We took a coffee break with the multi-talented Actor Candice Modiselle, catching up on her new role on the Netflix original JIVA! production.
How are you doing and holding up in this lockdown?
In a very strange and unconventional way, the lockdown, despite the many restrictions and anxieties surrounding it, has been one of the greatest blessings to happen to me mentally, spiritually and emotionally. This season has been a necessary pause, a time of rest, healing, prayer, meditation and an abundance of self-love I’ve previously starved myself of. I’ve also made incredible progress as far as shaping my craft, establishing a strong brand identity, furthering my business ventures and the most rewarding, assisting those in dire need during this turbulent time. Long story short, it’s treated me kindly.
JIVA! A Netflix African original series! What a time to be alive with our content gaining access onto a global platform. We’ve seen a lot of different productions centred around dance driving a narrative, what for you makes Jiva different?
I can never take for granted the honour and great responsibility that comes with being entrusted with a vision this great. The multifaceted nature of who we are as Africans- not just slaves, gangsters, witches, illiterate and destitute charity cases, corrupt politicians and drug lords- deserves to be represented on a global platform. Though the JIVA! narrative is based in KZN, it belongs to all aspirational South Africans. Whether it be through the familiar dance moves married into the intricate choreography, the story, score, script, characters, costume and the moments that are intrinsically “Us”, this series is authentically African. That’s what makes it magical.
What did it take for you to prepare to play Vuyiswa?
My role required more preparation than anyone could ever have expected. She was built from the ground up. Every aspect of her multi-dimensional being, well thought out and supported through the series of workshops we attended with formidable leaders in storytelling from the showrunner, directors, choreographers and fellow cast members respectively. The most challenging of course, being the dance bootcamp, required my full commitment, discipline and teachable attitude. Everything about this process, even on the most difficult days, has been a dream.
How did you play your part in ensuring synergy with your fellow cast members – whom are all talented in their individual disciplines?
The cast of JIVA! is phenomenal and I don’t doubt that the chemistry we’ve created is reflected through the lens. Many new faces will be introduced to the South African and global audiences which is exciting. Being one of the more experienced trained actors, I’ve always availed myself for assistance and encouraged us to play throughout the process. Apart from working on a group synergy, we all understood that we were individually chosen and therefore accountable for our own contributions to the project. Not every moment has been smooth sailing, naturally, but we’ve been able to rely on each other to bring out the best in everyone’s performance. We’ve rehearsed together, lived together, prayed together, shared energy, ideas, criticism, advice and love, all with the common goal of growth and committing our greatest efforts to the future of African storytelling.
How did you maintain silent moments while on this production, in Durban?
Silence amongst vibrant young performers always seems near impossible to maintain, but any professional that respects the process will understand what each moment requires. As afore mentioned, we were constantly mindful of how we as individuals contribute to the energy in the room. Wherever we fell short, we had the help of the A.D’s and directors to ground us again. With the aid of our choreographers and movement coach, we were always invited to engage in a daily focus exercise to centre our energy and promote overall positive vibrations on set.
The directing team on Jiva each have individual accolades that have earned them much respect in the industry, what did this opportunity to work with these greats mean to you?
The greatest gift that comes with being led by reputable directors, is being able to engage with them on a human level. They granted us exactly that. I believe the process flows freely when accolades, egos and hierachies are left at the door and we all meet with the common vision of creating honest work. Coming from the soapie medium for 3 years, it was refreshing to experience how open they were to playing and receptive to our offers. That level of freedom to create is what all storytellers deserve but unfortunately, what many of our production environments lack. Let the actors act, from a place of honesty and the intricacies of the human condition.
Whats your biggest personal lesson working on this production and playing Vuyiswa?
How much time do you have? When I auditioned for JIVA! I had just left Generations- The Legacy and told my agent that I would be going on a 3 month sabbatical to focus on my youth skills development company. I also wanted to use that time to re-invest in myself as a storyteller because my process was deteriorating. I’d stopped trusting my choices and started blocking my own offers. That was arguably the most difficult time because I was extremely self-conscious and completely lost my confidence in myself as an actress. The lesson in being cast for JIVA! however is, “Where you are is exactly where you need to be. God is still at work.” I forgive myself for losing faith in an integral part of my purpose. Similarly, Vuyiswa has also taught me a lesson about time and our responses to unfavourable seasons. We are the product of our decisions, even in our most trying times and that ultimately makes us the architects of our narrative.
For someone at home, watching Jiva, what will be the takeout?
Of the many things the experience of watching JIVA! could ignite in the audience, my most important one would be that dance is more than just a response to music. Dance is ingrained in the black body’s DNA, fixed in our culture, reflected in our stories. This medium of expression speaks more languages than the tongue can iterate. We dance when we celebrate, mourn, protest, in ritualistic practices and of course, when the music moves us to. It invites us all, irrespective of technical abilities and knows no class distinction, political affiliation, race, religion or sexual orientation. Overall, dance serves as a motif of something greater than just movement and reminds us that if you can breathe and move, you can JIVA!
Your sister, Bontle is one of the choreographers, what has working together done for your relationship?
I’ve had the pleasure of watching Bontle Modiselle’s career unfold, from the earliest crew days to choreographing an original African Netflix series. Before she was a world class choreographer and creative director, she was and still is my best friend. This experience has tightened the grip on our bond and allowed us to investigate our greatest insecurities as artists and women, devoid of judgment. She’s challenged me, stretched my range and been my greatest cheerleader, all simutaneously. Her passion validates mine and I couldn’t have imagined anyone better suited for this role than her.
Whats next for you?
Outside of the many shows that are still a work in progress, as both an actress and presenter, I’m more inspired now to create works of my own- producing, writing and directing for screen and stage. I’m currently in the conceptual stage of creation and falling in love with every part of it. For many years I’ve feared wearing the director hat but I truly believe that I’m mature enough to explore and commit to learning. In addition to this thrilling journey, I’m dedicated to the upliftment of South Africa’s youth by continuing with my soft skills development workshops through my company Busetsa Media. I’m open and receptive to whatever God has in store for me.