Talking Tali with Julia Anastasopoulos
You probably know Julia Anastasopoulos’s face, but maybe not her name. Or at least, not her real name. As SuzelleDIY and @tali_babes, she’s created two of the most hilarious characters ever to tickle South Africa’s funny bones.
And now, after leaving a path of destruction in her quest for the perfect wedding, Tali is back – and she’s having a baby! We chatted to Julia as she and her team – which includes her real-life husband, Ari Kruger, as director and co-creator – worked on wrapping up the brand-new series Tali’s Baby Diary, coming to Showmax soon.
How did you come up with the character of Tali?
I grew up in Joburg and there were so many Tali Babes in my life. She was just this character that I had in my head for years and years – even at drama school she just kept popping up. Then SuzelleDIY came along, and we did that, but we knew we’d want to do another character one day. Tali was the perfect option because she already existed – it was just a question of bringing her to life.
At first, we thought we’d do another web series similar to Suzelle, so we started shooting a pilot. We very quickly realised the world of Tali is just so exciting and bigger than what we could put into a short web series, and it needed production and other characters. We made the pilot and shortly after, Showmax got in touch, which was amazing, and we haven’t looked back since.
Are the characters in Tali’s Wedding Diary and Baby Diary based on real people?
Not at all! They’re just imaginings of people. The amazing thing is that the actors really brought their own nuances to each character, and those are things we never could have written. It’s been so awesome to see and be a part of.
We have a very solid script going in, but if there’s room to play on the day, we always do, and it’s often those things the actors come up with on the spot that are the funniest moments in the show. Season 2 is definitely weirder and wilder than Season 1.
How did you cast both seasons?
The first season happened quite organically. We shot the pilot when we weren’t sure what we were doing with the project, so we just kind of used people who were on our immediate radar. We were already working with Anton and Glen, and Lara (Toselli, who plays frenemy Gabi) we knew, so it was just a kind of happy accident.
In Season 2, we obviously stuck with the same casting for the main characters, but I was absolutely blown away by the talents that came forward for the new characters. It was so hard to choose! I was so excited about how many people were keen to get involved and see their creativity and what they were bringing to the audition room. It really inspired me.
For the most part, the people who ended up being cast were not the people we would have expected – but what a treat to work with such an amazing cast.
There are some incredible cameos from some very well-known personalities. What were some of your highlights?
I have to say that the day we shot with Schalk Bezuidenhout was the one day I actually couldn’t keep myself together. I don’t normally lose character and laugh in a scene but I couldn’t help myself. He plays such a different character to what we’re used to seeing and he’s hilarious. Everyone was in hysterics.
Deon Lotz intimidated me because he’s a legend, but he was such a dream to work with – so knowledgeable and understanding. It was so inspiring to see him work but he’s actually just a regular, down-to-earth guy.
Who’s your dream co-star?
Gosh, maybe Kirsten Wiig or Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Did you start thinking about S2 straight away, or did you think you were done with Tali?
We did start thinking about it immediately, but there were a few delays that were out of our hands. In that time, Ari and I had our own baby (Zoe, now two-and-a-half) , so it was great to have that experience and knowledge when we went into the writing.
The time in between also allowed us to figure out exactly what we wanted to do. We always knew it would be Baby Diary though – we thought seeing Tali have a baby would be very funny.
How did your own journey to motherhood inspire Tali’s Baby Diary?
The biggest takeaway for me becoming a parent was that it is not the way it’s portrayed in the media. You’re expecting this very perfect experience, and then you wonder why, why didn’t anyone tell me about this? It’s not as glamorous as it’s made out to be – seeing Tali grapple with that is part of the comedy that we wanted to bring to the show. As a new mom, you often have to resort to your sense of humour to make it through the day. Hopefully, people can relate, even though Tali is not like the rest of us – she’s very heightened.
Do you think motherhood is going to mellow Tali out? Or feed the crazy?
Oh, definitely feed the crazy! I mean, it fed my crazy.
When people recognise you in the street, do they call you Tali or Suzelle (or Julia!)
It depends. When I’m blonde, I get more “Tali Babes” – people shout out the car window, which is insane to me. A lot of the time, though, it’s kids, and they all see me as Suzelle. No one really knows me as Julia, so I have some anonymity. And when I’m wearing a mask, no one comes to me – it’s like a little disguise.
Do people still think Suzelle and Tali are real people?
There are some people, which blows my mind. People have asked if Suzelle will be in the meeting, and I’m actually in the meeting. The funniest was when Tali first came out, people thought that Tali was the actress who was playing Suzelle. I suppose it’s a compliment that people think they’re real.
How has Tali been received?
