01 March 2021 | Story Rulanzen Martin | Photo Supplied
Carel Nel will star in the upcoming fantasy horror movie, Gaia.

He has been in more than 40 international and national films, and has worked with the likes of Ridley Scott and Deon Opperman. These are just some of the achievements that Carel Nel, alumnus of the Department of Drama and Theatre Arts at the University of the Free State (UFS), has mastered in his young career. For him, it is all about hard work, patience, and believing in yourself. 

Nel says the time he spent studying drama at the UFS moulded him into the excellent actor he is today. During his undergraduate study, he was fortunate to be mentored by well-known actor, Gerben Kamper, theatre maestro, Prof Nico Luwes, and drama lecturer, Steph Brink. “They gave me the foundation I needed to go out into the real world and to make my dream of being a full-time actor a reality. I will always be grateful to them,” Nel says. 

In 2016 and 2017, he won the KykNet Silwerskerm Festival Best Actor award, and has won and been nominated for numerous film and theatre awards. 

Latest movie to premiere at SXSW film festival 

Nel’s latest role is that of Barend in the Jaco Bouwer fantasy horror film Gaia. The film will have its world premiere at the SXSW film festival on 16 March 2021 in Austin, Texas. “He (Barend) is a survivalist who turned his back on society more than a decade ago, a former academic who has willingly embraced a Neolithic lifestyle,” Nel says. 

There was uncertainty about the film, as production got suspended on the seventh day of filming due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Filming of Gaia resumed in late June 2020. “This is why we are extremely proud that Gaia will have its world premiere at the SXSW film festival,” says Nel.  

Apart from all his noteworthy projects, he was very fortunate to have worked with Ridley Scott on ‘Raised by wolves.’  “I played Karl, the android, and had to go through about five hours of makeup and prosthetics every day, and while shooting, was suspended by chains from the set. My other notable project was working in the remake of the 1977 classic, Roots.


Portraying historical figures ‘is daunting’ 

He has an uncanny resemblance to Abraham Lincoln and actually had the opportunity to play Lincoln in the History Channel mini-series, Grant. He had to do some research in preparation for his role because there is no video or audio recording of Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln had a very distinct voice and Nel learned that the voice of Daniel Day-Lewis, the British actor who played Lincoln in the 2012 biopic ‘Lincoln ’, is as historically correct as possible. “I therefore used his voice almost as a historical reference for mine; it’s always very daunting when you play a historical or actual person,” Nel says. 

In 2017, he had the opportunity to play Prof Christiaan Barnard in Hartstog, a Deon Opperman film about the first heart transplant in South Africa . 

Carel Nel has become a well-known face on South African television and on the international big screen and he believes that a “good actor tells the truth and understands that it’s not about him/her or they, but about the story they are telling”. It is thus evident that Carel Nel is a ‘Hollywood’ A-lister to be.


Watch the Gaia movie trailer here:

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.