Within the first few seconds, a naked woman is seen seducing a man in the driver seat of a taxi at a rank in an intimate scene. But Mpumelelo Nhlapo, executive director of Black Brain Pictures and executive producer on e.tv’s new 18SN age-restricted telenovela, says The Black Door it’s so much more”.
The Black Door, commissioned for 260 episodes that started filming in February just outside Johannesburg, is a risk for e.tv and a first for free-to-air television in South Africa.
Starring Linda Sebezo as brothel madam Mam’ Rebecca, as well as Zamani Mbatha, Velaphi Mnisi, Gabisile Tshabalala and Thobani Nzuza, e.tv and Black Brain Pictures are pushing the boundaries of what can and can’t be shown in a local TV production on South African public television.
Helmed by Mandla N and Mpumi Nhlapo, the production company bulldozed empty land on a farm in Honeydew outside Johannesburg for the series set in Mpumalanga, building a whole township exterior – complete with roads and street lights – as well as the various characters’ home interiors, Mam’ Rebecca’s legitimate factory, as well as her secret and notorious Black Door brothel.
Human stories and the salacious
“Mam’ Rebecca runs a factory that has a lot of government tenders, but we come to understand that the way she has built her business is by running a brothel called The Black Door,” explains Nhlapo. “She brings powerful people – politicians and business people – in there, and by offering them all the world’s pleasures, she in return gets business.”
The story details how a local church deacon moonlighting as a male prostitute for Mam’ Rebecca is murdered. His brother gets roped into working for the brothel madam while he becomes involved in a relationship with his brother’s widow.
“We’ve spent a lot of time with
prostitute to understand the psyche. We don’t want to give ‘a scene’ that’s a [email protected] scene – yes, we will have those scenes, but that’s not story. We came to understand that prostitutes when they go to the places that I’ve never been to like The Summit, that in essence, it’s their place of work.
“Interesting things happen at places of work; for example, people have relationships at work. But what does the relationship look like between two [email protected] workers who have this life together here but still need to interact with their families?
“People in the workplace are religious people. So what does a sex worker do when they go to work, but also to church on a Sunday? We’re going to tell real human stories and the salacious, so we are pushing extreme boundaries.”