People love it – it’s such a fun character. Even if you don’t know any Sandton kugels, you can relate. People come up to me and say, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re exactly like my friend.’ I think there’s a little bit of Tali Babes in all of us. As South Africans we’re so good at laughing at ourselves and Tali does that for sure.
What qualities of Tali’s do you wish you had?
Tali says it like it is, and I wish I was more like that in my real life. She’s unashamedly who she is, and I admire that in people. She does take it a bit too far, though – there is a limit!
I also love Tali’s wardrobe – she can just pull it off, she’s got such a glam look. I just can’t – I’m a comfy mom person. It’s fun to be able to go there for a little while and be a glamorous version of myself and have my brows and lashes and nails done.
What’s Tali’s worst quality?
She puts herself first – which isn’t always a bad thing, but she’s actually quite self-obsessed and she doesn’t really see beyond that. In this season, she realises that it’s not all about her, which is good. Hopefully, she redeems herself in this season – we’ll have to see.
How does Marc Jacobs feel about the baby?
Shame, he becomes very anxious and depressed. Marc Jacobs is definitely not vibing the baby. A little dog by the name of Kennedy plays Marc Jacobs – a sweet, meek, shy guy but he’s quite old and is a bit grey around the snout so he just sleeps all day around set.
What were some of your favourite moments on set?
Oh my gosh, so many. Any scene with Kate Normington was just the best – she is so funny. I really enjoyed working with her again. She’s just amazing really.
A standout for me was the day we shot the gender reveal party. We were in a beautiful location and we were outside. It was quite gruelling because it was hot, but it was so fun to be with the whole cast and crew.
Anything with Michaela, who is played by my actual sister, Stephanie, is a highlight – we just get so hysterical together.
Also, Kate Pinchuck [who plays Taryn in Tali’s Baby Diary]. It’s so great to be surrounded by such a brilliant cast.
What’s it like working with your real husband?
For the most part, it’s just so great. The pros are that we are fully in support of each other all the time. We’ve worked together so much and know each other so well. We can tell what we need from each other; we have a great working relationship.
The downside of it is that we’re always working. It’s not like we get home and we can chat about the day; we get home and we’re absolutely dead, we can’t even talk. We go to bed and look at edits or wake up early to review some stills. It’s a challenge, but we make it work.
The challenge this time was Zoe, because we had such a tough schedule, and it was so hard to balance the on-set and parenting roles.
If you were forced to live the rest of your life as one of your alter-egos, who would you pick: Suzelle or Tali?
That’s a really hard one because I love both of these characters very dearly. I guess I prefer Suzelle’s DIY lifestyle – she’s not so high maintenance and she’s creative. But Suzelle’s very lonely and I like that Tali is surrounded by family. I can tell you that both characters are equally exhausting for me to play! Shame, poor Suzelle – she’s like a little lost ghost at the moment.
Who’s more ruthless in fleecing people of their money – the wedding industry or the baby industry?
I have to say the baby industry! I’ve been through it; I’ve bought all that stuff – you don’t need it. I joke about the fact that I’m glad that we got married before having a baby because the wedding just becomes so obsolete – it’s so distant in my memory, I can’t believe it was such a big thing in my life, but it was just twenty-four hours, and having a baby is a totally different ball game. The baby stuff and the baby blogs – it’s all so ridiculous.
Have you got any more characters in your back pocket?
Definitely – but it’s hard to say now who’s next. I am so inspired by people and interesting characters I meet in my life and I do feel like I want to do something else – I just don’t know what it is right now.
What else is your production company, Sketchbook Studios, working on?
At the moment, every inch of Sketchbook is a-hundred-percent under an avalanche of Tali Season 2, but we do all sorts of things like branded content and commercials. We have a few projects in the pipeline. It’s an amazing time to be making content – whether it’s another season of Tali, or a brand-new TV show, or even a movie – we’re just excited about the possibilities, and hopefully Season 2 might help open those doors for us.
Before finding fame, you were a successful illustrator and designer. Do you still have any time for art?
Another distant ghost from my past! At the moment, we’re not only wrapping up Tali, we’re also moving, after 18 years in the same flat. So, I’ve been going through books and books of illustration work. In fact, before Suzelle I was done with acting – I didn’t want to go and sit in auditions and awful castings to land one part a year. Then Suzelle came along and everything shifted. I wish I had more time for art but it’s the kind of skill that won’t go away. I’m very inspired to draw but having two alter-egos and a production company is enough. The moms’ groups who say you can have it all must come to my house at six o’clock in the evening!
What have you been streaming?
I binged New Amsterdam – loved it. Also, A Million Little Pieces and The Undoing – that just got me. Give me any cooking show – I’ll binge that. I like to watch lighthearted things normally, but at the moment I’m too busy to watch anything much!