South-Africa: Natasha van Der Merwe and Esther von Waltsleben on Suidooster's first same-sex couple
Two new neighbours have joined the community of Ruiterbosh in kykNET's daily soapie, Suidooster.
Esther von Waltsleben and Natasha van Der Merwe play Elana and Susan - the soap's first same-sex couple.
With Susan's connection to Justin (Eden Classens), it seems that it won't be smooth sailing for the couple.
On joining the soapie, Esther says: "It's been wonderful. It's like joining a family."
Natasha adds that she has loved every second of being on set.
"Every day, I still catch myself having a moment where I am so eternally grateful for the opportunity to get to do what I love so passionately and wholeheartedly and hopefully getting to make a difference in somebody's life while surrounded by world-class talent."
In this Q&A, we find out more about their characters, what brings them to Ruiterbosch, and what's in store for the newbies.
Can you tell me more about your characters and how they found their way to Ruiterbosch?
Esther: My character's name is Elana Naudé. She's in her late forties and has worked in the corporate world of advertising all her life. She hails from Joburg and is a business girl who is used to rubbing shoulders with CEOs, politicians and other HODs. She made the bold decision to quit her job and move to Cape Town with her wife to start a new life and a new career.
Natasha: Elana and Susan met at a game lodge in Limpopo. Elana was the head of a top advertising agency in Johannesburg and brought her team to the lodge for a team-building weekend, and Susan, who prefers to be called "Suzie", worked as a game ranger at the lodge. After a love at first sight encounter and then dating for a while, Suzie followed Elana to Joburg, where they stayed for a while before deciding to leave the rat race and move to Ruiterbosch to open a beach bar.
Without giving away too much, can you reveal a bit about your storyline?
Esther: They open a beach bar in Ruiterbosch, placing them smack in the middle of the goings-on of this community. The success of the business, as well as their personal life, will come under the lens. The fact that Susan's ex is also around will complicate things further.
Natasha: Well, let's just say Suzie is the fun-loving, charming and charismatic one in the relationship who loves to party and has a little bit of a hidden side to her. What do they say? "Those who shout the loudest usually have the most to hide." Their story is a magical one so far, but with every soapie comes a good storyline. With a few insecurities, concerns and plot twists, you're in for one hell of an adventure. Suzie and Elana are currently still settling into Ruiterbosch, so don't miss out, and keep watching!
Can you tell us more about Susan's connection with Justin, and will this in any way complicate things?
Natasha: Suzie and Justin once dated for a little while after school. They were both still young, and in Suzie's eyes, she felt it was just a casual fling, but for Justin, she meant the world to him, and he was very serious about Suzie, so much so that he sold most of his stuff just so that he could save up to buy Suzie a ring. Needless to say, when Susan got the chance to move to Limpopo to follow her dream to become a game ranger, she grabbed the opportunity with both hands, and they never really spoke again until now. So yes, there are definitely some complications on the horizon…
Suidooster fans are very vocal on social media; how do you think viewers will react and receive your characters?
Esther: The characters of Suidooster are all so well-known and loved by the viewers; I think they might be sceptical about these two new girls coming in. As with any strangers, they will have to get to know us first. I do think it's clever how the writers introduced us with a touch of humour on Justin's part. As long as our characters have good intentions, I think the audience will warm to us.
Natasha: Well, with anything in life, there are going to be highs and lows. I would love to think that the viewers are open to welcoming Suzie and Elana to Ruiterbosch with open arms. I also hope they enjoy the storyline that awaits them and the new energy and dynamics that the newlyweds bring to Ruiterboschs' community. We wouldn't be here without the fans/viewers, so here's to them and the beautiful stories we get to tell daily.
Your characters are the first same-sex couple in Suidooster and introduced in Pride Month. Representation is so important. How do you see your characters spotlighting issues, affecting the LGBTQI community and empowering them?
Esther: When I think of young people struggling with their sexual identity, not feeling free to talk about it - even to their own parents - makes me sad. I hope Elana and Susan will help to open up conversations around the topic. They are just a normal couple like anybody else with their own hopes and dreams, and fears.
Natasha: I'm hoping that our characters create an awareness of an underrepresented community, ultimately leading to people gaining a better understanding of diverse family dynamics. And to give those with different views a platform to be seen and heard without prejudice and a space where they can freely embrace who they are.
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