Local Afrikaans crime series Die Byl (The Axe) is inspired by legendary South African detective Piet Byleveld. We sat down for an exclusive interview with executive producer Herman Binge about this hot new homegrown crime drama.
Piet Byleveld caught some of the country’s most heinous murderers. Like Cedric Maake, known as the Wemmer Pan Killer, who was found guilty of 114 charges including 27 murders and sentenced to 1 340 years in prison. And Paul Meyer, who killed his wife and two daughters, after slaying his girlfriend and her mother.
Byleveld is such an acclaimed sleuth that detectives from Scotland Yard and the Canadian Police have asked him for help in solving serial murder cases. That same knowledge has now been put to use by the writers, production team and actors in the new crime drama Die Byl, giving the show unparalleled authenticity and an insight into the mind of a serial killer.
The series features well-known local actors including veteran Tertius Meintjies as the officer in charge Assistant-Commander Neels van As; Waldi Schultz, best known for his role as Jan-Hendrik Terreblanche in 7de Laan, as Colonel Piet van der Bijl aka ‘Die Byl’; and Cape Town actress Milan Murray of Isidingo and Binnelanders fame who portrays public prosecutor, ex-wife of Van As and love interest of Die Byl Advocate Nicholene ‘Nicky’ Malan.
We chatted to executive producer Herman Binge about what we can expect from Die Byl.
Q: What is Die Byl about?
A: Die Byl is a crime series featuring a specialised police squad formed to bring serial killers to book. In every 90-minute episode the highly trained squad is confronted with a new series of brutal murders. During the inevitably traumatic investigations these strong-minded individuals often have conflicting ideas about solving the case and then the sparks fly. But when they work together, they are a formidable outfit.
Q: Piet Byleveld is a legendary detective in South Africa who solved some of the country’s highest profile serial murder cases – is the series based on true events?
A: The stories and characters in Die Byl are entirely fictitious, but thanks to the input from Piet Byleveld who acted as technical advisor to the writers and production team, the end result is frighteningly authentic. He shared his ideas and methodology of investigating murder cases with the script writers and had a brief meeting with Waldi Schultz, our lead actor, to give him practical tips on policing. We had to place our story in an Afrikaans language environment and invent our own murderers and victims. So although he inspired our script writers, we could not use Piet Byleveld’s real-life cases.
Q: The series is exclusively available on the internet-TV platform, ShowMax, to both a local and international audience. Do you think this is the future of how people will consume content?
A:The advent of ShowMax is very exciting. There is no doubt that this will increasingly become the kind of platform that our viewers will use to enjoy the programming of their choice at the time of their choice.
Q: To South Africans abroad and at home – why should they watch Die Byl?
A: Die Byl deals with important issues and ills in South African society. The characters are identifiable individuals and our audience will understand the very difficult mission that these interesting professionals are challenged with. Their personal lives inevitably suffer under the strains of the highly dramatic and demanding tasks they face.
Each episode deals with the gruesome nature of their everyday lives in a different way. This element makes Die Byl a universal and human story. The stories are full of twists and the audience is invited to guess who the guilty suspect is. Sometimes they may be right, but often they will be wrong. All is revealed in the last scene of every episode.
Watch Die Byl exclusively on www.ShowMax.com and sign up for a seven-day free trial.