25 February 2021
Antoinette Louw on playing the deceptively powerful Dora in DAM
SAFTA winner Antoinette Louw (An Act of Defiance, Die Laaste Tango) stars in the new Showmax Original DAM, a psychological thriller that’s earning rave reviews and drawing repeated comparisons to HBO’s The Outsider.
Silwerskerm Best Actress winner Lea Vivier (Wonderlus, The Day We Didn’t Meet) leads the cast as Yola, who returns from Chile to bury her estranged father. To her surprise, and her sister’s irritation, he’s left his farm to her, but this may be more of a curse than a blessing, as the house seems to be trying to tell her something. But with her mother institutionalised, and her own meds running out, Yola has to wonder if the spirits are real or just in her head?
We caught up with Antoinette to find out more about her character, Yola’s aunt Dora, and the twisted and twisty series, which is now available to binge first and only on Showmax.
Update: Season 2 of DAM is now streaming on Showmax.
Could you tell us more about your character?
Dora’s childhood affected her whole being and made her into the woman she is today. Jacob, as her much older brother and a powerful leader, had a very specific idea of the role of a woman in society. Dora never questioned this.
She is part of and supports patriarchal society, even if it is to her own detriment. It is the only thing she knows. It is where she feels safe, seen and powerful in her own right. It gives her purpose. And she will do anything to protect it.
How do you feel playing a villain?
I’ve played antagonists before, mostly in short films, like Axis Mundi and Voor Ek Val, which are both currently on Showmax. They are the most interesting and fun to play. I always approach these types of characters by finding their vulnerabilities and ask myself what is missing in their life.
The same went for Dora. Nobody is ‘just good’ or ‘just bad’, and nobody is born evil. We all have both light and dark within us.
How will audiences relate to her?
Dora is gentle and warm, a girl-next-door, very likeable and relatable. But her caring nature makes her even more dangerous. She’s not the type of antagonist we are used to seeing. And it’s exciting.
Tell us more about your relationships with co-stars and crew on set.
The whole cast agrees – we have never experienced such an incredible bond between a cast before. It was magical. It was a safe space where we shared many personal stories with absolutely no judgement.
It’s rare and I will always carry this experience with me. Like Laudo Liebenberg (who plays Rudy) said, “This one was for the books.”
Can you tell us about moments that stood out for you during filming?
Leeches! Lea [Vivier] and I had to do scenes in the dam, and when we got out of the water, our legs were covered with tiny leeches. I didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry. And boy, do they cling… I never knew leeches were so stubborn.
The most awe-inspiring moment for me was when we filmed the ritual where Rudy (Laudo Liebenberg) was initiated as the new clan leader. Not only was the ritual itself ancient, but the location itself was magical. It was in a ravine with Khoisan rock paintings. I could feel the presence of the peoples of this land, our ancestors. I had goosebumps.
What do you think makes DAM special or unique for South African audiences?
It is a wonderful and unique blend of our different South African cultures, using myths and legends of this land to create a psychological thriller.
Our brilliant director of photography, Tom Marais, was able to create a world where one could feel the “other worldliness”.
For me, it was special to be part of a South African story where our cultures come together, all while using mythology. I love being South African and I love mythology, so two loves came together.
And of course, there was the experience with the cast. We were a group of mixed cultures – Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaner, Coloured, English. We taught each other a lot about our different cultures, things we didn’t know. It was awe inspiring.
Both DAM and Racheltjie de Beer, which you also appear in, rely on South African myths and legends. Can you tell us about their importance in stories like these?
Myths and legends are as old as the human race. A lot of wisdom is shared in their retelling. And South Africa is a treasure chest of different myths and legends. But because of our horrific past, these myths and legends were never shared.
It’s a tragedy, because it’s through these stories that we understand each other better. It creates unity. And now at last, we are meeting each other again through this powerful form of storytelling.
Can you tell us about the fight scene between Dora and Yola in the dam?
From an actor’s point of view it was actually not a difficult scene to shoot. Alex (our director) showed us exactly what to do outside of the water.
The only uncomfortable thing was to be in the water for a long time. The water was quite cold and we were shivering.
If you had to pick one character to describe as the “hero” of the story, who would it be?
For me it’s Bernoldus Niemand (played by Nieil Sandilands from The Flash and News of the World). From the start he was my favourite character. He is quirky and humorous. And he sees things other characters don’t.