SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: Actor Chris van Rensburg plays the
bad guy in the recently launched eight part series Jongo, produced by
Johannesburg-based independent film studio, Motion Story. Jongo tells
the story of Eli King, who gains supernatural talents after an extra-terrestrial crystal is found in a cave at the Cradle of Humankind. Van Rensburg plays Klaus Engel in the show, a German national and head of Systems Security for Abaddon Holdings.
What has been your experience in the industry?
I started out (as most actors in this industry do) doing children’s theatre for the
National Children’s Theatre with Joyce Levinsohn in 2006, and since then I’ve
worked on a plethora of plays, musicals, films, TV shows and commercials on radio
and television. Some of my career highlights include the international work I’ve
done but I also really enjoyed working on the Afrikaans musical family film Pretville. Obviously one of my biggest achievements thus far has been
working on Jongo.
Describe the character you play in Jongo?
I play the character of Klaus Engel, who is better known as “Mr. Angel’. Klaus is an
extremely complicated character who lost his family at a young age. He was raised
by his uncle who indoctrinated him with certain ideals and beliefs. He is a German
national, who partakes in shady business here in South Africa. I don’t like to use the
term neo-Nazi, however that would probably the closest description of his
ideological thought. He works for Abaddon Industries directly under Benjamin
Abaddon, however he has his own personal agenda with the Abaddon family and
their activities because of their history of dealings with his own family.
How do you like playing a bad guy?
I love playing the bad guy. No, seriously I do. I feel that people who live on the
fringe of society have a much deeper understanding of the world and of humanity
itself. I’ve played a couple villains before, but so far this one has been my favourite. Our directors and writers have also given me a lot of freedom with the character, which is a rare luxury in this industry.
What was your process in preparing for this role?
An interesting fact about the character is that he wasn’t originally planned to be a
major part of the story in Jongo. I met with the producers and Gareth
Crocker (the screenwriter and one of the show’s directors) was quite taken with my
accent work and felt that I could add a lot of international appeal to the show by
making the character German. After my first couple of scenes, they loved the
character so much, that they decided to expand the character quite significantly and you will notice that “Mr. Angel’ features a lot more in the second half of the first
season. In preparation for the character I had to read up quite a lot on neo-Nazism,
both locally and abroad. You would be surprised and horrified at how prevalent and
active the movement still is today. I also had to go back to my German notes from
school and brush up on the language.
Are there any similarities between you and your character?
Our love of pretzels and beer? Haha, no I really don’t think I have a lot in common
with this character.
What has been your biggest challenge while shooting the series?
The character is very dark in nature, and I am a light fun-loving, adventurous
person so I think having to play the character was rather challenging in itself. To go
into those kinds of dark places in your mind is frightening and difficult, and it is
important to stay true to yourself when doing that. I was making a lot of jokes on
set, to counteract the darkness of the character and his scenes.
What are some of your favourite moments?
Wow, it really is difficult to highlight anything as every scene we filmed was so
much fun to do! It was a lot fun running around on the rooftops in Sandton chasing
after the good guys, I also really liked working on the private jet which my character had to hijack, but what I really enjoyed was getting a chance to shoot
with a real Walther PPK.
What is it like working with the rest of the cast?
We have an incredible cast, some of the best rising talent in the country in my
opinion. I enjoyed working with my co-stars; I got a chance to work with two of my
absolute favourite actors in the industry, Lochner de Kock and Luthuli Dlamini, who
are both such incredibly nice guys and a real pleasure to work with. So all in all, a
very memorable experience so far.
What is it like working on the first African-based superhero TV show?
It’s a first for not only the country, but the continent as well, so there are a lot of
challenges, we learn with every scene how to do it better and better, where in
places like Hollywood they have been doing the genre for ages. It is this fresh new
approach to the genre that is very exciting! Everyone on set is so amped to work
because it is brand new for the industry, so we all have a really enjoyable time
when working. I can’t wait to see what challenges season 2 will bring!