Chris Whittaker played by Graham Hopkins

1 November 2018

Chris Whittaker played by Graham Hopkins

Veteran actor Graham Hopkins relished his role as the school principal, Chris Whittaker, in Showmax Original The Girl From St Agnes. He must support his students in the aftermath of a popular girl’s death, and assist police in their investigations.

As school principal, Chris Whittaker must deal with the aftermath of Lexi’s death. He believes – and desperately hopes – that it was an accident. But as evidence mounts that something more sinister is going on, he’ll have to work harder than ever before to protect St Agnes from a terrible scandal.

Chris is a deeply moral man, a former Anglican minister and school chaplain. His loving marriage to Joanne is a source of strength for him as he carries out his duties. But this pillar of the community is not without sin and his own darkest secrets will come back to haunt him.

About the actor

Graham Hopkins is an established name on the SA TV and theatre scene. He was Cecil John Rhodes in the 1990 mini-series Barney Barnato, and has also starred in films and plays as diverse as The Native Who Caused All the Trouble and My Fair Lady.

Graham was born in Pietermaritzburg and spent holidays in Ixopo, where the series was shot. He has some insight into the world portrayed in the series, although things have changed since his school days.

“I went to Hilton, so I did go to a top private school in the Midlands, but that’s where the similarities end,” he says. “The world has changed quite a lot. Going to an all-boys private school in the 1970s was very different. We were just packed off to boarding school and told to keep up. It was an age before cell phones – if you wanted to phone home, you had to go to a tickey box in the corner and wait your turn!”

The role

Graham jumped at the chance to join the cast of The Girl From St Agnes. “It’s a jolly good human story, a psychological journey with complex characters, a murder mystery that will keep audiences guessing. It’s great entertainment,” he says. ”It‘s such a well-crafted script. It’s not just about a couple of principal characters – all of the characters have a life and a backstory and a development arc through the series.”

On set

“I loved working with both directors, [Catharine Cooke and Cindy Lee]. We’ve had to work really quickly but they’re very insightful and know how to play and collaborate,” he says.

This veteran of many film sets enjoyed the experience shooting with a young and eager cast, and was a mentor to many. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, apart from maybe one night shooting down by the river in Ixopo in November when you expect it to be hot. I’ve rarely been that cold in my life; it was absolutely freezing.”

Graham is looking forward to seeing the response to the series, and says it has universal appeal. “The Girl From St Agnes is a great story set in South Africa but it’s not just about South Africa. I surf around on DStv and Showmax and we watch series that are set in Sweden and America and Australia – it doesn’t matter where they were set.

“I think that’s one of the mistakes we make in South Africa: sometimes we should just tell stories about people. There’s a place for telling stories about our history and culture but there’s also a place for stories about human beings, where the geographic setting is not as important as the universality of the story. I think this has that kind of universal appeal.”

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