Kate Ballard played by Nina Milner
Drama teacher Kate Ballard is determined to find the truth behind Lexi Summerveld’s death.
In Showmax Original The Girl From St Agnes, the staff and students of a private girls’ school in the Midlands are torn apart by a mysterious death. As the facts start to emerge, it seems like everyone has something to hide.
Drama teacher Kate Ballard comes from a very different world from that of St Agnes. Her ordinary existence going to a decent government school was shattered when, at 17, she lost her father. Both she and her mother found solace at the bottom of a bottle, and Kate was only saved by her caring drama teacher. She found her place on the stage, and it inspired her to become a drama teacher herself.
Rebellious Kate doesn’t quite fit in at St Agnes, especially with the older teachers, and she struggles to set clear boundaries with her students. While working on a play, she becomes close to Lexi Summerveld, and feels personal responsibility when Lexi’s body is discovered.
Back in high school, Kate fell in love with the handsome Shane Moolman – and now he’s the head of security at St Agnes, and her ally in unravelling the real story behind what happened to Lexi. But Kate is unprepared for the layers of secrets she’ll have to peel back to discover the truth.
About the actress
Nina Milner is better known to South Africans as a top fashion model, who’s worked for Alexander Wang, Vogue Germany and at Paris Fashion Week. As an actress, she’s had lead roles in the M-Net miniseries Ella Blue and Innocent Times, and smaller roles in Jacob’s Cross, Silent Witness and 2018’s Troy: Fall of a City, where she starred as Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons.
Nina is a born-and-bred Capetonian, and although she spent her 20s living in the USA, has her heart firmly in the Mother City.
She was immediately drawn to her complex and intelligent character, Kate. “As much as some people would say that Kate was essentially trying to do the right thing,” she muses, “I don’t think that’s what preoccupies her. Yes, she’s seeking justice, but it’s also about the puzzle and dealing with her guilt over her handling of Lexi.”
She also loves a good crime drama. “I used to make myself Agatha Christie sweatsuits to be Team Agatha! I very much considered getting her signature tattooed a few times. So solving a murder was a very exciting prospect for me.”
There was also a more personal reason for accepting the role of the 24-year-old drama teacher: “In high school, I also had a 24-year-old drama teacher. She was a very reliable coordinate for me at a very confusing time. The fact that Kate was a 24-year-old drama teacher; that’s a strange coincidence and I’m willing to accept that as a breadcrumb.”
The experience of working on The Girl From St Agnes was at times difficult for Nina. “It really sent my psyche for a loop working on this thing; it destabilised me,” she says.
She tapped into all her traumatic experiences to access the emotions she needed to play Kate. “I used all my own stuff to get through the job. When I needed to be traumatised or tearful or full of anger on cue, it was me torturing myself, basically, and selecting relevant constellations from situations that have hurt me in the past and superimposing them on the scene, and basically just wrecking myself every day.”