Forget about diamonds, drugs and rhino horn – the hottest thing coming out of South Africa these days is television. At the end of 2019, M-Net’s (101) local adaptation of Deon Meyer’s 2011 novel Trackers became the channel’s biggest hit of the year. Trackers beat even the colossal likes of Game Of Thrones, Big Little Lies and the sensational nuclear meltdown drama Chernobyl. It had the local talent and the international funding to go all-out to create an action extravaganza that explodes onto the screen. “We’ve done some really, really cool stuff,” insists James Gracie (series hero Lemmer). And now for the first time, DStv Compact subscribers can catch the action when Trackers Season 1 starts on Mzansi Magic (161) on Sunday, 5 April at 20:00.
Everything is connected
Trackers is a hold-onto-your-pants thriller that pays off in spades for observant viewers. The show casts a wide net at the start of the season, then reels it in over five episodes, bringing everything together towards the end in a series of unexpected connections. That’s thanks to how Deon wrote the book originally, when he found himself unable to choose between three different storylines. “With Trackers, I thought why not push the envelope in terms of structure; why not try tell all three stories and see if you can still hold the suspense and still keep the reader gripped,” says Deon. Sandi Schultz (Janina) adds, “Each story is so interesting, and the way that the different characters’ paths intersect towards each other is unexpected.”
Keeping track of who’s who
Shuffle the puzzle pieces in just the right way and the picture starts to come together – but there will be plenty more connections to discover, so the more you watch, the more the image will shift.
Janina (Sandi Schultz): As head of the PBI (spy agency the Presidential Bureau of Intelligence), Janina has dedicated her life to rooting out corruption and unmasking South Africa’s enemies. But recently her agency has come under threat of closure and Janina needs a coup. “Janina’s job is her vocation. Her job in protecting her country is everything that she lives for,” says Sandi. “She’s complicated in a fairly simple way.” When Janina gets wind of plans for a terrorist attack on South Africa, she knows that thwarting it could save her country and her agency.
Quinn (Thapelo Mokoena): PBI COO Quinn is deeply loyal to his country, but he’s also burning with ambition and he would love a shot at his boss Janina’s job. Quinn is calm, competent and inventive. “He’s a man of purpose but he is conflicted. And the conflict is that he’s got to take care of the Republic of South Africa and its people, and the people he’s doing it for – and he’s got obstacles that are holding him from satisfying both worlds,” says Thapelo.
Milla (Rolanda Marais): Milla needs a job, any job, after fleeing the gilded cage of her abusive marriage. She’ll take anything, including a lowly position as a data analyst for the PBI. “Milla is the type of person that everyone knows, the mother who gave up her career to be a stay-at-home mom and happily married,” says Rolanda. “And she just manages to get herself in a situation where she has to show who she really can be. She starts off one way and she ends up empowered.” As a civilian, Milla creates her own loyalties and that’s going to create headaches for Janina.
Lucas (Ed Stoppard): A bit of a man of mystery, Lucas crops up while Milla is tracking a lead in her research and sparks fly. Lucas is playing his cards close to his chest, though. Early on he crosses paths with Inkunzi, whose gangsters steal Lucas’s money during a hijacking. Only that’s not Lucas’s money and he’s come to South Africa armed and ready for action. “He’s a good guy who finds himself in a bad situation,” insists Ed. “His motivations might be selfish, but they’re not malicious.”
Inkunzi/Julius Shabangu (Sisanda Henna): This man of many names and even more gold chains is a mercenary, a smuggler and a gangster. Inkunzi is in cahoots with terrorists who form a lucrative exchange market for his goods. Inkunzi, who’s living his best life on those ill-gotten gains, is one of the most visually dazzling and memorable characters in the show. “I had to put on some weight, put on some muscle for the character, because he’s larger than life,” says Sisanda. “I think that Deon has actually taken real blood samples of what South Africa is. All of these characters are real, they’re authentic. It’s a snapshot of South Africa.”
Suleiman Daoud (Emmanuel Castis): “Suleiman is the angel of death. He is a career terrorist. He has been involved in some of the most major terrorism acts that have happened globally. He wants to come up with the next thing that will be the biggest terrorist act on the West that has ever happened,” says Emmanuel.
Lemmer (James Gracie): “Lemmer is just a guy who wants to be left alone,” says James. “He’s come out of a very bad situation with his previous work in the PBI.” But even brooding loners need cash for whiskey as they sulk in a Karoo bar over being fired, and Lemmer agrees to that fateful “one last job” – it’s a job that Inkunzi is going to have a meddling hand in ruining. As an ex-special forces member and bodyguard, Lemmer is the kind of guy who’s willing to hammer his point home with an actual physical hammer if he’s in the mood. For the rest of the time, he’s cool as a cucumber, even when bullets are flying.
Flea (Trix Vivier): On the surface, she’s your run-of-the-mill sexy wildlife veterinarian specialising in the care of rhinos and wearing tiny shorts. But Flea has a secret and she’s going to make an unexpected leap during her high-security transport job with Lemmer. “She gets to face situations where she is completely out of her depth and she knows it. And that’s what makes her so incredibly resourceful,” hints Trix.
And if you want to know more between watching episodes, there’s plenty to explore on DStv’s special Trackers YouTube channel – but beware of spoilers.
Trackers Season 1 starts Sunday, 5 April on Mzansi Magic (161) at 20:00.
How to watch Trackers online
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