Film production giant, Netflix launched its latest African Original Series on May 20th – a Young Adult drama, Blood & Water. The six-part series is centred around Puleng Khumalo (played by Ama Qamata), a 16-year-old girl desperate to solve a mystery that’s plagued her family for 17 years. The latest African original – and first-of-its-kind teen series, created and written by acclaimed director, Nosipho Dumisa – was simultaneously released in 190 countries.
In an exclusive interview with SCHICK, the Blood & Water cast, including Ama Qamata, Khosi Ngema and Gail Nkoane Mabalane, discuss the importance of the story, the effect it’s had on audiences around the world and the impact of the already highly-acclaimed TV series on their lives and careers.
Speaking on acquainting herself with her on-screen character, lead actor, Qamata told us, “I definitely did prepare for the role. I think it’s [about] reading the script in its entirely and mapping out my story arch and Puleng’s journey. I tried to really empathise with what she was going through and understand her feelings and emotions.”
“This was my first lead role, so it was a lot of pressure and shooting every single day, but I really enjoyed it. I feel like the Blood & Water crew just became one big family; there was a lot of support there.”
Ama also touches on the kinds of opportunities she’d like to see African creatives have more of. “I’d like to see more opportunities where African talents can show off their skill on a global stage. Africa has really raw talent; we are natural storytellers, so it’s beautiful that the world is seeing that. I think that’s the reason a lot of people are investing in African creatives; they want to hear African stories told by Africans, not the other way around.”
Supporting actor, Gail (who plays Thandeka) also echoes these thoughts, saying, “I’m so proud to have been a part of this production, and just so proud for us as a country and as a continent.”
Opening up on being a co-lead on the series and one of the main faces of the show, breakout star, Khosi Ngema says, “It’s definitely humbling because, before this, I had no experience with acting and to be a lead character is mind-blowing. I’m still pinching myself.”
“I think Blood & Water is so important because it really highlights a lot of socially-relevant issues that not a lot of people are talking about and not a lot of people are seeing on such a large platform. I think it’s important to start having these deeper conversations, and for people to see themselves in the story and not feel alone.”
We also got the opportunity to speak with writer-director, Dumisa about working with Netflix on this project and the future for African creatives.
“As a collective, I feel everyone who worked on [the series] is feeling really, really good. We were always all aware of the magnitude of the project we were taking on and the possibilities. I don’t think any of us really foresaw such a positive, warm response.”
Speaking on the collaboration with Netflix and the attention on Blood & Water as the second African Original Series, she says, “At Gambit Films, we were all aware of [the importance of] this project and I think it was a pressure everyone welcomed.”
“When we started our company, what we always discussed and what we always said our vision was, was that we wanted to produce original South African and African content. We wanted to produce it not just for Africa, we wanted it to reach the world; that was always the goal. So, of course, we jumped at the chance to work with Netflix.”
When we’re all a little more comfortable and the conversation takes a lighthearted turn, we ask Cindy Mahlangu (who plays Zama) about some of her favourite moments from the set.
“I feel like the connection I had with all of the characters I had scenes with was one of the best moments. We were glued [to one another] and it was so much fun to see everyone working well together. That was the best thing with Blood & Water.”
Blood & Water centres around the exploits of Puleng Khumalo, an intelligent and impulsive 16-year-old with a secret to hide. The teenager engineers her transfer to Parkhurst College in a desperate bid to investigate the 17-year cold case of her older sisters disappearance. Abducted at birth, Fikile’s disappearance has cast a shadow over Puleng’s life, and she’s determined to solve the case.