The Imposter presents a new era in storytelling

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The Imposter season 2. Pictures: Supplied
The Imposter season 2. Pictures: Supplied

The Imposter is back for a second season with a whole new cast and a new production company. After paving the way with the first season, which became one of the best-performing dramas on Mzansi Magic, the creator of the show Ferguson Films is passing the baton to Seriti Films to up the stakes and produce yet another successful season.

To make this work, the production companies are exploring a new type of TV strategy by introducing a novel storytelling technique with the anthology concept – a series of different stories under one title.

“The idea was that the series has a premise that can continue for as long as each season has different creative minds to it. We wanted to encourage producers in the industry to work together to build an even greater TV and film landscape. Mzansi Magic fully endorsed this direction as it was in line with their new anthology storytelling concept,” says Shona Ferguson.

The Imposter will be the first South African show to carry this concept. This is similar in format to the popular US show The Sinner, and production companies will be alternated to come up with the new story and new cast for each season, but keep the same premise.

The second season of The Imposter features an entirely new cast and an innovative story line that has the show play out in a whole new world.

Season one zoned in on twin sisters Mantwa and Matshepo Tau, whose lives took an unconventional turn when one of them broke out of prison to claim the life of her identical twin. The second season is also set in two worlds.

In season two, Seriti Films explores two sides of the same coin and follows the story of Tebogo “Tebza” Modikoane, who struggles to make ends meet and provide for his daughter in a township called Kliptown, while his long-lost twin brother, Gary Mokoena, lives a luxurious life. A roller coaster of events that neither Tebza nor Gary could anticipate takes shape.

IN CONVERSATION

Kutlwano Ditsele and Shona Ferguson talk about this concept, which may well change how the industry treats local storytelling.

KUTLWANO: I want to start by asking you about the content in your work. In television, there is this perception that production companies are rivals. And, I imagine, in every other discipline in the creative industry. If I’m honest, I have been somewhat protected from the rivalries. Before we started Seriti, I was protected by a major company so no one ever went at me directly, but I am aware this exists. When you work on a show, how much do you think about the repercussions of anything your work might say to other producers or production houses?

SHONA: A person with a platform has a responsibility to other people, right? It’s the old saying: ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.’ I believe in this saying wholeheartedly. I also believe that to whom much is given, wisdom is needed. If you don’t find a balance, you can get lost in this crazy world and open yourself up to manipulation. I have been fortunate enough to take my time before doing anything and, when I called you, we had already started working on the second season of The Imposter, which we put on ice and you came up with your own idea.

KUTLWANO: Take me back to when you created The Imposter. Who do you think about when you create a show? Are you thinking about a specific viewer? When I watched the first episode of The Imposter, I remember thinking that it is incredible how fast you guys are able to burn through story and keep us engaged. How do you do this?

SHONA: I’m a big fan of shows like True Detective and American Horror Story. These shows keep every season fresh by introducing a whole new concept, but keep the premise – season after season. The South African TV landscape is changing fast, particularly in the pay-TV arena, so there’s a need for us as creators to try different types of storytelling to give the audience their money’s worth. The anthology concept is not necessarily new to South Africa, however, this is a totally new way of doing it – where we as the original creators basically hand all the creative freedom to another producer – with the channel’s approval, of course.

KUTLWANO: So why hand it over to Seriti Films? Having been a fan of Ferguson Films, I have to say, when you called me and proposed this anthology idea, my partners and I were very honoured and, of course, the challenge to take it on was so overwhelming, so I do want to know, why Seriti?

SHONA: What I have always admired about you is your hunger and passion for storytelling. You actually love what you do, which is something that, funny as it may sound, is rare in our business. I happen to have worked with Thabang Moleya before and I admire his work as well, so, naturally, your partnership together with Lean Kumalo only meant the best. When you did The Herd, your first drama as Seriti, I was hooked as a viewer. I loved the style and pace of the storytelling. Another thing I always look for in a show is the ensemble cast. People don’t know this, but the wrong combination of actors on a show can have a negative outcome and you had a really good combination on The Herd. What was also great was that Mzansi Magic fully endorsed the idea of us handing over the project.

SHONA: What were you feeling, personally, when you started shooting The Imposter season two? Do you have a mission statement? What, if anything, do you hope to accomplish at the end of the season when you hand it over to another production house for season three?

KUTLWANO: With the challenge that we had ahead of us, it was really important for us to first get the story right. I have always been one who is not afraid to seek help and I remember that, after we got our head writer Sunni Faba to join Seriti, we said we first had to speak with the creators – yourself, Phathu Makwarela and Gwydion Beynon – to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the first season. That journey was really important for us, and thank you for allowing that process to happen. When the scripts started to come in, it became apparent that this show was going to be dramatic, yes, but it would also have a lot of comedy elements. We made a decision to embrace this because we also feel like there is a lot of dark drama on screen at the moment, and we hope that the audience will appreciate something a bit lighter while still getting their darkness. I hope that the company that does season three has as much fun reinventing the story in whichever way they feel is best for themselves because you really can go to so many places with this show.

SHONA: What I love the most about this new season is the humour. Sunday night dramas are usually very dark and this is a great alternative. This new season also pulls at the heartstrings. It’s a touching story and I believe the audience will empathise with the lead character Tebza. You feel you want to follow his journey, but, at the same time, you know it’s not going to end well.

KUTLWANO: Have you run into any altitude sickness during your ascent, fighting all the way up to where you are now?

SHONA: It’s really incredible, the year we have had. We can only pray that God continues to bless us going forward. It can be very stressful. In fact, it is stressful all the time, but having great friendships and mentors in the industry goes a long way towards keeping us grounded.

  • Catch The Imposter season two on Mzansi Magic, DStv channel 161, on Sundays at 8pm
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