Sanda Shandu Praises Showmax’s Murder Mystery ‘Donkerbos’

Sanda Shandu stars in Showmax’s Donkerbos, a murder mystery series that is currently available on the platform.

When the bodies of six children are discovered in the Donkerbos backwater forests, an outcast detective must confront her dark past, her family, and a distrustful community in order to catch the killer before another child is taken.

The actor, who plays detective Tsedza Tshivenga on the show, did a Q&A with TshisaLIVE exclusively.

Tell us about your character, detective Tsedza Tshivenga

Tsedza is Venda. He grew up in a village and made his way to Johannesburg and got into the police force quite early. He’s been through a lot and that’s his shield. The past sits with him, but he uses it to do his job, as his motivation. He’s always been an outcast, even growing up in the village, so he’s always had to fend for himself. He’s a very solitary guy. His nickname is “The Leopard”. He doesn’t let a lot faze him because he’s had to hide a lot and that’s how he navigates. He’s a very calculating guy.

How similar is Sanda to Tsedza?

I always want to try to find connections between my character and myself, but this guy, he’s actually at quite a distance. He’s very different from me. Ah man, I react to everything! I’m just loud. Tsedza is more cool and calm and holds in a lot. I vocalise my expression. With Tsedza, you see it in his eyes and that’s it. It’s been an enjoyable challenge.

How dark is Donkerbos?

Our reality is dark. I guess that’s what makes the series darker. In the real world, we hear of similar stories, and I think we become desensitised. Until it happens to you, you know? Which is a sad situation. But I think what makes it dark is because it’s real. The reality, I think, is what heightens the darkness. Like, “F*ck, this could happen. This has probably happened”.

What was the biggest challenge for you on Donkerbos?

First of all, the script being in Afrikaans. That was quite a challenge! Just reading it, before I even got to the emotional aspects of the story. Thank God for Google Translate.

It’s been quite an interesting journey in terms of the language. I’m Zulu, and I’m playing a Venda character, reading an Afrikaans script. It’s a layered, wonderful challenge! (laughs)

What was a highlight for you from Donkerbos?

It’s very different from my previous work! (laughs) What stands out and what makes it so enjoyable to come back to set every day is literally just the cast and crew. So it’s always warm coming to, and leaving the set. That’s crucial. Their preparation and their understanding of this series is just so deep. They even brought a psychologist to set. I don’t know if that’s normal practice, but this is my first experience of it on set. So when I saw that consideration, that was also just great to see how they’re taking care of us, taking care of our minds. Everyone feels it; everyone holds each other. We’re just holding space for each other.

Why should South Africans watch this show?

This one just hits different. The story is set in Limpopo and we’re not exposed to that side on our screens. It’s a different landscape. Just the setting, it’s something that I haven’t seen much of, so it’s great to see that side of the country.

And my word, this story will pull you left, right, centre, up, down, to all the corners! You won’t know what’s coming! You just haven’t seen anything like this.

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