Shannon Esra is obsessed with her ‘Double Jeopardy’-esque role in 'Lioness'
By Debashine Thangevelo 17m ago
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Months after blowing fans away in the 13-part drama series, “Still Breathing”, Shannon Esra returns to M-Net in another compelling drama, “Lioness”.
This time, she plays Samantha Hugo, a suburban housewife and doting mother of three.
Although she appears to have it all, it is a smokescreen to the pervading insecurity, infidelity and unhappiness, which stems from the neglect of her workaholic husband.
In a recent chat with Esra, she said: “Candice (’Still Breathing’) is such a different kettle of fish to Sam.
“When the email came in July, I was like, what is that. The title sounded so fierce and then I read the brief and I was like, ‘Oh wow, that sounds interesting’.
“And then I started reading the character breakdown of Sam and I was like, ‘I am Sam’. I just felt instantly connected to her. I resonated with her on multiple levels.”
This role not only gave her goosebumps, it, literally, made her soul sing.
Esra reflected on something the late Moonyeenn Lee, who was her casting agent when she first joined the industry, said to her.
The actress recalled: “Moonyeenn said to me, ‘If you don’t resonate with a part, then it is not for you’. And as I’ve gotten older, it’s become something I really rely on.”
Aside from that she also relies on one other thing – having an equal measure of excitement and terror.
She explained: “Excitement at the prospect of getting it (the role) and the terror of not being good enough to perform it.
“And it becomes a challenge, it becomes something that wakes me up, pushes me and forces me into a process of discovery and of openness to approach the character with care, respect and non-judgement.”
“Lioness” tells the story of a woman who spends several years behind bars after being framed for fraud committed by her husband before his passing.
She lost her children, freedom and life and is determined to reclaim what’s hers while clearing her name.
Her role in “Lioness” ticked all the boxes.
She admitted: “With Sam, oh my god, the woman is just so alive. She is just so filled with fight, courage and just this fearlessness.
“And even when she is scared, she just walks right into the fire, she doesn’t care if she burns.”
This character touched Esra on a deeper level, too.
“Sam has made me so much stronger and braver in my life,” the actress shared. “She wears her heart on her sleeve. She is so vulnerable with her children.
“She doesn’t care what anyone thinks. She has this love and patience and kindness. I am so obsessed with Sam.”
Esra couldn’t stop singing the praises of the cast. She revealed: “We got the dream cast.
“I’ve never worked with Natasha Sutherland, what a legend! To sit at the feet of Fiona Ramsay, what a privilege. We worked together a long time ago in ‘Hard Copy’.
“Jack Devnarain comes in and plays this sulky journalist. He is so delightful. He had me corpsing on set. Honestly, I love everyone to bits.”
The script has a very Double Jeopardy-esque feel to it. Esra is familiar with the movie, having watched it five times to date.
She added: “Sam is way better, she doesn’t bend, she doesn’t break. She’s water, she just goes.
“She’s just such a beautiful character. To have a female head writer like Ilse van Hemert write such a strong female and nuanced character, it changes everything. From start to finish, the pace is just incendiary.”
“Lioness” debuts on M-Net (DStv channel 101) on Thursday, January 28, at 8.30pm.