AUSXIP Interviews Lesley-Ann Brandt
by MaryD / Christa

06 December 2009

Recently I met up with Lesley-Ann Brandt (Naevia) from Spartacus Blood and Sand and took the opportunity to ask her about her role on Spartacus. In addition to chatting about the role of Naevia, Lucretia's body slave, on Spartacus, Lesley-Ann reveals what she finds interesting about New Zealand and how it compares to her former homeland South Africa, her reasons on why she chose to be an actress, a hidden talent or two and Naevia's love for gladiator Crixus and what's next for her after Spartacus Blood and Sand.


You were raised in Cape Town, South Africa. That is an area of the world that very few people know anything about. What was it like being raised there?

Well Cape Town to me is one of the most beautiful places in the world.  So much culture, lots of people and amazing scenery.  There is something to be said about Africa in general to be honest.  You definitely feel a connection to that place, more so once you leave it. When people think of South Africa, they immediately think racism and violence or a dangerous place to live and I can appreciate that.  A lot of what people think of SA is based on what they see on TV.  For me, my childhood was pretty normal.  

My generation didn't really experience Apartheid, but instead, we reaped the benefits of our parents and grandparents struggles. As for dangerous, well like any country that has gone through hardship, there are places and areas you avoid and I think having lived there for most of my life, I grew up being very streetwise.  I went back for a visit in 2007 and I loved it. There is a richness and culture about the place I just miss and I'm going to try and get back there next year for the football world cup in 2010.


When did you come to New Zealand?

I immigrated to NZ in 1999 with my parents and younger brother

Has there been anything about New Zealand that has surprised you and what is it?

In the beginning, loads of things.  It was so quiet and I kept wondering were all the people were. My father had been out 6 months earlier to set up the home so he was pretty use to the lifestyle by then.  We joked about people leaving there shoes on the front porches because in South Africa, they'd be stolen soon enough, but its those little things we take for granted now. NZ is beautiful in many ways and a wonderful place to raise a family. Auckland reminds me of Cape Town.  The cultural diversity, the scenery and I've made some amazing friends here so I technically have 2 homes now!:)

What turned you on to acting?

Oh I think acting was always my destiny, it was just a matter of getting there.  I had always done drama as a kid and was involved in pretty much every school play.  But growing up where I did, it's not as accessible as it is here in NZ.  By that I mean over in NZ you are bound to meet someone who either works or knows someone who works in the industry.  My path has been pretty interesting though.  It was really my modelling that got me started. 

I was booking loads of performance based commercials and casting directors encouraged me to get stuck into some classes and workshops.  At that stage I was working full time in sales, but my heart was never really into a 9 to 5 job so one day I just quit and with the help of my partner,  got stuck into this crazy world of acting.  It was tough and for 6 months I didn't do anything other than commercials.  I decided  I should go back to work and landed a job with a huge recruitment company doing IT recruitment of all things.

I was making placements in no time and continued to audition on the side.  What changed my life was landing a lead role in a comedy series called "Diplomatic Immunity" playing the love interest of Craig Parker who plays Glabber in Spartacus.  I was completely unknown and they'd been looking for an actress for the role for months.  Within a matter of days I quit my job and started acting full time....I haven't looked back since.


Is your family supportive of you choice of career?

Very supportive indeed!  My parents and grandparents are my biggest fans and my family in Cape Town can't wait to see Spartacus!  I think they are just happy to see me doing something I truly love. 


Itís AUSXIPís experience that most New Zealand actors are multi-talentedÖsingers, musicians, performersÖDo you have any hidden talents?

If  I wasn't going to act, I wanted to sing!  I have a very musical family and working with Lucy has inspired me to get some coaching!  That women is amazing!

Youíve done a lot of training, what have you found is the biggest difference between the training of acting and the real world of being a working actor?

I didn't go to drama school and had done a few workshops prior to Diplomatic Immunity so really, I was thrown in the deep end with that one.  But that's how I learn to be honest and having Craig there was amazing!  The thing is, there is a lot of stamina required with filming any project, both physically and mentally.  You get so engrossed in your work, and sometimes little character traits creep into your personal life too.  Then, once you're finished you're unemployed and you start the process all over again.  My friends who are actors are some of the bravest people I know!  Moving countries to work, leaving family and friends, the anxiety you feel when a job finishes and you wonder if you'll work again...its hard sometimes, but they wouldn't have it any other way and neither would I!

What was the audition process like for Spartacus?

It was pretty relaxed actually.  I originally auditioned for the role of Sura, but the casting director thought I was more suited to the role of Naevia.  At the time she didn't have a script for me.  I was auditioning for Legend of Seeker at the same time as well as a local TV series. I got short listed for the NZ show and then came the audition for Naevia. A week or so later I auditioned for Rick Jacobson (who directed episode 1,2 and 6) and then we waited!  I was thrilled when we got the offer...I wish I could bottle that feeling up sometimes and save it for later!


Tells us a little about your role of Naevia?

