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Published: Anel Alexander talks Geraamtes and her role as Susan Brink

SABC 2’s Geraamtes in die Kas is a psychology drama that has loads of promise – and impressive talent. Buhle Mbonambi spoke to Anel Alexander, who plays Dr Susan Brink

Geraamtes in die Kas means skeletons in the closet. And boy, are there skeletons in SABC 2’s new drama series, Geraamtes in die Kas. The show, which airs on Tuesdays at 7.30pm, boasts an all-star cast of Gys de Villiers, Helene Lombard, Vuyelwa Booi, Kim Engelbrecht and Anel Alexander. Set in a Joburg psychology practice, Vermaak en Vernote, Geraamtes sees its characters battle their own demons and issues, while helping their patients battle theirs. 

Vermaak en Vernote comprises the eccentric Adriaan Vermaak (De Villiers) who has major daddy issues; the sassy sexologist, Palesa Ramaphosa (Booi) who has some major relationship issues; unconventional music therapist Rudy Abrahams (Wayne van Rooyen) and criminal psychologist Susan Brink (Alexander), who is the glue that holds the practice together. 

Dr Susan Brink is a complex character. She’s a criminal psychologist and, in a way, dealing with hardened criminals has taken its toll on her.
“She doesn’t see things as black and white – it’s almost always a grey area. Ethics are very important to her and that’s one of the difficult things when lines get blurred – she doesn’t know what to do. She’s self-righteous, though, which can sometimes be very irritating. But her heart is in the right place,” Anel said. “Susan is perfect for her job. She’s one of those people who are organised, have a set way of doing things and love stability. Susan is that person. She’s the one who always has to make the big decisions for the practice.”

This makes Susan closer to Adriaan than the other partners. “She’s his right-hand woman. I think she understands him more; his eccentricities and his issues. She did her thesis on Adriaan and his methods, so he’s always been her mentor. So because of this the other partners always ask Susan to speak to Adriaan when he has gone overboard.” 
All of this makes Susan dedicated to her work. “Oh, she’s a workaholic. She has no time for anything else but her work. She really gets into it and doesn’t allow any distraction.
“She sleeps in the office sometimes. It’s actually most times (laughs). But I love how dedicated she is.”

Anel was attracted to Geraamtes because it was a different premise from other shows.
“The concept intrigued me. I kept imagining just how many great stories we could tell and how far we could take the show. I’ve done quite a lot of soapies and dramas and Geraamtes is easily the most interesting I’ve done.” 

What drew her to Susan’s character was how complex she is and the cases she gets to work on. “Susan is a tough cookie. She’s nice, but don’t ever mess with her. I love no-nonsense characters. Another thing I love about the show is the extensive research that has been done for each case. Some are bizarre, yes, but most are inspired by real cases. I love how the writers have written the cases too. Susan gets to deal with such interesting individuals and most are psychopaths. Like the first episode where she had to evaluate whether her court-appointed patient, Retief, is sane or not. It turns out he’s not and he’s been playing the courts and Susan. So when she finds out how warped he really is, she makes sure he gets put away for a long time. And this happens in real life. 

“I have such appreciation for psychologists now – having to deal with people’s issues, and trying their best to make sure they don’t affect them personally.” 
Has dealing with all these criminals affected Susan? “I think so. She’s very meticulous about everything.
“She’s faced with ethical challenges on how to treat her clients, so much so that she’s neglected other aspects of her life. Especially her love life, or rather, the lack of.” 
Speaking of Susan’s love life, Gavin Winters (James Alexander) is the man who hopes to capture her heart. “He’s such a pain!” Anel said, laughing. “I would never date a guy like Gavin and I feel so sorry for Susan having to deal with a guy like him.” Gavin, played by Anel’s own husband, is an obnoxious former neurosurgeon with a high opinion of himself. Which is what you’d expect from a wunderkind who finished school in his mid-teens and university at 17. As Anel said, Gavin is the local version of The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper. “He’s a terrible narcissist thanks to his God Syndrome and knowing better than everyone else, like Sheldon Cooper or even Denny Crane (Boston Legal). He had his licence revoked after rendering three of his patients brain-dead. He becomes one of Susan’s patients and she diagnoses him with narcissistic personality disorder. But now he won’t go away.” 
While he may irritate Susan, Gavin actually does have a chance with her. “Susan is flattered by his attention, even though it irritates her that Gavin thinks he’s doing her a favour by even being remotely interested in her. But they do have chemistry and their scenes are always heated.”

It’s certainly made easier for Anel, acting with James. “James is a really great actor. He’s totally different from Gavin. So I always have to rise up to the challenge whenever I’m working with him on a scene.” 
This year has been a great year for local TV. With more than five new dramas launched, it looks like local channels are finally serious about commissioning local shows.
“It’s really encouraging. It’s very (much more) expensive to make local productions than it is to buy international shows, so it’s always a good thing when there are local shows. Besides the viewers being able to relate to the stories being told, it’s good for our industry. We work really hard and it’s disappointing when we don’t see our shows on TV, or worse, being ignored for international shows. Working with Luke and Josh (Rous, producers of Geraamtes and High Rollers) has proven just how much talent we have in the country and that we can produce world-class TV productions.” 

Although she hasn’t been able to watch a lot of local shows on TV (“I’m always on set”), as a Safta judge she gets to see the best performances on TV. “I’m always amazed at what we can achieve with such a small budget that most of the shows have. The quality work that actors do. So it’s always disappointing when shows are cancelled because of budget constraints. The Wild is one of those shows I’d have loved to be on, but it got canned, which was a pity.” 
We  start talking about our favourite TV shows. “I love Breaking Bad. It’s probably the best TV show I’ve ever watched. I’d have loved to be part of it. The cast, the writing. I love Modern Family too.” She asks me my favourite shows (which are currently Parks and Recreation, Orange is the New Black and Orphan Black). “I’ve never heard of those, but I’ll sure check them out when I get the time.” 

When she answered the phone, she was busy preparing for her trip to Los Angeles with James. “We are going over for the American Film Market Conference in Santa Monica, so I’m busy trying to pack, which I’m not a fan of,” she said, laughing. 
Anel and James have produced and starred in two local films, Discreet (2008) and last year’s hit Semi-Soet. “We are heavily involved in the local film scene right now and it’s amazing that more and more local films are coming out. This year has been a good year for local film. Film-making for us is a passion project. We still love acting, but we see ourselves gravitating towards producing more films.” 

What’s the big geraamte at Vermaak en Vernote? “Ooh, that’s a nice one. Secretly they are all messed up. They are worse than their clients and some of the things they do are enough for them to seek pyschological help. But they never do. Which is why this show is off the hinges. Pun not intended.”

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