In danger lies freedom: Cantona James felt it a was a calling to take up the lead role in Showmax’s ‘Spinners’

Cantona James plays Ethan in Spinners. Supplied image.

Cantona James plays Ethan in Spinners. Supplied image.

Published Sep 9, 2023


Johannesburg - Award-winning actor Cantona James jumped at the chance to play the lead in the critically-acclaimed local series “Spinners”, set to debut on Showmax soon.

“Spinners”, the first African series ever selected in competition at Canneseries, the internationally renowned television festival in Cannes, France, centres on teenager Ethan, who becomes a driver working for a local gang.

Needing to support his younger brother, but becoming increasingly horrified with gang life, the 17-year-old discovers a possible way out via spinning, an extreme motorsport where he can put his driving skills to better use.

And for James, playing the role of Ethan is something he felt was a calling.

“Once I saw the brief, I absolutely knew I wanted to be a part of this as it was a huge opportunity to represent a large part of my community,” he told The Saturday Star.

“It’s different from anything I’ve done because it’s one of the first things that is authentic to its core,” James added.

And while the eight-part drama series is only set to premiere across sub-Saharan Africa on Showmax in November, Spinners has already received rave reviews.

The series, set in the world of spinning, an extreme motorsport which is expected to have viewer’s jaws on the floor, won Best Series and Best Editing at Dakar Series, an annual series of rally raid off-road races organised by the Amaury Sport Organisation.

“Spinning is making art with your car,” James said. “Going in a donut, making an eight, people hanging outside a car while it’s spinning, standing on top of a car … it’s just thrilling.”

Spinners is set to debut on Showmax in November. Supplied image.

The first episode of the series debuted last week to a sold-out audience and received a standing ovation at the Silwerskerm Fees, an annual film festival held Camps Bay, Cape Town.

“Spinners” was also the opening night screening at MIP Africa 2023, part of FAME Week Africa, a Business to Business marketplace for African film, TV, and digital content distribution.

The response to “Spinners” has been thrilling for James, who also won Best Performance at Dakar Series.

Speaking about the reaction the series received at the Silwerskerm Fees, the Cape Town-born actor said: “It was a beautiful experience to have our people see the show, how they received it was absolutely amazing and I was never so proud before.”

He is now looking forward to the rest of the nation’s reaction to “Spinners”, when it debuts on Showmax later this year.

“I feel the public will love this because it’s a big part of so many people’s culture, as well as it being a completely universal story that can apply in any place. I feel that it will open a door for many more shows like it.”

‘Spinners’ is set to debut on Showmax in November. Picture: Supplied.

James added that there is so much about “Spinners” that is different from anything else in the television realm.

“It has thriller, action, drama, love and friendship, but it doesn’t shy away from the reality of life, so that everyone in a similar situation will relate and will find motivation to change their circumstances, which is needed in so many communities,” he said.

James believes there is widespread fascination with the extreme motorsport of spinning and he is delighted for the nation to watch it unfold on their TV screens.

“It’s a thrill to live on the edge and control something so chaotic, and it’s like life, you can only control what’s in front of you but spinners make it poetic,” he said.

Spinners is set to debut on Showmax in November. Supplied image.

“My cast and crew was the most fulfilling and challenging, as they were people I’ve looked up to and always wanted to work with, so I was on my best everyday because it meant that much to me,” he said.

The “Spinners” cast includes Chelsea Thomas of “Arendsvlei” in the female lead role, along with Dillon Windvogel from “Blood & Water” and Elton Landrew from “Recipes for Love & Murder”.

Others in the “Spinners” cast are South African Film and Television Award (Safta) winners Brendon Daniels from “Zulu”, “Skemerdans” and “Five Fingers for Marseille”; Dann Jaques Mouton, who also featured in “Arendsvlei” and “Noem My Skollie”; Safta nominee David Isaacs, who co-created “Joe Barber”; as well as rising star Katlego Lebogang from “Wounds”.

“Spinners” is helmed by Jaco Bouwer, director of the 2022 Safta Best TV Drama winner “4 Mure” and the 2021 SXSW Cinematography winner “Gaia”, the most nominated film at the upcoming 2023 Saftas.

And for Thomas who plays the female lead of Amber on the series, spinning was a central part of her childhood.

“Spinning has always been a big part of culture in Cape Town, in the Cape Flats,” she said. “I grew up in Kraaifontein, and for all my childhood I would go to the pitch on a Sunday and that would be where all the cars gathered to spin.”

And she said that it wasn’t only men behind the wheel.

“When I started the job on ‘Spinners’, then only I learned that females are actually dominating the sport now,” she said. “’Spinners’ shows a different side to it: it shows the passion, the drive, the adrenaline, so I’m excited for the rest of the world to see what our people are all about.”

“Spinners” is set to premiere on Showmax on November 8, with new episodes on Wednesdays for the rest of the year.

The Saturday Star