by Thinus Ferreira
Someone stoned on set or hitting on a crew member? Tell South Africa's leading man from Hollywood, Arnold Vosloo starring in Netflix's first Afrikaans TV drama series Ludik, who's learnt to wield his on-set power and influence as a go-between with precision to help sort out problems and keep casts and crews happy.
As number one on the call sheet in the 6-episode first season of the Rose and Oaks Media-produced drama series now on Netflix, the Hollywood-hardened Arnold Vosloo, has honed the skill to use his "leading man"status during production to intercede on behalf of cast and crew member who might have a problem or who are struggling to be heard.
TVwithThinus sat down with Arnold Vosloo to find out more about his portrayal of Afrikaans hustler Daan Ludik, the origin story of his latest flurry of work in South African productions, what it means for the first Afrikaans series to be on Netflix, what the local film biz can learn from Hollywood, and what he remembers from baring his butt on screen in the eighties.
You visit South Africa and your work here periodically - so you did the film Griekwastad with MultiChoice and kykNET, then the film Silverton Siege for Netflix Africa recently and now Ludik for Netflix as well. You did Forgiveness and Blood Diamond in 2006 and there was a gap until now. Why now these multiple projects all in South Africa?
Arnold Vosloo: I was in South Africa because I come to visit my mom and my sister Nadia and Joyce here.
A few years ago, a year or so before Griekwastad, I was saying to my sister I just feel like I'm not doing great work, I don't feel inspired by the stuff that I'm doing in America. It's nice to be working and it's nice to be earning dollars, but it's not everything. I'm looking for something different; something more satisfying.
She has a PR background, she suggested that she call one of her colleagues. We did an article in I think Sarie magazine in which I expressed that. I said in the article that I would love for the local guys to hire me and do South African stuff - honest good South African content and I'm prepared to come to South Africa.
That's how Griekwastad came about - Tim Theron and Cobus van den Berg saw that article and contacted me and sent me the script. I was won over by the script and came out to do it.
Then it kind of snowballed. Mandla Dube then reached out to me for Silverton Siege on Netflix to do that. That happened and the Ludik drama series actually goes back almost six years to when I read the original pilot and loved it - I thought it was the best Afrikaans script that I've read.
They were trying for a while to make it happen and couldn't and then finally, thankfully, got Ludik set up at Netflix Africa.
It's been really interesting, it's just been a joy to come back to South Africa and work - let's say once a year for three or four months, come down to South Africa and do some South African work and play what I am, which is a post-middle age white Afrikaner. It's just a pleasure.
I don't have to be a Russian, or German or whatever the Americans are always asking me to do, I can just be what I am.
'Netflix has never done this
and they loved the script,
they weren't reluctant'
Or a Mummy! You mentioned Ludik took 6 years - this is another one of those projects that germinated for quite a number of years. What does it mean for Netflix to now also have a TV series such as Ludik as its first Afrikaans TV show and for it to be on a global streaming service for a worldwide audience?
Arnold Vosloo: It's huge. It's huge for us being the guinea pigs for the first Afrikaans series, and when I say Afrikaans, really 40% Afrikaans, 60% English.
But it's huge because Netflix has never done this and they loved the script, they weren't reluctant.
We didn't have a big budget - we weren't showered with lots of money like the did some of the other shows because they simply don't know where Ludik is going to land: What is the buying power of Afrikaans essentially is what this thing is going to reveal.
If people watch Ludik and it does big numbers, then obviously Netflix is going to say "okay, there's an audience out there, we've got to make it a part of our work now.
They've got everything else covered, the African market all the way up to Egypt. If Ludik works, they'll open their wallets for Afrikaans. They'll do movies, they'll do other series and on a personal note, Ludik was always envisioned as a an 18-episode deal.
If we get great numbers, then we'll come back for a second and a third season to wrap it up.
I hope we do fantastically well because I really would like Afrikaans people to tune to Netflix and see Afrikaans content. It looks beautiful. It looks like Ozark, it looks like those American shows - it doesn't look like an inexpensive Afrikaans show.
The other bonus is that we're translated into five other languages, so no matter where you are in the world you can watch it with English and Spanish covering half of the globe.
