“Viewers are gonna love to hate her” – Faith Baloyi on playing Queen Assili in Blood Psalms
In Blood Psalms, the epic Showmax Original African fantasy launching on 28 September 2022, Faith Baloyi stars as Queen Assili, the Magi of the mystical Uchawi kingdom.
Baloyi is the breakout star of Flatland, which opened the Berlin Panorama. The Hollywood Reporter singled out her “winning central performance” as dogged detective Beauty Cuba, while Variety called her “superb” – even suggesting her character “could be serialised in future projects.”
In Blood Psalms, the Uchawi are druid-like rainmakers, so their control of the elements makes them valuable to kings like Letsha of the Akachi.
“The Uchawi are the magical scientists of this realm,” says producer Layla Swart. “Their homeland was shot in Gwadana, which has a well-known reputation for being the Xhosa birthplace of ‘witchcraft’.”
Queen Assili has become King Letsha’s most trusted advisor, but she is concerned about her waning influence now she cannot bring the rains during a severe drought.
To secure her position, she’s arranged for her daughter Thozama (Class Act Season 2 winner Tumie Ngumla from iNumber Number) to marry Letsha. With the wedding imminent, her son, Teborah (SAFTA nominee Niza Jay from the Oscar-shortlisted The Wound), and husband, Ntuka (Andile Nebulane from Generations: The Legacy, who was Chadwick Boseman’s dialect coach on Black Panther), are on their way to join her at the Akachi citadel.
Other key Uchawi characters include SAFTA nominee Thando Thabethe (Reyka, Housekeepers, How To Ruin Christmas: The Wedding) as the voice of the God Heka on earth and Khanya Mkangisa (Unmarried S3, The Queen) as Nymph. Spare a thought for the actresses playing the snake-like elementals surrounding Nymph: SAFTA winner Theola Booysens (Reyka), the makeup and prosthetics supervisor, says they took four hours to paint them green and cover them in snakeskin prosthetics, and another two hours to take it all off again afterwards.
We caught up with Baloyi to find out more about her starring role in the biggest and most ambitious series Showmax has ever made:
Tell us about your character in Blood Psalms.
Queen Assili is the chief matriarch of the Uchawi tribe, but she doesn’t dwell with her tribe.
She currently serves as a magician for King Letsha and the Akachi tribe. However, she is using her powers for her own gain. Not only does she manipulate King Letsha but the Akachi kingdom is also controlled by her.
She is trying to restore the power that has been lost for her own people and her own kingdom, so a lot is at stake.
She will dispose of anyone and use anyone, including our own children.
She’s a ‘horrible’ human being; viewers are gonna love to hate her.
What do you admire the most about Queen Assili?
What is clear with such a storyline is that there is a lot of patriarchy and with patriarchy comes toxic male governance.
So with her powers, Queen Assili tries to balance things. In her own way, Assili is fighting for feminine space in a male-dominated structure, which I admire so much.
She is such a wonderful character to play and I had so much fun portraying her. This character can be so open-ended so I had a lot of room to play and develop the character in my own way.
What was the hardest part of being in Blood Psalms?
I had to constantly remind myself that I am not Queen Assili because of the many terrible things she does to people. I had to re-align myself by engaging in activities that helped me get back to myself.
The snakes were another challenge. I don’t like snakes so I had to get over my fear of snakes. I’m very proud of myself that I made friends with Snowy but I’m glad it’s behind me.
Why should audiences watch Blood Psalms?
Because nothing like it has ever been made, from the themes being explored to its aesthetic as a whole. It’s a first of its kind.
Premiering on Showmax on 28 September
Shot in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and North West provinces, Blood Psalms is a Showmax Original in partnership with CANAL+, the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, the Eastern Cape Economic Development Corporation (ECDC), the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) and the MultiChoice Innovation Fund, which supports South Africa’s most exciting entrepreneurs, enabling them to bring their unique, innovative and creative business ideas to life.
The first two episodes of Blood Psalms will premiere on Showmax on 28 September 2022, with new episodes every Wednesday until the end of November 2022.
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