Exclusive: Nicole Bessick chat

Actress Nicole Bessick. Photo: Supplied

Exclusive: Nicole Bessick chats about feisty role in Instagram series

Actress Nicole Bessick talks about adapting to the times as Britney in the innovative Instagram drama series ‘Lockdown Heights’.

Exclusive: Nicole Bessick chat

Actress Nicole Bessick. Photo: Supplied

When a country goes into lockdown, and you’re faced with some serious career challenges, what do you do? Well, for a number of individuals in the acting industry, you get creative with the resources you have at hand.

Lockdown Heights is a daily drama series created by Ayanda Makayi and Bradley Olivier. The show, with a pun-intended title, is based in South Africa during the COVID-19 nationwide lockdown.

New entertainment platform

But what sets this series apart from anything you’ve ever seen before is that it’s showcased exclusively on IGTV, a first-of-its-kind broadcasting introduced for easy-access entertainment all from the comfort and safety of your own home.

What first came about as a potential project to pass the time with quickly grew into an exciting online opportunity. The show was firstly seen as an opportunity to create new, easy-to-consume content and drama in the ever-changing landscape of entertainment consumption.

The South African We caught up with actress Nicole Bessick who tells us more about this exciting new series. South African audiences will know her best for her work as Chloe on the hit e.tv telenovela Broken Vows and Xenia Samuels on Binnelanders.

“In this time of isolation, the actors and writers created this opportunity to entertain the masses in the comfort of their own homes. Also, during these times we often become selfish and only think of ourselves and how to see out the weeks in confinement without realising what other extreme social dangers isolation may have on others, so they also created a space to enlighten,” says Bessick.

IGTV: Keeping the ‘craft of the creatives’ alive

The concept came about after the president addressed the nation two days before lockdown started. The show’s creators were confronted with a thought: “What happens when the shows on air run out of content? Where are we watching our daily soapies? How do we keep the craft of the creatives in our country sharp during this time?”

And so the show was born.

The show’s writers (Bradley Olivier, Ayanda Mkhanyi, Kirsten Mohammad and Letuka Dlamini) got to work and we began filming shortly thereafter with the aim of getting out one episode per day of lockdown.

Storyline relevant to lockdown life in SA

With the entire world on lockdown due to a deadly pandemic and it seeming like all is lost, deep in the city of Johannesburg South Africa, resides a group of individuals who believe their block of apartments is immune, and due to this, their daily drama continues as normal. Scandals, affairs, murder mysteries and skeletons surface in this ever-eventful apartment block. Will they survive this time or will the outside world eventually infiltrate?

“Cast, crew, filming… It’s different to all other series. The format of the show is uncharted territory, and as far as we know, it has not been done before. Because of the lockdown regulations, they record their dialogue separately, in different set-ups, even though they are in the same scene… most of them have never even met before, so putting it all together comes with a series of exciting and creative challenges.

“My character, Britney, is a feisty, go-getter who marches to the beat of her own drum and loves the finer things in life. She didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in her mouth, but graduated with an honours degree in the school of life. She’s as streetwise as they come, gets what she wants and makes no apologies for it. Her Achilles heel? Love, in my opinion, this is type casting at its finest… lol!” explains Nicole Bessick.

Social distancing vs filming and production

But how exactly does social distancing and the nationwide lockdown affect filming and production?

“By definition, acting is ‘reacting to your surroundings’ and that proves challenging when you’re stuck at home alone, recording your lines with no one to read back to you… and what’s more challenging is you haven’t ever met the actor you’re ‘playing across’ from in your scene,” explains Bessick.

“We’ve got to get pretty creative here, while making sure that our work is technically sound. So before we shoot our individual dialogue, we send one another pictures of the background and where we’re putting our eyeline, to make sure that it all matches up when the scenes are edited together… and hope for the best!”

The show has captivated a dedicated online audience and become a popular feat in such a short amount of time. But what happens when the lockdown is lifted? The cast believes that as the reality of lockdown in SA continues, so will the imaginary world of Lockdown Heights.

All the drama set to move with the lockdown times

Our country is heading into a phased-out strategy in the near future and so will the characters in the imaginary world of Lockdown Heights. There’s great potential to build upon the story so viewers will have to tune in to see how the specific phases affect the characters going forward.

“Lockdown has forced us to think out the box… to find new ways of creating and entertaining, and thankfully, with the advances in technology and social media, artists are able to go online and do just that,” Bessick concludes.

Catch Lockdown Heights weeknights on IGTV.