Your bare butt is the first one I ever saw on a screen, in 1984 in Boetie Gaan Border Toe. Done without any intimacy coordinator. South Africa's TV and film industry is now starting to add intimacy coordinators to the crew.
I'm wondering if you can share a recollection of when director Regardt van den Bergh asked you to be naked and show your behind in Boetie, to how the industry has changed to now?
Arnold Vosloo: Somebody mentioned it to me the other day - one of my friends - saying "remember being kaalgat in Boetie"? And I said I wasn't kaalgat, that didn't happen! He was like: "No, you were naked".
I literally don't even remember it you know but when you're young and you're stupid you do whatever the director asks. You're gung-ho. You want to take one for the team.
The whole intimacy coordinator development is a very good thing. I have one small scene early in Ludik with my wife who's played by Diaan Lawrenson. We had an intimacy coordinator on set.
It isn't a sex scene per se but I had to kiss her and at some point reject her, push her away and that kind of thing. It's always awkward those kinds of things and as a guy - especially number one on the call sheet and the lead on the show - I would hate to be with somebody and in an intimate scene like that, and then afterwards have them feel like I was pushing, doing something inappropriate.
It would be awful. I would hate to have that on my conscience. I'm all for intimacy coordinators. And for showing my ass in Boetie I literally don't remember it. Ha ha!
When you started going to auditions in Hollywood, you'd tell them "You don't know me but I'm going to make your project better".
Even on the Ludik set you told the producers "guys you need to be on set more, the people love it when they see you".
Your mentorship and advice beyond being an actor is wonderful. What is something you'd say South Africa's industry can improve on with our production ethos and how hands-on we are?
Arnold Vosloo: Firstly, I know the budgets are small and it's an impediment because actors are spread around - they're shooting one thing now and next week they've got to shoot on the other project, so they take lots of jobs to make ends meet.
But what would be a huge help is if every production - no matter how big or small - if they just had a week, even 10 days, just to rehearse with the actors, talk about the script, talk about ideas that your character might bring to the table, simply because a lot of the time you're on set, you're blocking something and you film it, and while you're shooting it, you get an idea.
Now you're thinking: Instead of sitting at this table, I should just walk out the door - that really says everything about the scene.
But when you shoot, you now don't have time to change anything because time is money. Some sort of rehearsal period is great - which we had on Silverton Siege - Mandla Dube was adamant that we have time to talk and to ask all these questions that we needed to ask so that we didn't waste time on set.
Secondly, being number one on the call sheet - which I was on Ludik - it's a huge responsibility. You're the leading man and the crew really look to you. The crew on any show is really smart. They work all the time. They'll know if the leading man is weird, or insecure or any of that stuff. You have to be a leader, you have to inspire a crew, you've got to inspire your director.
I learnt that from the Americans. I worked there with great people and the good ones always did that. Even Leonardo DiCaprio on Blood Diamond.
He was definitely number one on the call sheet and if anyone on the crew had a problem, if any of the cast had a problem, Leo told them they could come to him. Don't go to the producers, come to me and tell me what the problem is and I'll go to the producers and them it's an issue they need to rectify.
So you hold that power only for those few weeks, everyone needs to make you happy and make sure that you're good and henceforth you can use that power as a sort of tool to inspire the cast and crew and make sure that there's no bullshit on set.
'on Silverton Siege Mandla Dube
was adamant we have time to
talk and ask all these questions
so we didn't waste time on set'
Is Daan Ludik good or bad, or is he an antihero?
Arnold Vosloo: Yes. He's an antihero. It's a cop-out answer but he's both. He's a bad good guy and he's a good bad guy. He's both of those things.
One can make an argument and say that intrinsically the guy's a hustler and he's always going to see a profit somewhere, but then you're also a product of your environment.
Somebody like Daan Ludik's obviously savvy and he is a hustler. He looks at the bigger picture of around him and how things are run in terms of South Africa, how things are doing.
Somebody like him is smart enough, cunning enough, to say "You know what, I need to take my own destiny in my hands. I've got lots of mouths to feed, people to take care of" and then he goes down these other roads which might not be completely legitimate. His intentions are good, let's put it that way.
Ludik season 1 is on Netflix and released on 26 August 2022