‘Emotional complexity’ is a golden thread through Jacques Bessenger’s work


Over the years, Jacques Bessenger has repeatedly found himself in the shoes of complicated characters with twisted emotions. The golden thread that runs through each of his diverse characters is precisely locked in this emotional complexity.

This blue-eyed actor gained fame for his roles in dozens of series and films, including Fynskrif, Wandering Star, The Starling, Canary, Ballad for a Single, Darkland and Traitors. He was also in the Showmax horror series in 2022, Dark forestto be seen as Jaco.

If he looks at his work today, at each of his characters, he knows that everyone’s inner struggle with their own emotions is what undoubtedly connects his portfolio.

“I take each character as it comes, but I think there is a golden thread that can be drawn through each one. With each, there is a presence of emotional complexity. There is a burden they carry.

“These are diverse characters, but the theme is always related to distorted emotions,” Jacques told RNews.

Actors are by nature sensitive towards people, and at the same time aware of other people’s emotions and energy, says the 43-year-old. He believes it is a kind of natural empathy.

“One experiences other people’s feelings, you almost become responsible for them. Through this, one develops a skill to experience intensely what other people experience. This leads to the development of real characters, with real feelings.”

With this innate empathy for other people, he still struggled with his Dark forest-character to fully understand. In this hit series, he played Fanie, the main character and detective, played by Erica Wessels’ husband, Jaco.

Jaco, ostensibly a supporting man and character, his own dark doings are exposed during the course of the series.

“When we auditioned, we didn’t have much information about the characters. All I knew was that he was the detective’s husband and that they were moving to a small town. I didn’t know what he was actually doing.”

When he finally found out what his character, Jaco’s thinking and behavior revolved around, he just thought; “Wow, okay… that’s pretty intense.”

Jacques admits that although he understood the world Jaco found himself in, he could not properly understand the character’s decision-making.

“I wanted to try to understand it, but I finally got to a point where I realized that I didn’t have to understand Jaco, since he doesn’t really understand himself.

“He’s not the kind of character who’s going to do introspection, who’s going to scratch his own decision-making. He doesn’t go deep, and that helped me, because I just didn’t understand it at all.”

It is difficult to single out a favorite character or project, Jacques admits, when he thinks back on each production, he remembers the people long before he digs into the finer details.

“The team of people you work with often outweighs the role you played in the production.”

Sometimes he does come across well-rounded characters, characters with depth and potential to be really carved out. However, it also happens that these characters are accompanied by a text that is not sufficiently written, or a team of people who are not yet experienced enough to fully support the weight of the character.

Then he discovers projects where every puzzle piece fits perfectly. The team of people responsible for the project are cut from the finest entertainment cloth. The text is complete and well written and the character’s depth flows not only through every page of his text, but also through every scene.

“Then it’s pure luck.”

He without original sins and Traitors from those projects, where every piece of the puzzle fit perfectly. He is also grateful for these two projects, he says.

“I filmed the two productions at the same time, playing different characters. People could see that I can’t play just one type of character, that I can play the hero and the villain.”

Jacques cherishes a close connection with art from childhood, he has always been able to express himself in an artistic way.

“For acting, I was very grateful,” says Jacques.

“I have been able to express myself in this way since childhood.”

Jacques admits that many South African productions often fill Dawid’s shoes, while their budgets hide behind Goliat’s name. Still, numerous films and series live up to Dawid’s name, with world-class productions flowing from each project.

“We are forced to do intense work quickly, under a lot of pressure, but when a team of people, from actors to producers, directors and technicians, come together to do something creative, to do something they really want to do, it happens magic.”