Shannon Esra |
She is well known for her role as Sandra Stein, the cutthroat and ruthless lawyer. With this role, Shannon has managed to cross over between The Queen, The River, The Throne, and most recently, the latest Mzansi offering Gomora. This set an unprecedented South African television history of having played one role in four different shows.
“Sandra came to me because of Shona Ferguson. He and I had spent several months together, playing love-interests on Isidingo. He approached me about 6 months after our storyline wrapped; he told me about a lawyer character they were developing and asked if I would be interested in it. I, of course, jumped at the opportunity! Never in my wildest dreams did I think Sandra would be so loved and well-received!” Shannon tells TV Mzansi.
“I am so grateful for the career I have – I have been blessed with some wonderful characters, which I hold very dear and close to me. They kind of never leave you, like an indelible residue.”, she adds.
Her breakthrough came from theatre, which earned her a Naledi Award for Best Performance and Fleur De Cup nominee. This was for her portrayal of Neets in Dorothy Ann Gould’s 2004 theatre production “Japes”. This award-winning actress graduated from the University of Witwatersrand with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dramatic Arts in 2003.
She is set to headline ‘Lioness’ a drama series that will premiere on MNet channel 101 on DStv from Thursday 28 January at 20:30.
This well-celebrated actress plays a leading role in this brand new crime-drama series which is set to enthrall viewers. She portrays Samantha, a woman who loses her children, her lover, and her freedom when she is framed for fraud committed by her husband before his death, only to meet a shocking discovery eight years later.
One thing about Shannon, she has breathed life into an abundance of complex characters in her career. The actress, whose résumé also includes Candice on Still Breathing, another MNet Original series is yet to enthrall viewers with this role. MNet released a trailer for the new show Lioness and she also gave us a glimpse of what to expect from this highly anticipated series.
“The show is set in 2012 and 2020. It was vital to the journey of the characters that we were able to shoot them in sequence, as blocks. 2012 is a time before jail and 2020 is post-eight-years of incarceration.” she says.
“It was imperative for me to remain “out-of-my-head” during the filming of the 2020 years. In the aging process of Sam, me and Amy, (my make-up artist and dear friend) decided to strip Sam down to her very core. We removed any and all sense of glamour and enhanced the rawness of her looks and really leaned into her having aged. In prison, Sam confronted some hard truths to survive, which invariably made her that much stronger. I didn’t look at myself in the mirror at all. I needed to avoid any semblance of self-consciousness or vulnerability (as the actor). It was the most liberating experience to allow myself to be “ugly”, to let go of my idea of “beauty” and immerse myself in Sam.”
In addition to the complex characters she has played in Mzansi, she also made history when she became the first Caucasian female actress to lead a Bollywood series. She had a starring role as one of the six heroines in the Bollywood film Salaam-E-Ishq.
“I am very conscious of the roles I take on. Not everything is for me. There are many occasions when something comes across my desk and I know, unequivocally, that it’s for another actress who will do it more justice than I ever could. The most important thing I look for when an audition floats my way is how it leaves me feeling. Does it resonate with me? Does it make me feel excited and terrified at the same time? If all of those questions are answered with a resounding and unanimous, “Yes!”, then I submit myself for consideration. The rest is up to the Universe and the powers-that-be.”
She continued to express the importance of being grounded in an industry that is fast-paced and challenging. Given her upbringing, she has always been a focused person. “My parents and extended family have never treated me as “special”. I get teased and taunted just like everyone else! It’s important not to lean into the ego.”
The last few months have been such a challenging and sobering time for artists — a period of isolation & uncertainty due to the pandemic. “It’s forced me to diversify myself; really challenge myself, as well as ask for help and support. COVID-19 stripped away a lot of denials and forced me to really look at my life and ask myself, “am I really happy?” In doing so, it has caused me to make immense changes in my personal life. Necessary changes. Necessary growth. Welcomed on both fronts.”
In the midst of it all, she’s trying to stay creative and ready to usher us into her new role. Don’t miss ‘Lioness’ on MNet channel 101 from 28th January 2021 at 20:30
Watch Official Trailer for Lioness: