On a warm summer’s day I headed out to Joburg’s northern suburbs to catch up with a versatile, exciting South African talent who is well on his way to becoming a household name – Zak Hendrikz. I last chatted to him in September 2014 and since then he has been in Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling, Little Shop of Horrors, the Alison Botha film (forthcoming), Leon van Nierop’s “Hartebreker,” “Eintlik Nogal Baie”, has received numerous awards and nominations, and is running his own company – Pit Productions.
He is down to earth, friendly and an EXCELLENT entertainer, but I think it’s his work ethic and positive attitude that will see him achieve even more, and which makes Zak Hendrikz one of my favourite people in the world to interview.
Ja. Now I’ve done the film version as well. It’s being released this year in August. They’re calling it a hybrid documentary – it blurs the line between traditional documentary and crosses over into fiction. And it’s got a big screen release, which is brilliant because it’s not specifically a feature film.
I think it should be released at the time the rapists are coming up for parole again. They never seem to go away, do they?
No, they can stand for parole every single year. But the movie is happening and I’m really excited about it. It was done by Towerkop Productions and the director is Uga Carlini who was brilliant with all of us during the process specially during the disembowelment and raping scenes. I’m also excited about what Uga is doing with it – in post production she’s giving a whole fairy tale approach to it. I think people will find it fascinating, interesting and different.
The Alison journey has been with me for a very long time now and when I was doing it in theatre I always imagined the situation taking place. You have to create the picture, because you’re on stage in a black box. Then when I physically did the shoot and we got the right car, a Renault, we were in front of a church in the middle of the street and when I was standing there with the knife in my hand and interpreting the scenario I had this euphoric experience. It was the weirdest thing because for weeks I was playing this role, imagining the situation and then I was doing it in real life in a real environment and it was a very surreal experience for me. It felt wrong but it felt right.
Was it more intense than doing it in the theatre?
No, the theatre is more intense. You’re in one rhythm so you keep on doing it and there’s no ending, whereas with film you stop and cut and have to change angles, so you keep on repeating the same scene. In theatre you can’t do that. It was less intense although we were in the surroundings. In film there are so many sections that come into play. When you’re dong a movie like that with a hectic subject matter the message is the important thing but when you are physically doing it, to make it a little bit more relaxed for the actors is also quite important.
You have your own business now, Pit Productions?
Yes. Pit Productions is a production company focussing on educational theatre. It has existed for the past 16 years, and last year the former owner said she’s moving to London and would I think about buying the company. So the company’s mine now. and what we do is the prescribed works for 2nd language Afrikaans learners in Grade 12 in IEB schools. This year we’re doing Hoopvol by Derick van der Walt and we’re also doing 8 of the 10 poems. We travel to schools and we do a 1.5 hour show doing the whole book or a section of the book. The teachers have seen the improvement it makes on the marks of the learners. If a teacher tells you something but you don’t understand the language, how can you get it? But as soon as you visualise something you can put the pictures in your head.
I need to prove to all the teachers that I’m also capable of running the company. You need to think of creative ways of interpreting the text, but also staying true to it. So it’s quite an awesome challenge as a director to approach something like this, and also it’s great material for the actors because it’s not children’s theatre or motivational theatre – it’s actually characters with bodies. We’ve got good bookings and it’s looking really good. And we are getting ready to go on a national tour in May and June.
How does that impact on all your other work?
It’s tricky. At this moment in time I’m doing everything including the administration which I can always do over weekends and evenings. I gave the script writing to another actor who has been with Pit Productions for two years and he knows my style of directing. I was going to be in the production itself but other stuff came up and I put a good team together for it. I’m surrounding myself with people I trust and who believe in the project in order to make the product be the best it possibly can if I’m not there. They love the company for what it is and what it’s done for them so I know they’ve got my back.
I also like the sound of your radio play, Leon van Nierop’s (who wrote Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling) “Hartebreker”.
It’s every day from a Monday to a Friday at 09:50 on RSG. You can download all the episodes on the website. I play the role of Zirk Vermeulen. It was supposed to be six months but the response from the public was so great, they’ve now extended it indefinitely. We have so much fun and I think it comes across how we enjoy working with each other. I’d never done radio before. If you do radio and TV and theatre and all different genres – everyone thinks it all falls into the same category, but it’s not. So the first time we came into the studio and there was a big glass window and Leon van Nierop was sitting on the other side with the two sound engineers. I was in the other room and looking around and thinking this room is really messy. What’s all this junk doing here? Not knowing that all of that stuff that was there was actually props that they use to make every day sounds. When you want to scribble on something, you can’t just scribble so you’ve got to revert to other things. What I didn’t realise was that as we two actors were recording, the third actor would be doing the sound effects using those props, like if my character was turning a page the third person would be making the sound effect. And one of my favourite bits is the end of a radio drama episode because you have a little bit more leeway to interpret stuff with your voice. You need to deliver that last line almost as a drum roll, in a way to keep the audience hanging.
It was a bucket list role. When you go for the audition you can see who your competition is, and you respect those performers. And you don’t always get the role because you were necessarily the best out of the lot. There could have been three people that could have been equally as good as you but everybody brings something else to the table. The last time I think I freaked out about getting a role was with Ballade, because I knew that from a career perspective a role like that was going to be important. But with Little Shop of Horrors it was a personal victory. It was really fun playing that role, but I must admit it was also hard. It’s so over the top but you need to deal with it with real emotions, where do you strike the balance?
You have got quite a lot of awards.
I got a Naledi award nomination last year for best supporting actor in a play or a musical for my role as Frans du Toit in I Have Life. And recently I got the BroadwayWorld.com award for best supporting actor in a musical for my role as the dentist in LSOH and I was also awarded one of the Best Actors of 2015 by DieReviewer.com for the same role. Then I was nominated for a Twitter Toekenning Hashtag award for Gavin Greeff in Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling. And I’m hoping for a Fleur du Cap nomination (which he got the day after we did the interview!)
What advice have you got for others?
I believe firmly if you put it out there and say, “I’m not going to be a desperate actor, I will put the right energies into the universe,” it will be given to you. Be focussed and know what you want and put it out there, it will come to you tenfold.
Zak as Dewald van der Walt in Eintlik Nogal Baie
What’s up next for you?
We shot a movie now with Andre Lotter and Marissa Drummond called Eintlik Nogal Baie and that’s being released at the end of October. It’s a romantic drama – not your normal romantic comedy and that’s also something people can look forward to.
I can’t say which one because it still needs to be aired, but I’m starting to shoot an Afrikaans soapie in a week’s time which is really cool because if you tell people an actor they always ask you which soapie you’ve been in.
I’m also doing Droomkind again at the Teatro in September. The musical was done at the State Theatre two years ago but they’ve now changed a bit of the script and we’re going to have a live band and they’re lifting the production up a level. It’s such a beautiful story. It’s the story of Joseph but it’s playing off in the Karoo and it’s going to be absolutely brilliant.