Naevia is one of the few characters in the show that will really surprise the audience.  She starts off quietly in the background and by the end of the show she becomes the reason for Crixus (played by Manu Bennett) to live.  She is Lucretia's most trusted slave so when the her most trusted slave and her favourite gladiator Crixus start a love affair, things get a little tricky.  The love between Naevia and Crixus is very similar to that of Spartacus and Sura.  It's real, pure and honest. You see her strength grow from episode to episode and by the end you'll have a very clear understanding of the women who captured Crixus heart.  He shows his vulnerability to know one but her.  It's amazing what they go through just to be together, life within the ludus is not easy for slaves and the introduction of love and hope to someone who has never lived freely can very dangerous.

You have been working with some of AUSXIPís favourite actors (Lucy Lawless, Craig Parker, Erin Cummings), producers (Rob Tapert, Paul Grinder), and directors (Michael Hurst) on Spartacus, what have you learned from them?

We have some seriously talented actors on this show, the brilliant John Hannah who has mountains and mountains of dialogue, Peter Mensah who I was so excited to have a scene with, Nick Tarabay who plays Ashur is really one to watch out for on the show and a brilliant actor, my lovely Viva Bianca has been doing a stellar job and of course Andy Whitfield!  The man is amazing! I didn't have any work with Erin, but had a great time off set with her! Working with Craig Parker again has been a joy and I'm really blessed to call him a friend. 

Lucy is an amazing women as I said before.  I'm in pretty much every scene she is in and just getting to watch her and John Hannah work together is acting gold!  She is a brilliantly talented women with a huge heart.  Her charity work with Greenpeace and Starship is really inspiring and then to see her juggle all of that with a family...I take my hat of to you Lucy!  Rob sure has picked a wonderful team on this show! And working with a Producer of Robís calibre and experience has been invaluable to a young actress like myself.

The directors are doing fantastic is not easy filming a show like Spartacus.  You have to have an intense attention to detail and a superb creative eye and then, you have to talk actor to the actors!  Everyone from Paul Grinder to Michael Hurst, Rick Jacobson, Chris Martin Jones, Jesse Warn...they've all made my experience on the show so wonderful and I'm a better actor for working with them!

Are you aware of the huge interest Spartacus has generated amongst Xena fans because of the previous Xena connections of Lucy, Rob, Michael and Craig Parker?

Yes and it's phenomenal how dedicated they are.  Let me tell you, it's extremely humbling for any actor to have someone like your work and acknowledge it, but these fans take it to a whole other level.  I know that every single actor on the show is so very grateful for the support of the fans!

Did you do any research about the era before or after you got the part? If so how has it helped you?

I worked on my accent and did some reading on that era and the history of Spartacus, but really, Naevia's story is one of love, struggle and tragedy something we can all relate to today.

Spartacus is a huge period piece, how have you found yourself dealing the costuming, hair, and make-up? Once it is all done and you walk on set, do you find it transforming or easier to get into character?

Absolutely!  Our makeup and costume team departments consist of some of the worlds most talented and creative individuals. By the end of the process, you are your character, you talk like them, walk like them and then when people see you on the street, I'm talking crew members who work with you everyday, they don't recognise you.

There is a lot of talk and anticipation surrounding Spartacus in the United States, do you find that scary or exciting?

It's my first US show so I'm a little of both to be honest, but I think more excited.  Spartacus is the first show of it's kind and I'm eager to see how it is received.  We have put a tremendous amount of work into it.

Is there a particular episode that you canít wait for people to see when Spartacus finally premieres in the United States

Definitely episode 12!  Everything its at boiling point and you see the true intentions of every character, their heart, what defines them.  With every episode though, a new layer is revealed and it's wonderful to have watched my fellow cast mates evolve their respective charactersGood writing is essential to achieve this and Steve D Knight made it all possible!

Are there any set stories or secrets that you could share with the AUSXIP audience? You do happen to be working with one of their favorite people (Lucy Lawless).

Lucy is a big goof ball!!! My nick name for her was "Wittle Wucy Wawwess"and she called me "Wes".  We had this funny bath scene where Lucretia is being bathed by Naevia in a milk bath and right at the end of the scene she sinks down into the water, stealth like and starts blowing bubbles and doing her best synchronised swimming impersonation....the crew just about lost it! 

What is next for Lesley-Ann Brandt?

I'm just about to start on a New Zealand feature film called Hopes and Dreams and then I'm off to Los Angeles till end of Feb next year.  I've enrolled in an acting workshop with Larry Moss in December and I'm looking forward to being in LA when the show airs on STARZ network in January.  Iíve got a strong team behind me at Karen Kay Management, and Iím looking forward to the next chapter in my acting career.

Many thanks to Lesley-Ann Brandt for taking the time out of her busy schedule to speak to AUSXIP and we wish her all the very best. Spartacus Blood and Sand premieres on Starz on 22 January 2010.

Photo Credits:

Photos of Lesley-Ann for this interview are courtesy of Lesley-Ann's management at Karen Kay Management.
Photos of Naevia are courtesy of Starz Entertainment.

Interesting Links

Official Lesley-Ann Brandt Fan Site
Karen Kay Management
Official Spartacus Blood and Sand Site
AUSXIP Spartacus Blood and Sand

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