lance samuels film producer interview Perkolate Online

December 2016. Interview by Marelise Jacobs. Cover: Lance Samuels - image sourced from

During this past year Blue Ice Productions has been busy shooting the much anticipated “Madiba: The Nelson Mandela Story”. Starring Laurence Fishburne, Madiba is a six-part mini-series for BET with Kevin Hooks as director. It covers the story of Nelson Mandela from school boy age until until when he was elected president. Other noteable real-life characters also featuring in the story line will be Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu. Perkolate spoke to Blue Ice producer Lance Samuels about the series.

How did you get started as a producer?

Lance Samuels: I've been in the industry nearly twenty-two years now, I started off as an assistant director and line producer. Then in 2003 I decided to open my own company called Out of Africa Entertainment and within about seven years I became one of the top two production companies in South Africa. I entered the industry at a very exciting time because the government started getting involved with the rebate program.

I always felt that there were amazing South African stories to be told, in a commercial way that makes money not only here but overseas as well. We did a movie called The Bang Bang Club, which was a Canadian South African co-production. That's where I met my current partners Daniel Iron and Neil Tabatznik and it just was a wonderful experience. Blue Ice had done a lot of film financing but they wanted an actual production arm to the group so they bought a portion of Out of Africa and asked me to come to Toronto to set up Blue Ice Pictures which I did.

Out of Africa is obviously still part of the company, it's part of Blue Ice but kept the name Out of Africa because it had a good reputation around the world. As much as possible we try and finance the shows in Canada but film in South Africa. We did a series called the Book of Negros with Cube Gooding Jnr. and most of that was shot in South Africa

“...We've always felt that to tell the story of one of the greatest men in the history in ninety minutes or two hours is impossible...” - Lance Samuels

Why did you decide to create the Madiba series?

Lance Samuels: You know there are a lot of shows that has been done about Nelson Mandela and a lot of movies but there has never been a television series. We've always felt that to tell the story of one of the greatest men in the history in ninety minutes or two hours is impossible. We decided to do a mini-series of six hours which really gave us the amount of time needed to tell the real complex story of Nelson Mandela's life. From the time when he was a little boy until when he was elected president.

It's an important project and a huge responsibility not only to me but to Kweku Mandela, my partner at Out of Africa and also Nelson Mandela's grandson, to make sure the project is told accurately and in the best possible way. We've been developing it for about seven years, getting the scripts right, went through a number of script writers and then we finally started production earlier this year and we're nearly finished. It's being released February next year.

How did you start research, where did you begin?

Lance Samuels: We optioned two books that were written by Nelson Mandela, one is called Conversations with Myself and the other is called Nelson Mandela. Those are two books that Nelson Mandela himself wrote, we bought the rights and used those as source material.

There has been many movies made about Mandela, how do you choose which events to highlight?

Lance Samuels: The point that we found is that a lot of the movies, because they've only got two hours to tell the story, they only cover certain aspects of Nelson Mandela's life and it is only about Nelson Mandela. What makes our show different than all the other movies that have been made is because we've got the time.

Because we've got six hours, we're obviously going to concentrate on Nelson Mandela but we've got time to explore Winnie's role in the struggle, Walter Sisulu's role, Oliver Thambo's role, Gavin Mbeki's role. You know Nelson Mandela was just one of many heroes during the Apartheid struggle and this gave us a real opportunity to develop the friendship that Nelson, Oliver and Walter had. It really tells the full story of the struggle, it was a lot of people who went through it and suffered and paid the sacrifice. And that's what made it exciting to do it in six hours.