It’s been two days since Netflix finally released one of the most anticipated South African film sequels. After a 5 year wait, “Happiness Ever After” is finally here! Have you streamed it yet?
Olwethu Leshabane went to the premier, “I want to avoid spoiling it for everyone… all I’ll say is: you’ll need your tissues, you’ll need your bestie and you’ll need your wine! It’s a beautiful movie. It makes you want to climb into the screen and smack the character but also simultaneously hug them.”
AoS had the privilege of catching up with one of the film’s stars, Renate Stuurman.
Stuurman is an award-winning actor who has had lead roles on TV shows such as Unmarried, The River, and 7de Laan.
In the much anticipated sequel, besties Zaza (played by Khanyi Mbau) and Princess (played by Renate Stuurman) meet and invite a fabulous new girlfriend into their trio.
An exciting storyline unfolds as the women make their way through even more interesting life dramas and dilemmas, grappling with relatable issues of relationship stress, parenting, and family tensions.
You can watch the trailer here, but for now, here’s our conversation with Renate…
Q. Tell us about your childhood years, what was it like growing up in Cape Town?
I think I was a talkative child, I enjoyed expressing myself, much like I do now. My parents were strict and placed a strong emphasis on education, but they also knew it was important to expose my brother and I to the creative arts, so going to the theatre was a part of our lives. As a result, I did ballet and drama from a very early age and quickly discovered where I fit in, in the world.
Q. Who is Renate Stuurman outside of acting?
I’m not sure if I would describe myself outside of acting, as performing and expressing myself through storytelling is integral to who I am. But outside of any given project I’m working on, I’m a private person, a homebody, I find solace in time by myself, and my close family and friends. I love to travel, I love to experience the cultures, food and experiences that travelling exposes you to, and when the world opens up again, that is first on my list.
I also have two small ‘side hustles’ that keep my creative juices flowing – one is a small cake business called Baked By Renate and the other is an interior design business called Stranj Bedfelo. Both ventures allow me to recharge creatively in a completely different way to performance.
Q. What daily activity or ritual do you practice for your mental peace?
I enjoy quiet time with a cup of tea first thing in the morning before the world has properly woken up. It’s one of my favourite times of the day.
Q. Speak to us about how you knew you belonged in acting?
I started performing as a child, my first memory of being on stage is a nativity play in preschool, I played the Angel Gabriel. I clearly remember being on stage and looking back at the audience and I loved it. In primary school I started doing ballet like most little girls and a change of schools a few years later introduced me to drama classes and I knew I found my home.
I was hooked and felt like I finally found a place where I belonged. In high school after years of performing in children’s theatre, I sat my parents down and broke the news to them. I wanted to study drama and not law as they had hoped. Initially our agreement was that I would complete my LLB after my undergrad, but again I had to sit them down and say this is my path and I’ve been on it ever since.
Q. How do you ensure that your acting skills are sharp and deliver what the role requires?
I think every actor has a different process, for me it includes working on stage. I think that theatre is the actor’s medium, much like film is the director’s medium or television is the writer’s medium. For me going back to the stage, working on a text with the director and cast, being in the rehearsal room birthing a character together, that process is invaluable to an actor and their skillset. It’s where you learn to create, it’s where you learn what process best suits you, at least it’s true for me. It’s like going back to school, back to the basics of performance.
Q. Talk to us about a challenge that you have had to overcome within acting, and what lessons you learnt from it?
I think a challenge I had particularly as a new actor and as a woman, was feeling empowered enough to express myself on set, in a rehearsal room, and during contract negotiations. That ability to feel like I have a right to contribute to the creative and business aspect of what I do, is a muscle I’ve learned is important to exercise no matter how daunting it may seem at first.
One of the things that I love about what I do, is that it is a collaborative process and that means I have to have the courage to express what I think and what I need for it to work. It hasn’t always been welcomed but all the more reason to find creative and respectful ways to continue doing it.
Q. Have you ever turned down a role? If yes, can you share your reasons why with us?
I think there is a perception that our industry is similar to the international industry, but my experience has been that our industry is much smaller and work is always welcomed. I am certainly receiving hoards of scripts that I’m turning away weekly. Over the course of my career I’ve been in the fortunate position that most of the work that I’ve done has been challenging and rewarding and it’s made my choices easier. I do remember auditioning for an international series years ago that required nudity, it was a small role, I think it was one scene and at the time it wasn’t the direction I wanted to go in and I turned it down. I think it was one of the only times I’ve done that.
Q. What are some of your proudest career achievements?
I’ve had many career highlights over the years, among them working with legendary South African actresses like Lilian Dube, Nandi Nyembe, Connie Chuime, Denise Newman. I think today a career highlight is definitely being a lead in film streaming on Netflix, being part of the cast of “Happiness Ever After” continues to open so many doors for me.
Q. Share with us 5 tips on how to work towards longevity in the industry.
- Perseverance – longevity for me is viewing this journey as a marathon and not a sprint.
- A good agent – meaning someone you can have frank conversations with and someone who will have your back when the time comes.
- Being clear about your intentions for being in the industry – what is your goal. This will help make decisions and choose the kind of work that supports your goals.
- Understanding that as an actor you have value and you bring value, so learn to not be afraid to be compensated accordingly, from the outset.
- To remember to be on your own side, there will be enough rejection on your way, so find ways to be kind and supportive to yourself.
Q. What role do you think the arts should play in the fight against gender-based violence and in educating citizens about the electoral process?
I think the arts have always had this role of reflecting society back to itself. Literally that happens through the stories we tell and communities and experiences that we highlight. In recent years as actors, performers and entertainers we have gained bigger platforms through social media. I do think it presents us with a unique opportunity to help educate society on a variety of social issues, I certainly don’t think it’s their responsibility alone. But we can aid in facilitating and highlighting important conversations.
Q. “Happiness Ever After” will be available to stream in 190 countries. Take us back to the moment this hit you – how did you prepare for this role?
I like to digest important news over a period of time. I like to give myself time to ruminate. So, it took me a while to let it sink in. In fact, I don’t think it did throughout the filming, I didn’t really go there, other than I wanted to do the best that I possibly could in terms of performance and telling the story as honestly as possible. Luckily, like I’ve said before this is a collaborative exercise and with the help of Thabang Moleya, our director and Bongiwe Selane, our producer, we were given the space and creative license to contribute more the second time around, this (second time around) obviously applies more to Khanyi and I. They really trusted us to know what was best for our characters from hair and wardrobe to nuances and intentions in character relationships.
Q. “Happiness Is a Four-letter Word” was a huge box office success. We know “Happiness Ever After” will achieve greater success. Give us a glimmer into why people should watch this film?
I think we left people with so many questions after the first film and I think in the sequel we have answers. These women have grown over the past few years, their challenges are more complex this time around, much like our audiences I suspect. I think the film will provide us with yet another opportunity to observe South African, black women navigating relationships with themselves, their families and careers in a way that is relatable and authentic. We all know these women, they are our sisters, our friends, our colleagues, they are us.
Q. Let’s talk about mental heath. How have you been taking care of your mental health during the COVID19 pandemic?
I’m a homebody, so initially lockdown seemed like the perfect time to cocoon, but I soon realized that I missed being outdoors in nature and I missed travelling. So those are two of the activities that I have been excited to get back to when restrictions were lifted.
Q. What was the last book you read or are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading The Yearning by Mohale Mashigo.
Happiness Ever after is now available to stream on Netflix. Go stream and show love to our local talent!