What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a TV prison drama that consists of a predominantly female cast? Orange Is The New Black right?
Well most recently, but those who are a little older take it as far back as the 80s when Cell Block H was the hit prison show of the time.
That’s what a few people suggested that the local entrant in the genre, Lockdown, reminds them of. It is a compliment given the success of the ‘80s shows.
So we spoke to Lorcia Cooper last year about being a main character in the Mzansi Magic show.
Cooper was so excited about breaking out of her ‘pretty girl’ shell, which she had come to accept as her role in TV. She alluded that when it came to being cast on TV shows, producers tended to put her in heels and sexy clothes, obviously cashing on her good looks.
Lockdown does the opposite. Given that it is a prison set up, it is highly unlikely that the inmates will always look their best. Prisons in their nature are minimalist and so the prisoners have to get by with whatever they get from the state to survive in there.
So it makes sense that make-up kits are not even on the hierarchy of needs. But Cooper, as butch and roughed up as she looks on the show, still looks good. You can’t pull a pretty girl down.
The story orbits around Zola Nombona, the upcoming actress who portrays a celebrity busted for drug possession.
It brings into play the interesting dynamics of what possibly happens to high profile people when they go behind bars.
Think of what it must have been like for Oscar Pistorius or Jub Jub on their first day behind bars. Suddenly they are vulnerable as they do not have their usual wall of protection.
So that’s one dynamic that you will see in Lockdown through Nombona’s character. She is bullied and soon she has to realize that the only way to survive is growing a thick skin.
Another rising star to look out for is Dawn Thandeka King, who is on her way out of jail. Think of Nicolas Cage’s character in Con Air. However, there is a big story behind King’s character.
Here we encounter another intriguing dynamic as we get to see that being behind bars doesn’t always mean that one is guilty. Sometimes the system fails you and, as a result, lots of innocent people are behind bars.
What is not clear is whether there is a dress code for women in South African jails. We see Nombona’s character, and a few others retain long hair.
The living conditions in prison are not always the best but depending on the research that was done here, there is a good chance that we will learn something about the plight of offenders in South Africa.
As a whole, the writing, the acting, the back stories and the delivery of the story arcs in Lockdown are so good that it is a pity it only airs once a week.
Well done to director and writer Mandla N for giving us a drama that’s both catchy and relatable.
* Lockdown airs on Monday nights at 8pm on Mzansi Magic (DStv Channel 161).