“I definitely empathize with Bennie’s challenges that he experiences with anxiety, because it is something that I have also had to deal with and overcome myself.”
This is how Hilton Pelser tells about the similarity between him and his character, Benny Griessel, in the television series, Devil’s Peak.
This very Bennie was initially a background player in Deon Meyer’s first books, but in 2005, with the appearance of Infanta took his place in the spotlight. Infanta later in English with the title, Devil’s Peakappears.
Another interesting piece of information about the translation of this story is that the character’s name is written as “Bennie” in the Afrikaans and Dutch books. In the English, German and French versions, as well as the television series, it was adapted to “Benny”.
Over the years, Benny has become one of the most popular characters in Afrikaans literature. This legendary detective inspector from the Serious and Violent Crime Unit in Cape Town with all his mistakes, fallibility and his eternal battle against the drink devil has crept deep under readers’ skin.
Benny also has a few matters that weigh heavily on his mind.
“As a result of the perpetual confrontation with Cape Town’s rampant violence and corruption, Benny is driven to depression and alcohol abuse. His increasing anxiety attacks sometimes get the better of him and his drinking habits threaten to derail his marriage and career,” Hilton elaborates.
He adds that dealing with mental health problems related to anxiety is an important issue to talk about.
“There are many people who struggle with it and who get caught in this web of emotions, because they are afraid to talk about it with other people. I am glad that we with Devil’s Peak can shed light on it.”
This long-awaited five-episode crime thriller is based on Deon Meyer’s best-selling novel, and viewers can finally catch up on Sunday 29 October when the series starts on M-Net.
Other actors who also play leading roles in the series are Sisanda Henna, Shamilla Miller, Tarryn Wyngaard, Albert Pretorius and Masasa Mbangeni. The rest of the cast includes, among others, Gérard Rudolf, Dawid Minnaar and Solly Philander.
RNews has during Devil’s Peak ‘s media launch in Cape Town – with a cloud-covered Devil’s Peak in the background – a few of the actors talk about their characters, how they prepared for action scenes and themes explored in the story.
“This is my first introduction to Deon’s work. He is an incredible storyteller and that is why I am excited to read his other books as well,” says Hilton. He adds that Matthew Orton, who handled the script adaptation, did an excellent job of bringing the characters to life on the box.
Tarryn, who can be seen in the role of Christine van Rooyen, says that for her it was a difficult story with heavy themes that emotionally required a lot from her as an actress. Still, it was nice for her to stand in a strong, elegant woman’s shoes.
“Christine is the kind of character who knows who she is, regardless of the preconceived notions one might have about her character, motivation and actions. Nothing will make her shut up, or make her abandon her plan.”
Although Solly plays a smaller role in the series, it was a wonderful experience for him to be part of this. He tells RNews that he experienced on set how his fellow actors and the production team worked with the greatest focus and dedication to create the best product for viewers.
“I am terribly proud to stand here today and be part of the Devil’s Peak-team too. In my opinion, this is a great moment for South African television. Jozua Malherbe’s direction, support from the other actors and the overall feeling while we were shooting was incredibly positive throughout.”
The central theme of the story is about the vulnerability of children. “Children’s lives undoubtedly have an influence on the world, especially children who are at risk. Benny has a daughter who is just a year old, Thobela’s son dies, and Christine’s daughter is kidnapped,” explains Jozua.
One of the underlying themes that he also explores in the series is the constant chaos in which characters find themselves and what influence this has on everyone’s life.
In response to a question about this theme, Hilton says that it had an effect on him even behind the scenes.
“The level of intensity within which Benny, and events in the series, function, is enormously high. All the characters in the story are definitely constantly trying to understand and make sense of the chaos that is going on around them.
“I wanted to maintain that energy that Benny experiences throughout the filming process, which is why I kept going even after a day of filming at home or when I had time off now and then.
Devil’s Peak set in Cape Town and follows Bennie, who is tasked with catching the serial killer, Thobela Mpayipheli (Henna). His murders capture the city’s imagination.
Bennie and Thobela’s stories intersect with those of Christine van Rooyen (Wyngaard), a desperate mother who is willing to do anything to improve life for herself and her daughter. The fate of these three characters becomes entangled as the series builds to a climax.
Devil’s Peak starts broadcasting on Sunday 29 October at 20:00 on M-Net, DStv channel 101.
In this video, listen to what Hilton, Gérard, Sisanda and Tarryn have to say about their preparation for the roles Devil’s Peai have to say: