This past week we saw television history made when, for the first time in South Africa, viewers experienced a crossover of television shows: The River on 1Magic and The Queen on Mzansi Magic.
A fan of crossovers, I sat on the edge of my seat when I saw that Harriet Khoza, played by Connie Ferguson, and Lindiwe Dikana, played by Sindi Dlathu, were old-time friends and both wanted to get rid of a common enemy.
Crossovers are television magic – we saw that earlier this year with a How To Get Away With Murder and Scandal (The Fixer) crossover. They add a new dimension.
And although these shows helped inspire South Africa’s first crossover, so did shows like The Jeffersons versus The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Bonga Percy Vilakazi, the writer on The Queen and creative producer on The River, said he had always wanted to do a crossover.
“It’s an idea we always spoke about in the story room, among the writers, the executive producers of The River (Phathu Makwarela and Gwydion Beynon) and the executive producers of The Queen (Connie and Shona Ferguson).
“Because both shows are written by the same team, it’s been a fantasy of ours to merge the two worlds, and have two of television’s most evil bitches meeting and appearing in the same space,” Percy Vilakazi said.
Although both shows are shot in the same town of Ruimsig, they aren’t set in the same universe.
Harriet Khoza and her family live in Waterfall Park in Midrand, while Lindiwe Dikana is in the richest part of Pretoria North.
Speaking on the specific storyline they came up with, he said: “We played around with a few ideas, the most obvious one being that they’re sworn enemies.
“However they’re in two completely different industries, drugs disguised by the trucking business and mining. It was refreshing to see two powerful women who go way back, getting along, knowing that they owe each other favours.”
Let’s not forget that one of those favours was Harriet asking Lindiwe for R10million, which Lindiwe gave as a gift.
Even though crossovers make for great TV, there are challenges, such as ensuring that the characters stay true to their original shows.
However, on the set of this crossover, Vilakazi said the experience had been incredible.
“I think the only way it was going to work was, first, to be aware that most viewers of The River are familiar with The Queen, and therefore know Harriet Khoza.
“Because the show is older, Harriet has done a whole lot of devious things that are still fresh in our minds. So it was important that the history was brought to the fore.
“Backstories like their children growing up together helped to make the story and worlds more authentic, again because the viewers would have remembered it. The mentioning of familiar characters from the other world was also instrumental. It really was a very natural transition, and an incredibly fun experience,” he said.
Now that history has been made and viewers have been introduced to a new world, what’s next?
Vilakazi said: “Well, we’ve already established that the families go way back and that they’ve helped one another out many times.
“We’ve also established that Harriet is not Zweli’s cup of tea (Zweli being Lindiwe’s husband, played by Hlomla Dandala). In fact, the two had several stilted confrontations.
“So there’s definitely a lot of story there. The possibilities are endless.”