AUSXIP Spartacus - LESLEY-ANN
SPARTACUS: BLOOD & SAND / GODS OF THE ARENA
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
Has there been anything about New Zealand that has surprised you and what
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?
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
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
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
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 work...it 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?
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
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 characters.
Good 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 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.