Subscribe to our Newsletter

click to dowload our latest edition



The dark truths behind White Lies series



Harriet Gavshon and Nimrod Geva produced White Lies, which is about to launch on M-Net 101. The SA Jewish Report caught up with Gavshon to find out more.

What drew you to create White Lies?

Sean Steinberg was the creator. It was written by Darrel Bristow-Bovey.

What part did Bristow-Bovey play in putting the series together?

He was the writer and an executive producer, which means he was involved from early on in the process. He took the original concept and infused it with his own concerns and ideas, along with ourselves, producers Nimrod Geva and me.

What was it like working with him?

We’ve worked with Darrel for more than 20 years since Hard Copy days, so we know each other very well. He’s always a pleasure to work with. We think he’s a massive talent.

I understand this was the product of years of work. Why did it take years?

The longest process in making a drama series is the writing, especially when there’s only one writer involved. Financing can also take years but in this case, we were lucky in that M-Net saw its potential immediately and financed the development of the series, which was a huge help. We then looked for other financing partners, and settled on Fremantle, which we had worked with on Reyka. But everyone wanted it! There was a bit of a bidding war, especially when Natalie Dormer, the lead actress (Game of Thrones, Hunger Games, The Tudors) came on board.

How would you describe this series?

It’s a spicy and entertaining murder mystery set in Bishopscourt in Cape Town. Although it deals with dark themes, it’s funny at times, always beautiful, and a compelling family drama at its heart.

How did you select the cast? What were you looking for?

We knew Natalie Dormer was right for the role as soon as our casting director in the United Kingdom suggested her. Local casting happened as soon as our lead director, John Trengove, came on board. We thought the role of Jamie (Morgan Santo), the fifteen-year-old daughter, would be the hardest to cast, but the moment we saw her audition, we knew she was perfect. Something happens in the audition process. More often than not, you know immediately if you’ve found the right person. It’s the way they inhabit the role or not.

Is the South African audience drawn to local television shows/series? If so, why? If not, why do you think this is the case?

South African English speakers are the hardest to catch because they have so much else available to them. There’s also the feeling that they think anything from “overseas” is better than anything local. We hope, though, that they now recognise that these South African co-productions, which are sold all over the world, can stand up anywhere. Our last production, Reyka, sold in more than 150 countries around the world, and was nominated for two international Emmy awards. White Lies has already sold in a number of territories.

What do you do to draw audiences?

M-Net marketing works hard to draw audiences and as producers, we try to help.

Who is this series aimed at?

White Lies is a sophisticated but entertaining series. It’s designed for an adult – but not in that way – audience which enjoys a good whodunnit with some depth and humour too.

What kind of feedback have you had internationally?

Really good. It has sold already in a number of territories, and we hope to make an announcement about that soon.

What are the main themes that come up in the series, and is there something you or the writer is trying to convey?

Although it’s a murder mystery, the series is about family. What’s family? What’s motherhood? It looks at the spectacular beauty of Cape Town, but takes you into the darkness behind the beauty, not only in terms of the huge disparities between rich and poor, but also what privilege does to people and what lies they’ll tell – and often worse – to protect it.

What made you or the writer choose the title, and what does it refer to?

The series originally had the name Dark Hearts, but as we started filming, another series was released with that name. We all liked White Lies – it goes to the heart of the theme of the series – namely, the lies we tell our children, our parents, and ourselves. Everyone in the series has a secret, so everyone is a suspect.

What were the most challenging parts of putting this series together?

There are many landmines on the journey to bring a series like this to the screen. Sometimes, when it gets overwhelmingly complicated, I have to tell myself that if it was easy, everyone would do it. First, it must be written and rewritten, sometimes with up to seven drafts; then you have to find partners to help you finance it; and when it’s done, you have to find the right directors – which isn’t as easy as it sounds – and the right key creatives, production, technical crew, and cast.

Only then do you start filming, and that’s at least 12 weeks of anxiety. Will you hit schedule? Do you have enough money (never!)? Does this performance work? Is it going to rain today? Do we have to cancel because of a stay away? Have you taken every precaution to make the set secure? Is this stunt too dangerous? These are just a few of the questions you have to answer every day. It’s exhausting and exhilarating all at once.

What will you never forget about making White Lies?

There’s always the danger that you’ve worked on something for so many years, you feel it’s your precious child and is perfect. But because dramas are filmed out of order in bits and pieces, you never really know if it’s going to hold together until you see it put together in the edit. That’s always my favourite part of the process – seeing it as it should be.

I also remember what I felt when I saw the first scene in the hospital on the monitor. It’s Natalie Dormer on an examination bed filmed from above. It’s such a brilliant scene, and such a great performance that when I saw it, I knew, “We have a series here!”

  • ‘White Lies’ is on M-Net 101 on Thursdays at 20:00, and available on DStv Catch Up.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *