PHOTOGRAPHY BY RIE RASMUSSEN
STYLED BY GINA BUCCALO
INTERVIEW BY KATINA GOULKAOS
Born and raised during the apartheid in South Africa, Lesley-Ann Brandt never imagined her life would turn out this way. A natural performer since she can remember, this actress grew up in a world where instead of dreaming she was fighting to survive. It wasn’t until she moved out of South Africa that she allowed herself to start dreaming and she has been achieving those dreams ever since.
The Lucifer star opened up about her childhood, being a working mom and how the #SaveLucifer campaign changed her life.
Imagista: Growing up in South Africa did you ever imagine you would be a huge success in America?
Lesley-Ann Brandt: I don’t believe I was thinking about my success when I was growing up, to be honest with you. I was born into apartheid in South Africa. It’s not like children weren’t encouraged to dream but it was more like the reality of life was survival for everyone. I wasn’t really thinking about being a star, not that I even think of myself in that way but it wasn’t something that was on my mind. I think I have always had this feeling of not fitting in, or that I was a little strange. Reflecting back, it is incredible to look back on my life and see where I ended up and how I found something that I am so passionate about. I am so fortunate to have this career and to look back and reflect on it all is pretty special.
Imagista: How did your passion for performing begin?
Lesley-Ann Brandt: I would say my passion for performing started at a young age. I was always a performer but the idea that I could do this for a living was never an option for me, at least that’s what I thought. I would sing in the choir and would participate in primary school, believe it or not I was never picked to be in the high school plays. I was always a performer and a bit of a clown.
It wasn’t until I moved to New Zealand when I was almost eighteen that I really started to work. I started doing more and more commercials, with the encouragement of casting directors I was given the motivation to really pursue this as a career.
Imagista: You were incredible in the show Spartacus, do you feel like playing Naevia was your “big break”?
Lesley-Ann Brandt: Absolutely, I would definitely say that Spartacus was the first big taste of a huge American production and I cut my teeth on this incredible show that had such heightened language and big scenes. Watching all the pieces of this period piece come together, wardrobe, hair, makeup, choreography, to be part of that was incredible.
However, I don’t think it “broke me out” I think it was an amazing stepping-stone.
I remember going into it thinking that it wasn’t “the” job but it was going to be the best experience and a great stepping-stone to pursue my career with and it was just that. I got my visa, I got a manager and an agent and it certainly made the doors open quicker but it didn’t by any means shoot me into the stratosphere of stardom and job offers.
That job is and will always be very special to me.
Imagista: You currently play Mazikeen on the series Lucifer, can you tell me a little bit about what that experience has been like? How do you feel playing Mazikeen, do you have any similarities to your character?
Lesley-Ann Brandt: Now we are coming into our fifth and final season and this job was a life changer for me for sure. I will look back on my time on this show with so much gratitude and such fond memories because this experience was so unique. It is not very often that a cast and crew love each other the way we do and that a show gets cancelled then saved and then gets to end on our own terms.
I got married during this show, started a family, bought a house and I always say I grew up on Lucifer in many ways.
I think I learned a lot about myself playing Mazikeen, there is definitely a social shift for me, I think I became a lot more vocal than what I was in speaking up for injustice. I think there is a part of her that is very much that, she is the protector of people she loves and she does it fearlessly. I think that as a woman and as a mother and as a human being I have learnt so much and I appreciate so much about her because there is something challenging about Mazikeen. She sees the world very simply, she knows both what she wants and what she doesn’t and from that I learnt to be a lot more decisive.
I also learned to not care so much about what other peoples opinions are. There is something so glorious about this character and how she doesn’t really care about what you think or how she dresses or what she likes. She knows who she is and she is unapologetically herself and I have so much respect for that as a person.
Imagista: The #SaveLucifer campaign was a success, how did it feel to have so many fans fight to see the show come back?
Lesley-Ann Brandt: One thing I learnt about doing this job and living in Hollywood for the past ten years is that you never have the job until you are standing in like waiting to get a catering job. I had made peace with the fact that our show had been cancelled and I felt incredibly sad because I was going to miss this family that I had become so close to.
To then see strangers across the world jump on the internet and express how much the show means to them and how much the character has helped them, that was so incredible and such an eye-opening experience for us as actors. Sometimes you have an idea of what your work means to people and other times you don’t and with the internet it was such an immediate and visceral reaction to it and we were just so happy and are still so happy. We now get to end the show on our terms, the way we want to and give the fans what they want. I am excited for season 5 and I am eternally grateful for the people who saved the show and who continue to follow me and come up on the street and introduce themselves and tell me that they helped save the show and they should feel proud about that.
The Ivory Silk Mini Dress is Ms. Min @msmin_official
Imagista: You are a big advocate for the LGBTQIA community, what does being an ally for them mean to you?
Lesley-Ann Brandt: I have always been a great supporter and have always had so much love for LGBTQIA community. I feel being an ally , especially playing this character on TV, I think it means to me how important the responsibility I carry is. I don’t know what it is like to be kicked out of a home for who I love, I don’t know what it is like to be fired from my job due to who I chose to be with but I do know what it is like to feel like I don’t fit in. Knowing that I was different and feeling that way and not realizing how special the moment was and how important it was for me to be proud of who I am. As an ally, as a woman of colour I have definitely been discriminated against but I am not living in fear of all those things.
To me it simply means being a decent human being and spreading the message of love and creating a better world for my son because I don’t know how he will identify himself as yet. I want to create a space where he knows we will love him regardless that we are working every day to fight for the right for him to love whoever he wants and that our family stands for love.
Dress by Max Mara @maxmara
Imagista: As a woman, how do you balance work and being a mother?
Lesley-Ann Brandt: Not very well at times. Balancing being a working actress and a mother is hard. We don’t have our family here, I don’t have a slew of people helping me out. I do have wonderful nannies and a great husband but I don’t have what my parents have. I don’t have cousins and grandparents around.
In that respect, the juggle is really hard and I have found myself sometimes being incredibly hard on myself for not being able to make everything happen perfectly. What I have come to understand and embrace is that what I do for a living makes me incredibly happy and when I am happy, I am a better mother, I am a better wife, a better friend and daughter. Now my son is growing up in a household with a working mother who is there for every important and major thing in his life. It is about quality time with him and not being torn in a million directions. I am also lucky that I don’t work a 9-5 job so I am not out of the house every day but when I work, I work long hours and sometimes it’s a long day before I get to see him. At times it makes me sad but he has grown up in a house where he sees the work it takes to be successful and I hope he learns a good work ethic from it.
Dress by Michael Angel
Imagista: If you could give your 16-year-old self one piece of advice what would it be?
Lesley-Ann Brandt: I think I would tell myself that the ending of a relationship with a boy is not going to change your world. You will be totally fine. I think at that age we are so vulnerable and emotional and that we love so hard in that time. The weird things I was into that I found creative or my dreams that I had were valid even if I couldn’t see the ability to achieve those dreams in the present. Also, to not care what everyone else thinks because that’s a boring life.
Ivory Silk Mini Dress by Ms.Min @msmin_official
Imagista: Can you tell our readers something about you that we can’t find on google?
Lesley-Ann Brandt: I was once bitten by a scorpion, I doubt people would know that!