A two-minute trailer for Showmax’s murder mystery The Girl From St Agnes has just launched, and it looks incredible. Filmed in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands (a region that looks suitably moody, misty and mysterious), the trailer reveals scenes of a South African private school – corridors filled with uniformed students, rowdy boys on a school bus, girls dressed up for dances, students performing on stage.
Update: All episodes of The Girl From St Agnes are now available. Watch full episodes on Showmax.
“This school is a snake pit, and we are the rats.”
But there’s clearly more going on at St Agnes. The trailer hints at foul play, dark secrets and cover-ups. The Girl From St Agnes follows drama teacher Kate Ballard (Nina Miller) as she investigates the death of popular student Lexi Summerveld (Jane de Wet).
All eight episodes of this Showmax Original become available on the streaming service on 31 January.
This is Showmax’s second original production and its first drama series. Showmax’s first Original, Tali’s Wedding Diary, was a hilarious mockumentary starring Julia Anastasopoulos – aka SuzelleDIY – as a bridezilla from Jozi getting married in Cape Town. The Girl From St Agnes is a completely different direction for the streaming platform.
“Crime stories and twisted dramas taking place in different parts of the world have become a staple. What this show does really successfully is set the formula in a fresh, contemporary South African context.”
It’s unique in the South African TV landscape for a number of reasons.
1. It’s in South African English, for a change
Legendary casting director Moonyeenn Lee, who’s been nominated for two Emmy Awards in the past three years, for The Looming Tower and Roots, was the driving force behind getting the talented cast of The Girl From St Agnes together.
“English-speaking actors generally work internationally and they have to do American or British accents to make decent money,” Lee says. “That was why it was nice when this came up, to do English but South African English.”
2. It’s being distributed internationally
In a South African first, the dark drama is being distributed internationally by Red Arrow Studios International (Death and Nightingales, Bosch).
It’s easy to see why: “Crime stories and twisted dramas taking place in different parts of the world have become a staple,” says Nina Milner, who plays drama teacher Kate Ballard. “What this show does really successfully is set the formula in a fresh, contemporary South African context.”
3. It’s only got eight episodes
Telenovelas and long-running series have their own appeal – but there’s something very satisfying about finding out who was behind Lexi’s death in the course of eight episodes. Just be warned: you’re going to want to stay up all night and finish it in one sitting.
“I read the scripts all in one sitting, so I’m so happy that all eight episodes will be released at the same time,” says Zakeeya Patel. “I binged; once I started reading them I couldn’t stop… I literally pulled my car over on the side of the road to finish them. It was dangerous but I needed to finish them. So I went into a parking lot and motored through them on my phone, in tiny, tiny writing.”
4. It goes places other local series don’t dare
South African series tend to lean toward the conservative – minimal nudity, safe topics, and nothing too edgy. But this is not the case with The Girl From St Agnes.
“The series is a first for South Africa,” says Robert Hobbs, who plays the Midlands dairy farmer and “pillar of the community” Gary Clayton.
“When I read the scripts, I absolutely loved them. They go to the heart of the story. The fact that it’s on Showmax allows it to really go there. There’s no limitations in terms of broadcasting this, no old-school rules and regulations about what you can show live. You don’t have to imply stuff; we can experience it. That is its strength. That’s what makes it unique.”