Opportunity binge

Kim Engelbrecht shines in M-Net’s crime drama ‘Reyka’


Kim Engelbrecht’s performance as a profiler cop in Reyka stands out in one of this year’s most well-written, produced and performed television series. Not only is it a procedural drama as Reyka Gama hunts for a serial killer in the sugarcane fields of KwaZulu-Natal, but it’s also a multi-layered narrative on the complexity of family relationships with three generations of women dealing with trauma while it focus pulls on the strange and unnatural love story between Engelbrecht’s character and her former captor Angus Speelman. It’s a brutal yet sensitive piece of breathtaking proportions, cut at a pace that can be as exhilarating as it can be exhausting. Reyka is one show that you just cannot miss.

Engelbrecht shared a few thoughts with The Citizen about the show, her role and working with a local and international cast that includes the formidable Anna-Mart van der Merwe and international heavyweight Iain Glen.

Reykas backstory is highly complex and contains many current and highly relevant issues. How did you prepare for the role and to what extent did you become Reyka?

I realized early in this process that this show would allow me the opportunity to stretch myself. The world was in the throes of a global pandemic, and it was as if the world stood still. During this time, feelings of insecurity and fear were looming, and when that happens, we go inward and self-analyse. Given our communal reality, it was not difficult to use that to immerse me into the Reyka process further. I was given an extensive character bible by our writer Rohan Dickson, which became my Linus blanket. Rohan had started writing Reyka 15 years ago. He knew everything about her and her delicate pathology down to the medication she was on. Reyka’s makeup is one of duplicity and paradox, a conundrum of sorts. I did my research and decided to flip Reyka’s personality. Things we overthink, Reyka does not, Things which come naturally to you, become a job for Reyka. Questions as simple as when is the appropriate time to hug your child would stump Reyka. Once I made sense of who she was, I cemented her in my performance. Reyka hardly smiles. And when she does, she catches herself and stops herself. I don’t think she feels worthy of smiles.

Reykas story could easily be a metaphor/parable for social ills right now. What is your view?

The story could be viewed as a metaphor. Reyka is a story about an innocent young girl born of two people of two different race groups during the apartheid era. It is 1994, and it is the day South Africa votes for its freedom in the first democratic election, and that is the day hers gets taken away from her. She is now an adult trying to fit in and make a life despite her trauma. How do you build a future when you still have deep psychological scars from your past? She is healing, Reyka’s story is of someone trying to have a future and thrive amid a traumatic past.

The script is fantastic. What went through your mind when you first read it?

It really is a wonderful piece of writing, with each episode leaving you wanting and interested to find out what happens next. The script made me care about all the characters, which I think is the best part. Given Reyka’s detailed characterisation, each person she encounters is highly nuanced and developed; therefore I became more invested in all the characters who form a relationship with Reyka. In terms of getting the chance to play Reyka, I got an immediate sense of who she was as I was reading her. I immediately knew her sound, cadence, and manner, but I required some guidance from Rohan, our writer, and Serena, our producer, before settling on how we would design Reyka’s character. Rohan had the most uncomplicated advice. He said: when in doubt, err on the side of real and honest.

What is your take home from Reyka, something that will never leave you after doing the show?

I think that everyone has a story. You don’t know who someone is until they share their entire personal story with you. Reyka has taught me to be more observant and that people cannot be boxed. Each person requires a unique approach with less judgment and more patience. This is what Reyka does as a criminal profiler. With each of the cases she investigates, she deals with it individually, in its entirety, and that’s what Reyka requires as a person as well.

It is the perfect show to binge-watch. It is highly gripping and will leave you at the edge of your seat. The story is dark and disturbing at times, and the subject matter is not for the faint of heart. Yet, the storyline is so realistic that you have no other option but to be absorbed into the world of KwaZulu-Natal with its breathtaking and sometimes eerie landscape. Iain Glen delivers such a perfectly compelling performance that it would leave you needing to binge-watch the next episode. Each episode finishes with you wanting more.

What was it like working with heavyweight actor Iain Glen?

Absolutely fantastic. We all know the outstanding work these great actors do on screen when we have experienced watching them. As fans, we appreciate their sheer brilliance, but to get the opportunity to share the screen with them, in very intimate and delicate scenes, is a dream. I remember thinking that I must keep my cool and not act weird around him. When I met him and realised how down-to-earth he was, I soon gave in to the whimsy of meeting someone who was on the world’s biggest show, Game of Thrones. After all, I am a fan first. Iain Glen is playing a very disturbing character who is highly ominous and menacing. He crafted Speelman so well. No one could have done it like him.


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