By Gen Terblanche30 May 2023
Tony Kgoroge investigates Recipes for Love and Murder
Big city cop vs small town mysteries: Detective Khaya Meyer (Tony Kgoroge) swaps Joburg’s streets for the Karoo, tractor crimes and sheep in crime comedy series Recipes for Love and Murder Season 1.
Seasoned Johannesburg cop Detective Khaya Meyer (Tony Kgoroge) is a newcomer to the small Karoo town of Eden when we find him chasing down a drunk tractor driver in the opening scenes of Recipes for Love and Murder. The cosy little town and its casual attitudes are already testing his icy professionalism when a local woman is murdered, the townsfolk run wild, and the Karoo Gazette’s nosy reporter Jessie (Kylie Fisher) and its agony auntie Tannie Maria (Maria Doyle Kennedy) are suddenly up in his business, bringing his officers cake, meddling, and muddying the waters. But thanks to Tannie Maria’s kitchen magic, Khaya starts to take on local flavour.
Watch the trailer for Recipes for Love and Murder
Tony Kgoroge pulls the key ingredients together for us to build up a recipe for Detective Khaya Meyer. Binge Recipes for Love and Murder Season 1 now.
Khaya’s story in Recipes for Love and Murder
Widowed officer Khaya sees Eden as a refuge. He has a bright and bubbly daughter named Khazi (Mwake Ng’ambi) who’s busy living her best life as a student in Cape Town, and the posting to Eden offers him a place that’s both closer to her, and the change of pace he needs to recover from tragedy.
“Khaya might be older and he might have come from an apartheid establishment, but I wanted to look at him as a person who just wants to live a good life,” says Tony. “He loves his kid dearly. He loved his wife. But he lost his wife through a crime, which is what broke him down. He’s not blaming it on the system or anything, he’s just putting human behaviour to that. An unfortunate thing happened to him; it could have been anything, or anyone. So I think his idea was to say ‘Okay, let me go here. The crime scenes will not be as hectic because it’s a small town.’ But he gets caught up in the intricacies of how a small town could become so difficult. How it’s hiding little things. And that becomes very interesting for him. He realises that small town people do not mean that crimes are less complicated.”
Big city boss
Khaya’s still shifting gears when it comes to being boss at the local police station. Instead of a situation room full of street cops and detectives, he just has veteran officer Piet Kasin (Elton Landrew), rookie cop Regardt Snyman (Arno Greef), and front desk officer Constable Klaasen (Megan Alexander). “He’s trying to find his feet around the town. Trying to understand the culture and the systems of the police station that he’s running,” says Tony.
Khaya grates his gears for a while, though. “It takes him time because he’s thinking that they need to commit to him, and this seriousness he brings from Johannesburg,” explains Tony. “That’s why he had a problem with the guys. He’s like, ‘You talk with everybody. Anything is like a joke to you. Just get yourself together. Be like policemen! To him, guys are messing around, and he’s saying, ‘You’re too accessible to the public. We have to have that mystery as policemen. Nobody must know where we move, where you are stepping, and where you’re not stepping and how you’re going to step there.’”
That’s not how things work in Eden. You’d miss far too much! Piet and Regard’s kindness and openness slowly win through, though. “It softens him a little bit, and brings in a human element when this guy (Piet) invites him into his house and says, ‘Come and have lunch with my kids.’ And the other guy (Regard), a white guy comes to him and says, ‘You remind me of my dad’. It’s beyond just beyond race and colour; he’s seeing the spirit, like, ‘My daddy always used to do this and this, and this.’ It’s those things that actually made Khaya try to tap into everyone’s spirits, to understand. They change him to become a better person by healing the pain that he comes from.”
Hidden tears & lost truths
With Khaya still struggling to find his feet and wrestling with personal issues, he misses out on a major clue that could have cracked the case right from the start. As the townsfolk descend on the police station with all sorts of stories following the murder that kicks off the show, one witness is left cooling his heels until he can’t wait any longer. In the frenzy, Khaya misses taking a statement from Lawrence (Sipho Mahlatshana) the gardener.
Lawrence’s unexpected death later and his mother Grace’s (Lee Duru) utter grief tear into Khaya, even if he might not show it. “He’s also coming from losing someone. But I didn’t try to play Khaya as buying into the mother’s pain. If he did, he was going to be a mess and become emotional because the wound (from his own wife’s death) was still fresh. And he’s trying to maintain the order of being a policeman. I had to choose to draw a line.”
“I remember there was this video that I was looking at on Instagram (from satirical website The Onion). It’s of this American guy who works at the White House. He comes in late to a press conference and he says, ‘Guys, I’m sorry I’m late. I just lost my wife this morning. But let’s go on with the issue.’ People are like, ‘How?’ They’re shocked. This guy has just lost his wife and he acts like he lost 20 cents. And when people tell him, ‘We’re sorry for your loss,’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, that’s fine. It happened. Let’s carry on with the work. The nation is waiting.’”
