Askies! is a South African television sitcom created by Teboho Pietersen and Yolanda Mogatusi and produced by Luna Films which follows a diverse group of adults who have to learn an indigenous South African language in a surreal Zulu-language night school to improve their social status.
Eleven official languages and a handful of quirky but determined students: the sleazeball from upstairs, the maid who knows it all and, of course, their Afrikaans-speaking Zulu teacher all contribute to the question Askies asks: will they ever learn to understand one another?
In the surreal world of the Zulu Night Language-school, they learn to overcome their prejudices and cultural tics... to communicate with each other.
The only thing Frida (Hanli Rolfes) got from her divorce is the best years of her life flushed down the toilet, her heart broken and a pawn shop in the middle of Randburg.
But this Afrikaans Primary school teacher from the "platteland" is not going to give up just yet and so she sets out to try to keep her head above water by dodging her landlord and wannabe gangster, Mikey (Dirk Stoltz), who lives upstairs with his grandmother. He wants to turn the pawn shop into a night club.
In order to stay afloat, Frida, with the help of Persistence (Tumi Morake) - the world's most streetsmart tea lady - has to use her language skills to teach a motley crew of after-hours students Zulu.
Frida (Hanli Rolfes)
The wise-cracking killjoy
Sarcastic, Eccentric, Rough around the edges
A menopausal, middle-aged, Afrikaans woman who owns and runs a Zulu Language School in an old pawnshop left to her by her husband in their divorce settlement.
Gerhard (Zak Hendrikz)
The gullible fool
Ambitious, hustler, thinks he's a ladies man... but he's not.
A 21-year-old Afrikaans male originally from Klerksdorp, Gerhard needs to jack up his social and language skills if he is going to be selling any of his latest inventions to the new market. He is a water cooler salesman who spends all his time inventing new products that will improve life for the ordinary man "no batteries included".
Blessing (Nat Ramabulana)
The lovable loser
Gentle, Self-obsessed, Actor
The Sotho-speaking black man trying to make his fortune as an actor in the City of Gold who needs to learn Zulu for improving his futile chances of getting a role on television and becoming a real actor. He never gives up.
Samantha (Carine Rous)
The hot hippie chick
Sweet, Naïve, Martyr
A 24-year-old girl, Frida's niece loves all things green and Black. Samantha is learning Zulu as a part of her integration into the rainbow society where she will do all she can to bridge the bridges long burnt and hopefully discover her inner Zulu who she knows is hidden in her somewhere.
It's also her "Tannie's" class and she helps her out wherever she can even if it's a small thing like bringing herbal chocolate crunches to make everyone feel relaxed.
Nombulelo (Motlatji Ditodi)
The fickle intellectual
Sassy sharp, snobbish
A black female who grew up in exile and has returned as an art curator and dealer for the rich and powerful of Jo'burg.
She needs to learn Zulu to extend her affluent black clientele for the art gallery and she needs to communicate in an indigenous African language as it's now fashionable to learn a little vernacular which will give her an "in" into the new elite.
Persistence Mokhosi (Tumi Morake)
The rock and hard place
Audacious, greedy, street-smart
During the daytime she helps Frida mind the pawn shop, and during the classes she acts as disgruntled tea lady.
Mikey (Dirk Stoltz)
Egotistical Landlord wannabe gangster
A 40-something gangster-wannabe landlord who lives with his gran upstairs from Frida's school. He is constantly trying to take Frida out on a date when he is not demanding rent or just trying to be part of the class.
Askies! is a concept that was inspired to creators Teboho Pietersen and Yolanda Mogatusi of Thousand Hugs as a concept brief from SABC2 in 2007. Luna Films' Bridget Pickering and Neil Brandt were brought on as executive producers.
Thandi Brewer played a crucial role in the ground work of creating storylines. Joshua Rous and Luke Rous of City Ses'la fame were brought on as head writers and consultation.
Andre Odendaal was brought on after he auditioned for one of the characters and was drawn to the creative team, ending up as head director of the series.
Joshua Rous became second director on the show. He and Andre Odendaal took on training Yolanda Mogatusi as a director on the show.
Askies! features all 11 official languages but mainly Afrikaans, English and Sotho – with English subtitles. The working title of the show was Zulu For Sale.