CAPE TOWN-born actress Lesley-Ann Brandt has taken time off from reading her lines and hobnobbing with stars including Gabrielle Union and Damien Wayans, to visit home.
But the star, of Spartacus fame, is not just here to take in the sights and scenes of the Mother City, despite not having been here for seven years. She is here primarily to gather further material for her upcoming documentary, Tea with Madiba.
Times Media: Your parents live in Australia, so it must be a bit odd coming “home”. How have the first few days been?
Brandt: I had a lot of nostalgia the first couple of days. But nothing has changed in terms of friendships and my big extended family who still live here. I’m just meeting the next generation of Brandts.
Times Media: It’s a great chance to get some R&R in?
Brandt: My visit is a mix of business and pleasure. I’m currently helping with the principal production on my documentary, Tea with Madiba.
Times Media: What is that about?
Brandt: This documentary focuses primarily on introducing the coloured community, my community, to the world, and how they feel 20 years into democracy. We have discussions with ordinary people, TV and radio personalities, and it’s an opportunity for them to have a platform to voice their thoughts on the matter. The theme of the film is to unify and to give hope.
Times Media: We’ve read tons of articles and op-eds about life in Hollywood, and how the industry treats firstly, women, and secondly, black women. Now we have you to give us an insight
Brandt: I think what’s changed in my industry is that we see people from all backgrounds represented more and more in TV and film. I went to Hollywood, where to be ethnic is celebrated. Most people, however, don’t know I’m South African. When I audition, I go in as American – I don’t want them to listen for my accent, I want them to look at my performance. In terms of how Hollywood treats its women, there is a disparity, but I think it’s changing with the likes of Kerry Washington and Gabrielle Union in lead roles – it’s paving great ways for women of colour in the business.
Times Media: Both the women you’ve mentioned may be portraying black, strong women yet they’re both having affairs with married men.
Brandt: But I think TV and film is purely entertainment. Being Mary Jane explores themes that happen in real life. There’s so much pressure put on actors to be role models – they’re all human at the end of the day, as are the characters we play.
Times Media: Besides guest appearing on Gabrielle Union’s Being Mary Jane, and being cast in The Lottery, you have a recurring role on VH1’s Single Ladies, which is produced by Queen Latifah, right?
Brandt: Yes, I play Naomi Cox, who is very manipulative. It’s been great to delve into something different.