2 March 2016
After becoming a household name in South Africa as the lovable Bart in the SABC2 soap drama 7de Laan, actor Neil Sandilands is set to become a household name in the United States, landing regular roles in The 100 and a new series, Hap & Leonard.
— Twilightish (@Twilightish) July 24, 2015
Sandilands went to Los Angeles in 2007 to try his luck on the notoriously competitive acting circuit. In 2010, he featured in an episode of House MD, but soon ran out of luck. Returning to South Africa to star in a number of popular Afrikaans films, including the award-winning drama Die Ballade van Robbie de Wee, he returned to Hollywood in 2014, determined to make his mark.
“I had to revert to other disciplines such as directing and post-production and sometimes built fences for my neighbours or some other unmentionable activities to simply keep the wolf at bay,” Sandilands told News24.
In January 2015, he had a recurring role on the 1980s-themed spy drama The Americans, which helped to boost his CV. From that, he landed two more regular roles on the teen sci-fi drama The 100 and a new series produced by Robert Redford’s Sundance TV channel called Hap & Leonard. It starts on 2 March 2016 in the US.
While Sandilands struggled with rejection in Hollywood, describing the casting process as an “unforgiving craft”, his slow-burning tenacity has eventually paid off. “There’s no manual,” he explains about being an unknown actor in the Hollywood casting machine. “It is an inexact, non-verifiable science. I simply try to give it my all and be as best prepared as possible. I’m always off-book (not reading from the script). if you strike out on 99 half-truths, you may just sneak one moment of clarity past them.” Which is how he got the role on The 100.
In The 100, a series about delinquent teenagers sent back to Earth 97 years after the apocalypse, Sandilands plays the role of Titus, political adviser and mythological flame-keeper of the Grounder organisation. He stars alongside other regular TV character actors such as Isaiah Washington (Grey’s Anatomy) and Paige Turco (Person of Interest).
Reaction to Sandilands’ appearance on The 100 on South African television last month ignited Twitter, proving how popular his character on 7de Laan was locally:
— Melissa Jaftha (@MelissaJaftha) March 2, 2016
Sandilands hopes that the show, now in its third season, will be renewed for a fourth and that his character’s pivotal role will remain relevant. “The show has grown exponentially (with a good social media presence). It has become hugely successful cult television,” says Sandilands.
Hap & Leonard
As the newest series for independent film and television network Sundance TV, Hap & Leonard is already gaining interest and industry buzz as one of the more innovative and well written TV dramas. Based on the cult books by Joe R Lansdale, described as “Elmore Leonard in Texas”, the show follows the adventures of two wise-cracking, crime-fighting best friends in the Lone Star State in the 1970s.
— neil sandilands (@njwsandilands) March 1, 2016
Sandilands plays Paco, a disfigured radical hippie on the run from the FBI who joins the two main characters in a search for sunken treasure. The cast includes Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) and Michael Kenneth Williams (Boardwalk Empire). Sandilands is looking forward to seeing the show challenge the already crowded and ever-evolving television narrative culture brought on by the rise of Netflix and HBO.
But would Sandilands consider returning to South Africa to star in local productions, and help the film and television industry operate on the same standard?
“Absolutely,” he concludes, “it remains the work I am most naturally suited to do. (South Africa) is my motherland, Afrikaans is the tongue of my mother.”
— Portroids (@portroids) February 27, 2016