South African actor, musician and screenwriter Benedikt Sebastian has appeared in a number of local and international productions and will soon be on the big screen playing the brother of the iconic character Van der Merwe. We spoke to Benedikt about his background in entertainment as well as his role in the upcoming film.
Please tell us a little about your background, has your goal always been to work in the entertainment industry?
Benedikt: I grew up in a creative household, my mother is a writer and has always been an avid supporter of the arts. Apart from reading to us as children she would take me with to plays and musical productions. As a result I became deeply interested in the various aspects regarding entertainment. I have always felt comfortable as an entertainer: whether singing, acting or writing. These days I see myself more as a storyteller utilizing different mediums to tell stories.
“...Danie resembles a more contemporary side of the Van Der Merwe family and is definitely less socially awkward than his brother VAN...” - Benedikt Sebastian
How did you first get involved with the Van Der Merwe film project?
Benedikt: I was one of a few lucky actors to have been sent the script by their agents. I auditioned for the part and I must have brought something to the audition that resonated with the director and his idea for the Van Der Merwe family.
Please tell us about your character?
Benedikt: I play Van der Merwe’s brother who managed to achieve success in the IT industry. My character Danie resembles a more contemporary side of the Van Der Merwe family and is definitely less socially awkward than his brother VAN. He is married and perhaps a little conservative. The Van Der Merwe family is a good family unit with good values and even though they may initially have it in for VAN, he wins them all over.
Van der Merwe, the joke, is legendary. From what I have seen the film lives up to his name. What is your take on Van der Merwe, why is he such a popular character?
Benedikt: Everyone grew up hearing Van der Merwe jokes and he is an integral part of our culture. But no one ever asked "Who is he and what does he look like?". He is popular, because he makes you laugh. It is interesting to note that there is also an English view of VAN and the more traditional Afrikaans point of view of him but ultimately he is a South African icon and I think this film might revive him as a more contemporary version of what we used to know.
You are involved in music as well, please tell us more about that?
Benedikt: I released my debut album, Jy Weet Ek Weet, with a mixture of Afrikaans, English and Xhosa songs. It was produced by Gabi Le Roux, famed for the Nkhalakatha hit with the late Mandoza. My acting and writing keeps me very busy these days, but when I find time I work on new material. I am always exploring new directions so the next music project will be very different.