“Now that was too extreme. Maybe that’s how people are trained, but I thought Khaya has to have a moment where he becomes human. So when you drive off with him, can you see a little bit of emotion. It hits him hard. When you’re alone. When you’re facing the four corners of your room. Your humanity comes in. It’s like you’re taking off your emotions coverall, you’re taking off your uniform, and you’re left with yourself. That’s the moment that who you are comes in,” says Tony.
A recipe for connection
Khaya’s a lot slower to warm up to Tannie Maria. “This woman is always on my case, going places where I actually don’t want her to be – until the point where she gets into trouble. In the beginning he’s like, ‘Just get out of my way!’ And she keeps saying, ‘I want to help!’” says Tony. But when a man’s living off microwave dinners, he’s powerless to resist the allure of home cooking.
“She brings them sandwiches and stuff like that…and he actually enjoys the sandwiches more than he enjoys having her opinion in his space. This guy lives alone in a cottage. He doesn’t cook. He maybe knocks off from work at six, and when he comes back, there’s no food. Everything is closed. If he didn’t wake up early enough to go to the Koop on the street, or to go to the garage and grab a loaf of bread, that means when he comes back from work, it will be too late for him to get anything to eat. So Tannie Maria’s sandwiches would be his only option,” says Tony, as he laughs over the scene in which Khaya commandeers Tannie Maria’s sandwiches for himself.
Once Khaya has Tannie Maria clearly in his sights, he begins to realise that she’s no mere meddler. This is someone who’s sticking her neck out because she genuinely wants to help people. “As a person she is not pushy in a bad way, but she’s not giving up on things, even though she has her own problems. She will not stop, she will just keep on going.” Tony reveals that Khaya not only finds that inspiring, in interacting with Maria, he starts to reclaim a part of himself that he thought was lost forever.
“Coming to the Karoo was him giving up on what he was. He was trying to get in his head to take something lesser, only to find that you don’t have to be in that position. Just be persistent in what you’re doing. Be in the moment. Push in and try to see what is on the other side of the river,” says Tony. And what Khaya finds on the other side is caring, which prompts a beautiful scene in which he opens up to Maria.
“That caring is what he was missing a lot from his wife. In the middle of them looking for Jessie, who’s missing, it triggers something in his head to say to her, ‘This is what you must understand. I lost my wife, and you know the stupid thing is I told her not to go. And if I didn’t tell her, if I was just there instead, maybe she was not going to be shot for a stupid cellphone. Somebody just grabbed her cellphone and then shot her. And that’s how I lost my wife.’ He’s trying to connect with her, and does connect with her, only to find that she reflects another side of him, and that both of them actually have the same problems. They become a reflection of each other, and one is helping the other, without the other one being aware, until they meet at Maria’s home. He’s invited for cooking, and as he’s sitting there cooking, the realisation comes in: ‘I’m being the person that I have always been when I’m with you!’”
Jessie also reflects something in Khaya that he loves and treasures: his daughter, Khazi. “Jessie does for some strange reason, and for her cheekiness,” says Tony. “That’s why it’s such an important thing when Jesse is missing. He makes it a mission for himself to say, ‘That could have been my daughter.’ He’s had two things that he was struggling with in his mind. With Tannie Maria when she was putting herself in danger, he’s like ‘Just stop this thing you are doing; you’ll get killed.’ Because he knows what happened to his wife. And with Jessie being so young and being a rebel, he’s seeing his own daughter. So every time she’s in danger, he calls his own daughter to ask, ‘When are you coming? Can you come? Are you going to visit me?’”
“But she’s busy having a nice time in Cape Town, not worrying. Sometimes our kids don’t see these things, and then they’re like, “Ah everything’s alright as long as you’re good and you’re calling me, send me some money, please’. They don’t see it’s more than that. It’s, ‘I just want to see you. I just want to give you a hug, to just take a stroll and buy ice cream’. It’s those connections as well that he’s struggling with as a person when he’s likening his daughter to Jessie, and Tannie Maria to his wife,” explains Tony.
One special recipe
With each person she helps, Tannie Maria unlocks their heart with a special recipe, just for them. All the cast rave about the cooking on set, prepared by Mynhardt Joubert (the series Key Food Stylist), which was one of the perks of being on Recipes for Love and Murder. Tony reveals that it was easy to find and express Khaya’s pleasure at being won over by Tannie Maria’s food – since he’d experienced it himself.
“I don’t know what it’s called but it was a vegetarian dish with a little soup on the side. As Tony, I ate so much of it that day, I actually forgot that hey, you’re acting! They’re not here to come and feed people” Tony says, laughing. “That dish, because it also tasted nice for me, I could also transfer it into my character. He was enjoying the food like the way Tony would enjoy it. And then I used that ‘spot’ to say, ‘Okay, then, this is the attraction that takes him to Maria, through the cooking.”
Have you built up an appetite for your own delicious treat?
Binge Recipes for Love and Murder Season 1 on Showmax now.
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