ON SET: A behind-the-scenes look at Netflix’s second African series, 'Blood & Water'


There’s a chill in the air during Cape Town’s rainy winter, but the show must go on, as they say.

Actors move between their silver trailers to grab a cup of coffee or get their makeup touched up during breaks, while prop artists balance ladders against walls to fix lighting and sets.

While we all wait in eager anticipation for the show to hit our screens this month, YOU had a set visit during the filming of the series in July last year.

Following Queen Sono, Netflix’s second original African series, Blood & Water will be released across 190 countries in just a few weeks.

The series is centred on Puleng Khumalo (Ama Qamata), an intelligent but impulsive 16-year-old with a secret to hide. The teenager engineers her transfer to Parkhurst College in a desperate bid to investigate the 17-year-old cold case of her older sister’s abduction at birth. Fikile’s disappearance has cast a shadow over Puleng’s life, and she's determined to solve the case.

The show’s production designer, Christian Joubert, says he wanted to emphasise the contrast between the elite and the middle class.

"The world of Parkhurst is opulent. We wanted to create a world or a school in which the elite or the cream of the crop or the richest of the rich in the country go to school. We wanted to create an ivy league feel for the school," he tells YOU.

"We wanted to show the contrast between that world and our lead character’s world. She comes from more of a middle-class home, the life that more people are used to, and we want to create a wow factor of what it’s like for her to step into that world."

Working with a relatively young cast, Christian says a lot of research went into looking at the things the younger generation is interested in as a way of grabbing that audience and making the show more relatable to them.

"We had to do a lot of research into Generation Z, see what influences them, see how they think, see the standard that they compare or judge themselves by today, including looking at their whole social media life. So we’ll be going into that a lot with transitions and pop-ups on screen and it’s a big part of the design of the series."

Behind-the-scenes look at Netflix’s second African

But creating the setting of a show like this goes beyond just the production. It also involves a lot of makeup and wardrobe. Wardrobe director Marné van der Burgh and head of makeup and hair Evelyn Gambe pulled out all the stops to convey the essence of each character.

"I love incorporating ideas from the actors and their opinion on who and what they think their characters are [when dressing them]," Marné says.

Even when it comes to a series like this that’s set mainly in a school with school uniforms, each character has their own style quirks.

"The school uniforms were made from scratch so we had someone custom-making the skirts, the ties. The material had to be picked out and the director has a final say from all the samples," she adds.

The use of maroons and blues across the colour palette in the series plays a significant role in the series, tying in with its name.

Attention to detail is key, such as the crest embroidered on each school blazer worn on the show, which Christian was instrumental in designing.

"We have about 50 blazers on the floor so 50 crests had to be embroidered and we have more than 200 extras on set today, so you can imagine what went into that," Marné adds.

Behind-the-scenes look at Netflix’s second African

It’s no different when it comes to hair and makeup, which also helps convey the emotions and personalities of the characters, Evelyn says.

"I wanted to find a way to differentiate the teenagers in the school," she explains. "If you understand the world of wigs for example, you’ll know that that means money, so for some characters I use that to bring it across. There’s a difference between two families and I wanted to differentiate that by the way they’re groomed."

It’s been no easy feat getting the five-week production done, from time constraints to finances and schedule clashes, but the team believe this will be the show to watch.

"My hope is that it truly will be a believable world we’ve created. It’s very much fictional for South Africa," Christian says. "I hope people will be caught up in this world and are able to see and feel the opulence we tried to create."

Blood & Water premieres Wednesday, 20 May on Netflix.

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