New SABC3 series High Rollers is an intergenerational family drama that plays out in
the high stakes world of a casino empire. Brothers Luke and Josh Rous of Rous House
Productions are the brains behind this long-awaited telenovela, which started
screening on 2 April 2013.
High Rollers is centred on three ‘brothers’ – the Machiavellian casino kingpin David,
his flawed and volatile older brother Paul (who has just been released from prison and
wants to start a church in the casino) and David’s trusted right-hand man, Thato “TT’
According to the Rous brothers, the men are divided by their love for money, family
and God. From the boardroom to the bedroom, as they navigate a precarious tightrope
between loyalty and betrayal, each man plays the hand dealt to him.
Rous House Productions was founded by Luke and Josh Rous in 2007 with a primary
focus on long-format, narrative drama. Josh works primarily as a director, while Luke
does most of the producing.
“We both write and oversee projects from conception through final delivery. We’ve
been involved with sitcoms such as City Ses’la, Askies, Gauteng Maboneng and Ga Re
Dumele as well as the feature films Discreet and Semi-Soet,’ says Luke Rous.
Almost five years ago the SABC was looking for a telenovela in Afrikaans. The
brothers pitched High Rollers and were shortlisted. “However, the show went into
hiatus. Over the course of five years we’ve re-versioned High Rollers a number of
times, adding characters, taking them away, changing the language it would be made
in, but always improving on what we thought was a dynamic idea – a family drama
set against a casino backdrop.’
Rous House is the one-stop shop in which High Rollers was conceived, nurtured and is
now finally being brought to life. Josh says: “Luke and I created the show. I’ve been
working as the head director while hes been executive producer.’
Viewers are in for compelling storytelling set in a world they haven’t witnessed until
now, namely the underside of the casino empire. “That and a whole lot of family
secrets, unrequited love, cheating, casino robberies and a pregnant lady giving birth
on the casino floor for not wanting to break her lucky streak. For real,’ says Josh.
The brothers are determined to keep viewers spellbound. Josh says: “Casinos are
fascinating repositories for the most unique stories. Even without our added human
drama on the intergenerational family side of things, there’s enough going on in any
given casino to keep the driest writing room buzzing with scandal and intrigue.’
“The storyline, combined with the fact that we are shooting the series partially on a
live working casino floor, adds a lot of production value,’ comments Luke.
The brothers have done their best to make the series as cinematic as possible. “For
too long South African television has been stuck in the soapy genre, which has a very
specific look. We’ve been doing our best to avoid that by making use of a single-
camera shooting style and placing an emphasis on dramatic lighting, composition and
camera movement to tell a better story,’ the brothers say.
High Rollers was shot on the Sony F3. “Greg Heinemann is our DoP and he did a
fantastic job. We wanted a camera that dealt well with low-light scenarios and which
also gave a more filmic look. Since we’ve been asked to deliver in HD for international
sales, the Sony F3 was the best choice for the job,’ says Josh.
Rous House is handling all the editing and grading on a number of edit suites set up
for this project. Sound is being mixed at Sound Patch by Johan Theron and the score
has been composed by Joel Assaizky.
In terms of budget, Josh says the production cost more than his house, but less than
Michael Jackson’s. “Put another way, our budget was about a 50th of what it might
cost to make something like Grey’s Anatomy, but I’ll be damn surprised if the general
public viewing High Rollers won’t enjoy it just as much.’
They are thrilled to introduce audiences to the world they’ve been living and breathing
for five years. Nine months went into the terms of the negotiation with Rous House
Production’s casino partner Emperors Palace, which they shot to look and feel like
“We are proud to have locked them down and really couldn’t have shot this show
without the realistic feel of an actual casino. Shooting there while guests milled
around and gambled in between takes was a whole other story though…’
As High Rollers was written with specific “cliffhangers’, the team has technically made
two seasons already.
The brothers are thrilled with the talent they have assembled for the series. Antony
Coleman plays David King the conniving casino boss; Justin Strydom is his older
brother, Paul King; and the man holding them together is Fezile Mpele as TT. The
matriarch of the family and keeper of secrets Helena King is played by Brumilda van
Other cast members include Rolanda Marais as Annaline, David’s alcoholic wife,
Carmel Fisher as the ballet dancer turned stripper, Xolile Tshabalala as the fast-
talking casino host, Vilje Maritz as David’s son and casino prince and Carine Rous as
the hardnosed pit-boss.
“We feel privileged that we got to make High Rollers,’ says Josh. “We think it’s going
to blow viewers’ socks off and we can’t wait to make the next one.’
SABC3 is broadcasting all 26 episodes on Tuesday nights at 20h30 back-to-back until
24 September 2013.
By Martie Bester
Screen Africa magazine – April 2013