Shannon Esra: from The Queen's fierce lawyer Sandra Stein to emo Candice on M-Net's Still Breathing

Written by Tashi from the blog Interviews on 27 Feb 2020
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She's renowned for playing feisty lawyers on The Queen (The River, The Throne) and The Lab, she heated up Isidingo with Richard Lukunku as Angelique and tonight (27 February) Shannon Esra plays Candice on M-Net's new local drama series Still Breathing.

If you've missed the memo: it starts at 20h10 and it's about a group of friends who've been apart for years until a tragedy strikes them back together.

Who is Candice? Who is Shannon? Who is Sandra Stein? And why's she getting DM's from the desperate girlfriends of people who've been arrested?

I asked Shannon: 

Shannon on Candice: She has a lot of secrets. She's a woman wrapped up in a mystery, wrapped up in an enigma and she portrays a very specific self to her best friend Abby (played by Kate Liquorish).

But there are things she cannot tell Abby, that she's desperate to tell Abby and in the wake of this tragedy, that's when everything starts to unravel for her.

On location filming Still Breathing, between scenes

Tashi: If you'd had a behind-the-scenes camera on set, what would you want people to see?
 I'd want them to see what a beautiful environment we had created, that Johnny and Tiffany (Barbuzano) worked really hard to have, that our line producer Sandra Kriek and our incredible first AD (Assistant Director) Marisha - it was just the most wonderful, warm, safe set environment and so filled with love and belief in this show and really just everyone adoring their craft and excelling at it. 

Tashi: Who was the biggest joker on set? 
What's interesting about that question is that because so much of Candice's scenes... I had a lot to do on my own.

So I had a lot of isolated scenes where it was basically just me on the call sheet until much, much later. Given the emotional storyline, where Candice's story lives, there wasn't a hell of a lot of joking. *laughs

I'm actually quite a little jester and one day one of the second AD's Claudia said: "Oh my gosh Shannon, you're so funny and you're so quirky and in the meantime you're playing a really emotionally intense role - you're so different."

Any time that I could bring in some levity I did because hell, I had 24 calls and of my 24 days, there was only one day where I was not required to cry. 

Tashi: How do you cry (on demand)?!
In this particular show I was very fortunate to be connected to the material right off the bat.

Candice was just deep inside me from the moment I heard about her and her story, it still gets me really emotional. I just have so much compassion for her, I didn't need to use any trickery.

Every now and again, on other shows, sometimes I might have to think of the worst possible thing that could happen and the thing that gets me every time is that I think of one of my parents passing - that gets me into an absolute, apoplectic breakdown but in this, it really was in the material.

All I had to do was just listen and respond. It was quite extraordinary.

Tashi: Apparently people refer to you as Sandra Stein in real life?
They really do.

Tashi: Do they ask you to represent them as their lawyer?

Tashi: Ha! You're kidding.
No, someone DM'd me the other day and said: "Wait, so you're also an actress - you're on this show??"

I was like, "No dude, I am an actress, that is my job. This is another role that I'm playing."

I've had people telling me that I should actually go and change my name at Home Affairs.

Tashi: Where do they do it? On Twitter? In real life?  
On Twitter. In real life too. I can literally count one time where someone has said, "Hey, Shannon!" and you know what, I didn't even respond because I was like," Hey wait, that's me!" It's always Sandra.

Tashi: It's never happened with any other character before?
Well, look of course you would always get the "Angie!" from Isidingo but not to the degree that people respond to Sandra - people love her.

They just... I don't know - it's fantastic. It keeps me in business, it keeps the character coming back. I've just done my fourth telenovela as her.

Tashi: Did the person who DM'd you contact you with the thing of: "Could you be my lawyer?"
Oh ja, I'll get messages at like 02h00 in the morning: "Please help, my boyfriend's been arrested." I"m like, "Um... I'm not a lawyer".

It's wild! It's fantastic, I'm glad you all think that I'm really this person. I'm doing my job then.

Actors in this post: Shannon Esra

Channels in this post: M-Net, Mzansi Magic

1 Comment

27 Feb 2020 13:27

Such a beautiful and talented lady, I'm a huuuuge fan

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