Local online video-on-demand streaming service Showmax is releasing its second original series and first original drama, The Girl from St Agnes, which focuses on a group of girls at a prestigious Catholic boarding school in KwaZulu-Natal.
Candice Fangueiro, head of content at Showmax, said the series followed the streaming service’s first original production, last year’s comedy Tali’s Wedding Diary, which “had the most successful launch day of any series on Showmax”.
“This is a complete change of direction. The Girl from St Agnes is a dark murder mystery that will keep you guessing and taps into the current conversations about #MeToo and teen sexuality,” she said.
In the eight-part whodunnit, produced by Quizzical Pictures, the popular and beautiful Lexi Summerveld is found dead at the base of an old mill and the school claims it was an accident. But schoolteacher Kate Ballard knows something is up and she’s determined to find out what. The more she investigates, the more she realises the school is hiding more than she thought.
Lexi is played by newcomer Jane de Wet, who was handpicked by casting director Moonyeenn Lee and has been nominated for two Emmy Awards in the past three years. Kate is played by Nina Milner, who modelled for Vogue Germany and at Paris Fashion Week last year, and most recently starred in Troy: Fall of a City as Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons.
Producer Harriet Gavshon drew inspiration from her own private school experiences, including themes touching on female sexuality and toxic masculinity.
“This is an issue in not only private schools, but in all schools. But with this we wanted to show the perfect exterior of private schools versus everything that’s going on underneath. St Agnes is a conglomerate of all our private school experiences pushed to dramatic extremes. It was nice to do something where we’re familiar with the texture and the detail of this world. We felt invested in it because we were kind of rewriting our childhoods.”
Double SA Film and Television Awards winner Gillian Breslin, who is head writer on the show, said: “From the beginning the show felt different. The first meeting we had felt like there was a rich vein to be mined. It felt like there was something so unexpected and novel about the world and the way it was going to be told,” she said.
With the SABC in distress and the film industry under pressure, platforms such as Showmax and Netflix are a crucial avenue for content. Producer Nimrod Geva said: “These platforms are creating opportunities not only for shows with a high production value, but for content that wouldn’t usually be able to sit on a public broadcaster.”
- The Girl from St Agnes airs on Showmax on January 31