Gary Clayton played by Robert Hobbs

1 November 2018

Gary Clayton played by Robert Hobbs

In Showmax Original The Girl From St Agnes, the staff and students of a private girls’ school in the Midlands are torn apart by the mysterious death of popular student Lexi Summerveld. As the facts start to emerge, it seems like everyone has something to hide.

Gary is a dairy farmer from a long line of dairy farmers – the Claytons have owned Misty Hills Farm in the Midlands since the 1800s. Gary is an active and influential member of the community, and he clings to his old-school “boys will be boys” beliefs and conservative ways. He sends his daughter Megan to St Agnes, which is where his wife Philippa went to school, and his son Jason to St Ambrose, which is Gary’s alma mater.

Gary wants Jason to follow in his footsteps, and is eager to teach him “how to be a man”. And now, just as it was when Gary was at school, the Clayton Barn Parties are legendary. Gary believes in traditions, and feels they should be upheld – no matter who gets hurt in the process.

About the actor

Robert Hobbs grew up in the Free State and attended university in Cape Town. He says he has “mastered the art of being angry cop number three”, but that’s him being self-deprecating. A Neill Blomkamp favourite, he has starred in the Oscar-nominated District 9, the box office hit Chappie and Blomkamp’s viral Oats Studios shorts Rakka and Firebase, which have over 10m YouTube views between them.

He’s also a familiar face to SA soapie fans, and the international series he’s acted in include To The Ends Of The Earth (opposite Benedict Cumberbatch, no less), Strike Back and Black Sails. You’ll also have seen him in Hollywood movies Serenity, The Challenger, Safe House and Catch A Fire.

The role

Robert has strong views on his character. “He’s the biggest douche on the planet,” he says. “He’s an alpha male in the world he exists in, the king of his domain, a white-privilege farmer.”

But this is Robert Hobbs we’re talking about. He knows that “no one is as one-dimensional as that”.

“If you look at him from the outside,” says Robert, “he looks like a maniac. But he doesn’t see that. He’s very much about family and the idea of lineage and legacy – for him that’s all-important. His actions are motivated by either protecting that lineage and his domain or his family.”

On set

Robert’s experience of working on The Girl From St Agnes was that it allowed him to be “the custodian of [his] character.“

“Working with my co-actor Tessa [Jubber, who plays his wife Philippa] has been a real pleasure. We’ve been like-minded in creating a world, creating characters, creating a family.

Also working with Cindy [Lee] and Catharine [Cooke], the directors, who have come with this particular angle on the story and allowed us to just play and explore. I don’t feel for one moment that I don’t have a say … It’s felt like quite special work, very visceral and real. We’re not just hitting the marks and saying our lines; characters are being developed and built.”

One challenge for Robert, however, was being on set in Ixopo. “It’s quite remote and can go from minus 2 to 36 degrees in one day. It’s mind-blowingly beautiful and suited the production but it’s been a challenge. At the same time, those challenges became quite an important part of the project, because it created a bubble. You couldn’t leave and that fed into the show. That’s the Midlands. You can’t leave there: it’s a bubble.”

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