From casino performer to rubbing shoulders with A-listers

Brendon Daniels plays gritty cop in M-Net series ‘White Lies’

Brendon Daniels plays Detective Forty Bell in ‘White Lies’
FLAWED CHARACTER: Brendon Daniels plays Detective Forty Bell in ‘White Lies’

Before Brendon Daniels became a well-known talent in film and television, he worked at casinos, where he directed staff shows and impersonated the king of rock and roll.

“I always wanted to act and at school I took part in talent shows,” he said.

“I actually trained at The Boardwalk in Gqeberha and then worked at Grand West Casino.

“I sang and danced and did Elvis impersonations and that’s how an agent spotted me.”

His first role was in a play called Khoi Khoi to Toi Toi.

“I played a member of the Khoi tribe. I did mainly Afrikaans theatre because Afrikaans has the festivals.”

His casino lucky break led to a plethora of roles on stage and screen, including Trackers, Master Harold and the Boys, Spinners, Fraksie and Unseen

“My first love is the stage. It keeps you fresh and you have to be present all the time,” he said.

Capetonian Daniels, 51, lives in Eerste Rivier with his partner of 27 years, Janine Joseph. Having no children means he is free to travel for work.

“I don’t have kids. They are a lifelong commitment. Recently I had to spend six months in Johannesburg ...”

Daniels, who was born in the Bo Kaap, can currently be seen as Detective Forty Bell in the SA whodunnit, White Lies

Starring opposite British superstar Natalie Dormer of Game of Thrones and Hunger Games fame, Daniels captures the flawed character of a former Hawks detective, now demoted and fighting a gambling addiction, with sensitivity and just the right amount of vulnerability. 

Detective Bell is an honest, honourable cop, but loathes Cape Town’s wealthy and powerful people because he feels they escape the consequences of their dodgy actions.

 “I’ve played SA cops before,” he said at a media screening of the series in Cape Town.

“But there is a slight difference to this one — it is more about the internal side of being a cop.

 “The series poses the question of class and how the law works for you.

“It is about dealing with the psychology of entitlement and how a cop has to deal with that and choose his battles.

“It also shines the light on the fact that all people are capable of unspeakable things whether they are wealthy or not.

“You think criminal acts can’t happen on the other side of the mountain but no, they happen all over.”

Though the script was written by Darrel Bristow-Bovey, a columnist, author and travel writer of great wit and the enviable ability to find delight in the mundane, Daniels said Forty Bell’s lines were not flavoured with these punchy devices.

“I didn’t get the benefit of snappy dialogue. My character is straight down the line,” he said in a straight-down-the-line way.

“But my character does grow; life shifts were required, but they were exciting because they were subliminal.”

Acting alongside Dormer, who flew out from her home in the UK to play the part of investigative journalist Edie Hansen, whose brother is murdered in his Bishopscourt mansion, was not a big deal.

He is no stranger to working with A-listers.

 “I have worked with Forest Whitaker and Orlando Bloom before,” he said.

Dormer’s background in theatre work was the point of connection for Daniels.

“I didn’t watch Game of Thrones, but I’ve found that storytellers have a common thread.

“I come from a theatre background and so does she and so we come from the same past and can look beyond the glitz and the glamour of filmmaking.

“It’s about the work and finding the essence of the character.

 “We had a good chemistry. I would like to think so.”

 He said Dormer did not show the prima-donna behaviour associated with some big stars.

 “Natalie would sit and eat cheese sandwiches with the cast and crew alike.”

With White Lies, which was shot in Cape Town between March and June 2023, in the can, he has other projects lined up.

One of these is a Netflix production, but he will not speak about it yet.

Daniels is thrilled with the way the M-Net series turned out.

“It is different from many SA narratives.

“It’s not about the struggle — it could happen anywhere in the world. It has a global message that many people can relate to. It’s about family.

“It’s about the disparity between the haves and the have-nots.

“It’s a little Agatha Christie. There are a whole lot of characters and one of them did it.

“I think people will follow this series.” 

  • White Lies is on M-Net on Thursdays at 8pm or on DStv Catch Up.



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