Charlotte Hope on living in the minds of serial killers in the true-crime series, ‘Catch Me A Killer’

Charlotte Hope as Micki Pistorius in ‘Catch Me A Killer’. Picture: Supplied

Charlotte Hope as Micki Pistorius in ‘Catch Me A Killer’. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 19, 2024


Casting is a crucial part of film-making. It can make or break a TV series or film.

As such, when it came to looking for an actress to play Micki Pistorius, SA’s first serial killer profiler, the net was cast wide.

And British actress Charlotte Hope, who is best known for her role as Myranda in the cult fantasy series, “Game of Thrones”, was cast to helm “Catch Me A Killer”, which is based on Pistorius’s autobiography of the same title.

The 11-part true-crime series is set in the mid-90s. It follows Pistorius, a recently qualified forensic psychologist who joins the SAPS to track down some of the country’s most feared killers.

The prominent cases include the Station Strangler, the ABC Killer, the Cape Town Prostitute Killer, the Phoenix Strangler, the Saloon Killer and, not forgetting the murders in Cleveland and Donnybrook.

Although she is back in the UK, working on other projects, Hope agreed to a Zoom interview to chat about the role and filming in SA for the first time.

She said: “When I read the first couple of Amy Jephta’s (lead writer) scripts, I thought they were phenomenal and the character, she was complicated, brilliant and an underdog.

“And I love getting to play those underdog characters, where everyone underestimates her and she gets to prove them wrong.”

Having read the book, Hope met Pistorius, who was a great support and help.

Hope revealed: “She wanted to make sure she wasn’t portrayed as weak. That there was a strength to the portrayal.

“And those kinds of roles where it is that dichotomy of someone who is incredibly strong but also unravels; the weakness comes from the strength as opposed to it just being an unravelling of character. Do you know what I mean?

“Even the whole profession itself wasn’t accepted or recognised. She is brought in as this psychological profiler and the police force is kind of sceptical, they are just concerned with catching these serial killers.

“And, for Micki, the process of understanding the psychology and what’s made them who they are today is integral to the process of catching them. As soon as she understands them, the sooner she can catch them.”

The actress added: “It’s a very interesting time, especially in the ’90s’. It was such a different approach. And on top of that, she’s a woman. Her gender isn’t taken as seriously and she gets to prove everyone wrong.

“The Norman Simons case is the first case that she worked on, and the psychology that she explored was integral to capturing him.

“Once that happened, everyone started taking her process more seriously.”

Hope says she wasn’t trying to mimic Pistorius in her portrayal.

She said: “Micki has been beyond supportive. I couldn’t have asked for a kinder and more generous person. Initially, the idea of playing a real-life character is terrifying because there is so much expectation.

“When you are playing a fictional character, you can do whatever you want and that is what you intended the whole time. With Micki, I felt a lot of pressure to do her, the character and the book justice.

“And I really wanted to celebrate that work as best as I could. I was given a huge amount of free reign.

Charlotte Hope as Micki Pistorius with Donna Cormack-Thomson as Erika Bothes in ‘Catch Me A Killer’. Picture: Supplied

“I didn’t have a Pretoria accent. I was able to bring a lot of myself to the character.”

She continued: “There’s a lot of overlaps, she had a very nomadic lifestyle when she was younger. And she had a BA in languages and I had a BA in languages. Earlier on in the script, her sister said her jaw was very tense, but it got cut.

“And I have a lot of jaw tension. There was a lot of her that I recognised in myself and I was able to bring a lot of that.

“I wasn’t trying to copy; I was bathed in her words and tried to take the performance from that.”

In the series, viewers witness Pistorius’s process while also getting to know her as a person. Recently divorced, she buries herself in her work.

On being partnered with Donna Cormack-Thomson, who plays Erika Bothes, she revealed: “She is one of my now best friends. I couldn’t speak more highly about her.

“I met Donna when she came in and auditioned and, at that stage, I was already in South Africa. I asked the producers if I could sit in on the auditions because chemistry is really important to me and, to be honest, this was like prep to me to play around with the scenes before shooting.

“Donna came in and we did a scene from the end of the show. Bear in mind that she was only sent the script the night before. As an actor, that is hell. I would have crumbled.

“But they wanted to see a more vulnerable scene. She came in and did the scene with me, and she was phenomenal. As an actor, I was in tears from her performance.”

Hope added: “She also happens to be the kindest most wonderful person as well.”

She also praised the crew as “some of the best in the world” and sung the praises of the directors of photography on the show.

She also revealed: “Micki held my hand through the dark moments, made sure I was okay. She talks a lot in the book, and the show, about when you are in the serial killer's mind to understand how and why they are behaving they way they do. Living in that kind of space is overwhelming and very dark.

“And it took a huge emotional toll on her. She suffered a lot of PTSD. She took care of me to ensure when I entered that abyss, I didn’t go too deep and, for that, I’m beyond grateful because the subject matter is really dark.

“Knowing I had someone to pull me out when it got too dark was invaluable.”

Overall, Pistorius’s approach is what set her apart from others.

Hope shared: “There’s a bit in the book where she say, serial killers are not monsters. They are human beings with tortured souls. I will never condone what they do but I can understand them.

“And it is really, that. It is about finding empathy to stop them quicker, which took a huge toll on her as well. That pressure on this one woman; the harder she worked, the fewer people died.

“If you live in that space all the time, that takes its toll psychologically. The interesting aspect of the show is that Micki is a psychologist and she, through the process, goes through her own psychological unravelling and self-awareness of it.

“And that is an interesting space for an actor to explore.”

Hope is busy with several projects and has several horror movies coming out soon.

Before out time was up, she revealed she would be keen to return to SA for more shoots if and when the opportunity presented itself.

∎“Catch Me A Killer” is streaming on Showmax.