They’ve been referred to as a power couple in the entertainment industry in South Africa.
And actress Tiffany Barbuzano is clearly delighted.
She smiles broadly as she boasts about her dream relationship on-and-off set with her husband and award-winning director, Johnny Barbuzano.
“If it’s in print? It must be true,” Tiffany says giggling.
“That’s a label I would love to wear with pride.
“I think Johnny and I are storytellers at heart.
“We are so strongly driven to better the industry.
“For every actor and every crew member.
“If we can say we made a positive impact on someone by telling our stories, then I guess we are a power couple.
“I’m just happy striving for bigger, better things with an incredible storyteller like Johnny by my side.”
The Barbuzanos are in every sense a true power couple in the entertainment industry in South Africa.
For years, the couple has worked to create some of South Africa’s best TV shows and movies, and in the process picked up much-deserved recognition.
And they are not slowing down any time soon.
Last week the couple, who together own a successful production company, BBZ Films, were again flung into the spotlight as the SA Film and Television Awards (Saftas) were revealed.
They picked up numerous nominations, with one of their latest creations, TV drama series Still Breathing, receiving an incredible 10 nominations.
Tiffany was nominated in the best actress in a TV drama category for her performance as Jessica in Still Breathing.
The actress has won the best actress twice before.
She also picked up a nomination in the best achievement in scriptwriting category.
Johnny was nominated for best achievement in directing in the TV comedy category for his Netflix movie How to Ruin Christmas, The Wedding.
The atmosphere in the Barbuzano household last week was quite joyous.
“There was a lot of hugging and happy dancing,” says Tiffany.
“Johnny has been nominated for best director in a comedy too, so there was a lot to celebrate.
“When we told the boys, they were so sweet and proud of us and themselves.
“I think this year was so special because we all (and I’m talking about the industry at large) needed a boost.
“We’re so proud of the cast and crew that received nominations too.
“There were many phone calls.”
Still Breathing, a 13-part series, centres on a group of former friends who are drawn together again after tragedy strikes.
Johnny helmed the series, while his wife Tiffany wrote the script and also stars in the show.
Their children Jamie and Jesse also made their acting debut.
The show pays homage to Tiffany’s sister, who succumbed to breast cancer in 2018.
“It was an exploration of human dynamics and the idea of loss and grief and how that changes people,” says Tiffany.
“Loss – It’s one thing that unites all people – regardless of age, race, religious belief… We will lose people we love and that will change us forever.”
Working alongside her husband has been a delight.
“Johnny is a magnificent director – Honestly, one of the best I’ve ever worked with.
“And a magnificent husband and father. Sometimes it was easy and sometimes tough.”
“We lived and breathed Still Breathing for over two years… But mostly it was wonderful.
“He is my biggest supporter and biggest critic so sometimes we butt heads.
“I was very attached to the scripts and he put his director hat on and wanted to be ruthless at times.
“That caused some fireworks.
“But we are both very passionate about what we do.
“I love being with him and my sons (Jamie and Jesse) on set.”
Johnny agrees, although he does admit there are challenges that come with working with your partner on set.
“The trickiest part is there’s never an off-button.
“It gets hard trying to balance home life and set life when you’re always together.
“Also, it’s super weird directing your wife playing someone else’s wife, especially when the character is loosely based on yourself.
“It’s challenging trying to stay objective.
“But, as difficult as it sometimes gets, I wouldn’t be able to do it with anyone else.”
His wife agrees that there’s no easy way to separate their work lives and their personal lives.
“The truth is we don’t separate the two. When we make something we give 110%.
“That’s something we should work on.
“There’s no off button.”
While they may not always agree, the couple say they couldn’t be happier working side-by-side.
“We’ve been together for so long and developed together in the industry, from our early university days to where we’re at today – and now that we’re creating work we’ve wanted to do for a long time – it’s amazing to finally see our dreams fully realised,” says Johnny.
“We see television in the same way for the most part and challenge each other in the right ways where we disagree.”
“As a director, it’s amazing having someone you fully trust to bounce ideas off of.
“Tiffany basically co-directed Still Breathing without the credit.
“I’m also incredibly proud of how she has taken a challenging period in her life and turned it into a series that not only entertains audiences but has also connected with people who have gone through similar struggles.”
The two also spoke of the amazing chemistry they share on set together.
“It really is something special,” says Tiffany.
“There is something really liberating about being on set and creating and shooting something with someone you have complete and utter trust in.
“As an actress, that’s priceless.
“If he told me to swim with sharks because he thought it was safe, I probably would.
“(But I’d also probably crap on him for not sticking to the script.
“Johnny is a realist and I’m an eternal optimist so we balance each other out.
“We finish each other’s sentences but still challenge each other creatively, emotionally, and spiritually.
“Our ethos as a company and as human beings is to make sure everyone feels seen, heard, and recognised and has a chance to make a contribution and I think that’s part of our magic.
“Is it perfect?
“Not at all but we strive to make it a beautiful place to work every time we do a production.”
The two say they are delighted by the nomination they have received at this year’s Saftas and hope there are more special moments to come in the future.
“All of our nominations have blown us away,” says Tiffany.
There’s something incredibly humbling to get recognition from your peers in the industry.
When you put your heart and soul into a show, into a character – for other people to see that?
To see your effort and hear your heart?
“It’s truly a beautiful thing and I’m always so grateful for it.”