For most of the world South African actress Lesley-Ann Brandt is best known for her role as the demon Mazikeen (Maze) on the hit TV show Lucifer. Resurrected by Netflix, after it was cancelled on FOX, the show has seen a surge of popularity and has been discovered by a whole new host of viewers leading to speculation that a fifth season is now imminent. In South Africa however, Brandt shot to towering fame when she chose to use Afrikaans to represent “Demon tongue”, the language of hell, on the show.
South Africans, being South Africans, have delighted in hearing their own language on an international stage, and Brandt says she is glad they are pleased because she definitely meant it to be a homage to the country of her birth. In a conversation with the Citizen, Brandt explained that Afrikaans is the only language she knows apart from English.
“I had read that I was going to speak demon and didn’t want to just make sounds. Random noises don’t sound right, and are also much harder to do,” she says. “While we recently were voted one of the sexiest accents in the world, I think we South Africans don’t think of Afrikaans as being a sexy language, so I started cheekily wondering if I could use the language, do the job credit, and sneak some of my heritage into the show.”
Brandt left SA after her matric year when her family emigrated to New Zealand. Upon arrival, she began dabbling in modelling and acting and set her sights on Hollywood.
“Most New Zealand acts tend to look at Australia as the place to go, but I could see there weren’t too many options for someone who looked like me there and decided to just take the leap and head for LA … I was going straight to the thousand piece puzzle,” she says, admitting that making a second move across the world was extremely difficult.
“I had an agent in LA, but no friends. I just leapt in. I hit pilot season, and auditions while trying to learn my American accent and finding my tribe of people. Friends are so important in LA, cause I think you could easily become obsessed with work and do nothing else in this town [LA],” she says. “I missed my family in New Zealand because I couldn’t afford to fly back and see them.”
Now established in LA, Brandt says this is the first year she has felt at home for a long time.
“I think getting married, giving birth to my son and now finally this year, buying our first home, has finally got me feeling like I am settled,” she says.
Coming to visit
With Lucifer back on the air one of the first things she hopes to do is plan a trip for Cape Town, where she says old school friends and extended family have not seen her since she left for New Zealand.
“My trip to New Zealand was my first time on a plane. Travelling from South Africa is expensive, and I just haven’t had a chance to get back,” she explains.
But Brandt is quick to add that she isn’t one of those expats who has ever forgotten the country of her birth. “I love South Africa and I watch everything that happens there. I have pretty strong opinions about stuff and have started thinking about how, and where I can get involved. I think that’s our right, not as an expat, but as citizens. I don’t think it’s possible to stop caring,” she says.
The future of Lucifer
The show itself is seemingly going from strength-to-strength. The new season has been trimmed from the previous 22 episodes per season, down to ten, and it’s something Brandt believes has made the show stronger.
“Once we were cancelled it was difficult to get used to. We were such a tight-knit team and to suddenly find it all gone was a shock. Then the fans started putting together petitions to get us back on air. They were tireless and their energy meant I never really gave up hope we would be back. Netflix had already recommissioned one show, Brooklyn 99, so it was never impossible,” she says, placing all credit for the new season on the fans.
“You know filming in a studio in LA you don’t really get a sense for how people are being affected by the show. Then when you go out into the world and you meet people and they say, ‘I signed a petition to get you back on air’ or ‘I tweeted for you guys’, you can see the real pride, the sense of ownership. This show is a community from all of us on set to the people who watch every episode,” Brandt adds. “I think it’s that community, that tightness, that shows up on the show, and that people ultimately identify with.”
Brandt is enigmatic about her future, and the impact the show has had on her career.
“I can’t tell yet what impact the show has had for me personally. Perhaps we should speak at the end of the year? What I can say is that while the show was always a home for fans, this year we have seen a lot more industry interest. Critics, publications, and industry are now on board and we are getting a lot more positive buzz … It’s not confirmed at all, so please don’t stop watching, rewatching and sharing the show, but I would be very surprised if we didn’t get a fifth season,” she says.
— Netflix South Africa (@NetflixSA) May 9, 2019