says working with Bass was a “workshop process”, in which Bass was open to hearing suggestions about characters.
“She wasn’t dictatorial or a purist about her vision. If she felt that what you were saying made sense for the character, she would be happy to go with it.”
Flatland has been widely praised in its international run, something Baloyi says is “the most beautiful surprise I’ve ever had in my life”.
You can see her next in Jahmil XT Qubeka’s epic fantasy series Blood Psalms.