Permission to Dream
Growing up in South Africa, Lesley-Ann Brandt remembers her life revolving around school, sports, family, and friends. “I wasn’t a child who was like, ‘Oh, I want to do this, I want to do that when I’m older.’ Maybe I hadn’t given myself permission to dream in that way,” recalls the 37-year-old actress. She was an “animated” child, always participating in school plays and singing in choir, but never quite fitting in – even with her family, which has brought Brandt close to her younger cousin who is training to be a pilot (“We’re similar in that we didn’t fit into those normal boxes”).
Brandt found a community after the family moved to New Zealand, where a local casting director “helped me get my sh*t together and take [acting] seriously.” Once introduced to acting as a profession, she felt she had found her people for the first time, a group of like-minded people who understood her sense of humor and need to be creative. Brandt’s animation and enthusiasm for the arts in school soon paid off. She landed a role in STARZ series Spartacus: Blood and Sand. She remembers the show as “progressive,” a “violent and bloody period piece” that felt more like filming a movie than a television show. Her time with the show was also a “learning experience” integral to her ability to navigate being on a large set, understanding the politics of the acting business, and simply what being a woman on set entails.
In 2016, Brandt accepted her most well-known role: Mazikeen, demon, confidante, and now bounty hunter, on Lucifer, which will be returning for a fifth season. Mazikeen – “Maze” for short – is a force to be reckoned with. “Maze breaks boundaries,” she says. “She wears what she wants, she talks the way she talks, and does it with a smile on her face and an unapologetic attitude.” She notes that it’s exciting to play a character who is free of the “chains” and expectations women wear, a character free to discover her humanity in her own way – with signature loyalty, ferocity, and protectiveness. “It allows the writers to push boundaries and write lines that wouldn’t have been acceptable on a more conservative network,” says Brandt of the show’s new home Netflix. Moreover, she never realized how much of an impact Mazikeen would have on the LGBTQ+ community, and she still feels there is much more the show could do. “When you have policy and legislation attacking the rights of the community and their ability to just be in a relationship with the person they love, I do feel like Hollywood and our show [have] a responsibility to pick these relationships and the way they inform the wider audience,” she affirms. “No one’s going away, this isn’t something you can just cure. This is who they are, this is who they love, and it’s not hurting you so what does it matter?”
While it likely isn’t easy for a modern woman to relate to a demon bounty hunter, Brandt says Mazikeen has come to feel like “a second skin” to her, a connection she was afraid of losing after becoming a mother in 2017. The character’s protective nature is something Brandt sees in herself. It shows not only in her love and care for her young son, but in how she supports perfect strangers. In the wake of the Trump Administration’s 2018 “zero tolerance” immigration policy, Brandt was shocked and distraught by the news. She saw herself in the parents at the border. “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my son. I would cross the border. I would flee if it would be safer,” she says. The idea of inaction didn’t sit well with her – neither did that helpless feeling – so she decided to auction off a selection of props from Lucifer over her Twitter account. Over two days, the prop sale made 50,000 dollars, which humbled and excited Brandt. The money went in support of two organizations: RAICES that assists families at the U.S.-Mexico border, and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) that works with migrant children arriving in the United States. “Really, it was coming from a place of being a mom,” she insists, adding that she was raised to help everyone in need and it remains a goal in her life.
Writer: Caroline Eddy
Photographer & Videographer: Natalie Walsh
Stylist: Ami Lasser
Hair: Matilde Campos (using IGK Hair & Oribe)
Makeup: Carlene K
Editor: Eiko Watanabe
Special thanks to FD Photo Studio (@fdphotostudio - www.fdphotostudio.com) & BAOHAUS (@baohausnyc - www.baohausnyc.com) & EPK Media (@myepk & @epkmedia - epkmedia.com)