Lost under the stars in Dwaalster
Twinkle twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are? We’ll tell you what that twinkle is – it’s the fun new Afrikaans dramedy now streaming on Showmax.
kykNET drama series Dwaalster (2019-current, get up to speed by streaming it on Showmax as episodes are added weekly, express from their DStv broadcast) is the kind of series that you can sit back and watch with your tea and coffee and rusks and have a good laugh while also understanding the characters on a deeper level.
While they have their quirks, they are also serious about who they are and how they live their lives – you’ll see aspects of yourself in them, multiple characters sometimes. Plus, it’s locally lekker.
Whether it’s Blue Bulls horn helmet-wearing retired teacher Frans Loots (Albert Maritz) watching the rugby with his strict-but-fair rival Mayor Ivy (June van Merch) or even deaf roller-skating waitress Gina (Tarryn Wyngaard) zooming about, there is something for everyone.
“Gina is the coolest and funkiest,” says Tarryn, who isn’t deaf in real life. “I love rollerblading, but roller-skating was new and to get used to them, I spent some time with the Rollergirls in Cape Town. It’s so much fun, even on our tight sets.”
But that’s not the only fun to be had on the Dwaalster set…
Location, location, location
Dwaalster is filmed in Bonnievale, just 180km inland from Cape Town. While it’s not quite the Karoo setting of the show, the scenery is a perfect substitute.
“I based it on a roadtrip through Ladismith almost fifteen years ago,” explains series creator and head writer Nicola Hanekom. “This was my first attempt at a full-blown drama series and it has come off really well. The magical stories that I heard during my roadtrips inspired me to create this town of Maanhaarsdrif, to give it character and tell the tale of people you normally hear about but don’t often get to meet. They are in their own little world with big-city folk visiting now and then.”
The quaint dorpie of Maanhaarsdrif has its roots in real life too. While the show has the theme of stargazing (the title literally means “Wandering Star”), there is a massive space observatory in the Karoo in real life; it’s called MeerKAT SKA radio telescope and is currently being used by astronomers from around the world to investigate dark matter and other NASA stuff.
The characters love the stars and their businesses are kept going mostly by the tourists passing through on their way to the huge telescope on the town’s outskirts.
“We’re taking elements from the real world, even our characters – they’re based on people we know, sometimes more than one have been combined… we have taken things that we know to create this rich world of drama, fun, interacting characters with their various backstories and how this wonderful puzzle fits together,” adds Nicola.
Actors always say that a show is only as good as its writing, but Dwaalster’s cast line-up isn’t shabby by any means.
Investigative journalist Annabel is played by Tinarie Van Wyk Loots, who’s no slouch when it comes to strong, independent characters – she can be seen on law drama Fynskrif as no-nonsense lawyer Kara Kruger.
And for a touch of misadventure and comedy, there’s Erica Wessels as one-eyed boetebessie law enforcement officer Ragel-Lee – Erica’s done it all as far as Afrikaans TV goes, but she’s really good at powerful roles; watch her as Agent Hoop Beneke in Afrikaans spy thriller series Vloeksteen, also on Showmax.
“We have tremendous fun filming Dwaalster,” explains Albert. “The writing is fabulous and the cast are great. I especially love filming with June – we’ve known each other since our varsity days. We always sit and chat between takes. I love that we’re friends when the cameras stop rolling and when they start again, our characters have this rivalry. It’s all in good spirits, but when the rugby game kicks off, it’s war!”
Tarryn’s got to do triple duty as Gina, but she’s loving it. “I’m not just roller-skating. I’ve got a serving tray with props on – and I’ve got to have my lines rehearsed. That’s three-in-one and it’s not easy to do at all. I can’t let it show on my face either – Gina is upbeat and she is the town’s moral compass. Everyone knows that when she’s in a good place emotionally, everything in town is going just right!”