“It’s Okay To Cry,” Speaking To Men Of ‘Still Breathing’ On Fatherhood & Mental Health
M-Net’s latest local hit, Still Breathing, has taken South Africa by storm. The drama series about a group of old friends dealing with tragedy is relatable, raw and deeply moving. Produced by husband and wife team Johnny and Tiffany Barbuzano, the drama deals with themes that are at the forefront of modern day South African society; including fatherhood and mental health.
The series features a cast with new and old faces to South African TV and sees Kate Liquorish at the helm. Men’s Health spoke to Siv Ngesi (also our Cover Guy for May) who gives off a stellar performance and acting stalwart Brandon Auret who displays some of his most vulnerable work yet.
One thing’s certain: by showing the flaws and vulnerabilities of on-screen characters, the show sparks viewers to be honest with themselves and reflect on their own actions and relationships. “When we watched it for the first time as a cast, we were all crying,” says Siv. “After finishing it, I kept on asking myself: have I treated everyone the way they deserve to be treated? And that is the big question in South Africa, and I think a lot of people are going to have some internal conflicts about this series.”
With the show officially wrapped up after the gripping season finale on Thursday night (hello, season 2?), we spoke to the shows leading men pre-lockdown and this is what we learnt:
Be Vulnerable: There Is Power In Vulnerability
“It’s quite difficult to be a guy like me who is known for being controversial, in your face, funny to move into acting because people will struggle to believe that it’s you,” with Siv adding that his favourite kind of work is actually serious. “Every time I get a congratulations on Still Breathing, I get a lump in my throat because people don’t understand how much it means to me.”
But the 34-year-old owes his small screen achievements to being vulnerable and understanding vulnerability as a man and Siv feels South African men need to realise the strength in vulnerability to forge better relationships. “There’s power in vulnerability; there’s a strength in vulnerability. I’ve spent the last three years working on my vulnerability as a man, if more men can get in touch with their vulnerable side, the world would be a better place.
“The irony is that with the vulnerability in my performance as T-Boss, I came across quite strong: a big black man being as vulnerable and in tune with himself in a way that men should be.”
It’s Okay To Cry
When it comes to owning up to your fears and confronting one’s feelings, Brandon speaks from personal experience. In the show, his character Danny is a father, with deep care and one who’s in touch with his emotive side, so much so that he rescues a stray dog.
But for Brandon, he’s been fighting away the tears his whole life. “[I want men to know] that it’s okay to cry,” he says. “I’m talking from my own personal experience; I grew up in a very small town with a single mom. I had a very hard dad who died when I was very young and the only time that I remember crying was when we heard that he died. And then I didn’t cry from then until the day that my daughter was born.
“But it was weird because I’ve had to deal with a lot of shit because I’ve kept all of that in. But luckily, I have an outlet and it’s called film or TV and I’m able to get that stuff out of me.”
An outlet most men don’t have, “I think we need to realise that cowboys do cry, they just cry on their own and that doesn’t help. And to come to terms with the fact that there’s a lot of abuse going around,” he adds.
Now that the 47-year-old is in tune with his emotions, he’s a better man. “But ja, you know, generations are changing, and now my daughter is used to me crying because I blubber now! I watch Bambi and [go off] because I’ve never cried before.”
Own Up To Fatherhood
Siv’s character is the dad’s dad and one who lives for his daughters, and Siv hopes the role he plays brings on-screen serves as an example for South African men. “Men in general, if you’re a shit dad you should be shunned from society,” he says. “You should be shunned by your friends, too. Not being around your children should not be socially acceptable.
“I think you should be there, you should play a big role in your kids lives. And if you’re not: if you’re sitting at home drinking and you’re not there with your kids, when you’re out with your friends, your friends should call you out. And I think it starts there. T-Boss is a great example of putting your family first.”
Catch Still Breathing on DSTV Catch Up here. Watch the trailer below: