Millions of South Africans have sat down each day of the week to catch up on the lives of the characters who have made 7de Laan the iconic TV series it became on local TV. Actress and director Ingrid Paulus and her husband Denver Vraagom have been part of the SABC2 soapie for more than 20 years, with Ingrid playing Vanessa Meintjies, and Denver portraying Sheldon. Off-screen they have embarked on a different adventure, one of partnership/marriage and parenting two daughters, Skye and Hannah.
Ingrid, 7de Laan has ended. Having played the role of Vanessa for over two decades, what are some of the emotions you are feeling?
I had mixed emotions; it felt like a part of me had died as well, but then came acceptance, and feeling proud of what 7de Laan accomplished.
What was the highlight of being part of the cast?
Being able to tell the stories with my fellow cast mates and building an incredible camaraderie.
What did playing a consistent role teach you in your personal life?
That all good things come to an end, and you must open yourself up to new experiences.
What would you like to pursue next?
Denver and I have started our own production company and hope we can get our projects off the ground soon.
Ingrid and Denver, as a couple both involved in the entertainment industry, how does this impact your family life?
Denver: The hours are long, tiring and sometimes scary. Every so often, we lived past each other, but we never brought work home. Now that 7de Laan has come to an end, Ingrid and I are talking more about work, our own stuff, and that’s feeding our souls.
Ingrid: Denver and I made a pact; you only have 20 minutes to rant and rave about your day and then we both focus on each other and our children. It is easier for us to keep a balanced life because we are in the same industry.
Favourite family activity: Camping
Favourite cuisine: Lasagne
Favourite holiday destination: Cape Town
Favourite movie: Lion King
Favourite guilty pleasure: Watching TikTok videos
With both of you being in the industry, how do you create an environment that has routine?
Denver: What routine? With Skye (who is autistic), there’s got to be some form of routine, as we are dealing with medicine. Hannah is like a drunk Teletubby… you have to follow her around. In general, because I am normally working from home, except for studio days, I am the cook, trying to get their meals done on time, but sometimes too lazy to bath Hannah.
Ingrid: Denver always makes sure the household is in order and that our girls are sorted. I try to help with homework and all the driving, making sure everyone is where they are supposed to be.
Would you want your kids to follow in your footsteps?
Ingrid: It’s difficult to say, as this industry is not a very kind industry. I think, at the end of the day, it is their choice and their journey, a journey they must map out for themselves. A journey I will support them on. I love them too much to tell them what to do.
Denver, congratulations on your SAFTA nomination for best presenter on Words & Numbers!
Thank you so much. I didn’t win, but what an honour to be nominated alongside such greats in the industry.
How does acting differ from presenting for you and which do you prefer?
Denver: It’s nice to portray a character, every now and then. With acting you get to research a character, then dive into that character, offering most of yourself. Presenting takes on another form. You give most of yourself, being most of yourself. The most honest and pure version of yourself. Thankfully, I get to do it with my peers… the 11 and 12-yearolds.
I don’t really have a preference. Every medium brings with it, its own challenges.
Challenges that I love. Radio takes on a form of colouring words with just your voice, while presenting and acting asks you to incorporate your body and directing. Producing involves a lot of paperwork…
What are some of your upcoming projects?
Denver: There are quite a few ‘soul feeding’ productions. Things that I missed doing while working permanently as a director at 7de Laan. It is “me-time”!
Ingrid, in the past you have spoken of your daughter Skye being autistic. What are some of the lessons you have learned about parenting a child with autism?
Patience, even though I am not a patient person. I have learned to be in the moment and not rush through life.
Ingrid, a few years ago, you gave birth to your second child. With an over 10-year age gap between your kids what are the pros, and are there any cons?
The pros for me are that Skye won’t be alone. She always wanted a sibling. The cons are of course the big age gap and sometimes they don’t get along at all.
Does it feel different raising your second child now that you are older?
Ingrid: Yes, it does, I feel more confident as a mother, and if I make mistakes, I am not so hard on myself.
Has your parenting style changed, and if so, how?
Ingrid: Yes, it has. I am much more emotionally involved with my girls, because they have different needs and I try to listen more attentively. Communication is key in a marriage or any relationship.
What do you think is critical for having a long-lasting marriage?
Denver: I only have two words; open communication. If there is no communication, a marriage is set for disaster. In the past, we never used to speak about work at home, but now it is inevitable as we are going to have to create together; something we have been wanting to do for so long. Now is the time. We get to share our passion for stage, film, radio and television, but this time as a couple!
What is your greatest achievement?
Denver: Having an amazing wife and two beautiful children to guide me on my different journeys.
Who are your greatest motivators?
Denver: In life, my wife and children. On the professional side of things and in journeying on this planet of ours, Cheslin Kolbē, Herschel Jantjies, Breyton Paulse, the late Chester Williams, Johan Stemmet, and the Stormers.
Looking back, what would you tell a 25-year-old you?
Denver: Surround yourself with good people in good places. Remember, “you can’t love and respect somebody if there is no self-love and self-respect”.
Ingrid: Don’t be afraid of something new; change is good.
Which family member is the…
Better cook: Denver
Prankster/s: Denver and Skye
Spontaneous one: Denver
Outdoorsy: Denver and Skye
Busy bee: Hannah
What is a typical day in your household?
There is always a fun chaotic atmosphere in the house, but some people might see it as madness