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Cantona James on slipping into the skin of his ‘Spinners’ character

Cantona James. Picture: Supplied

Cantona James. Picture: Supplied

Published Oct 27, 2023


The new Showmax series “Spinners” is set to premiere on November 8 and boasts a stellar cast of first-rate actors.

In the action-packed series, Ethan, a 17-year-old boy who comes from a crime and poverty-stricken community on the Cape Flats, called Lavender Hill.

In the award-winning series, Cantona James plays Ethan,a getaway driver for a local gang.

Needing to support his younger brother but increasingly fed up by the gang life, Ethan discovers a possible way out via spinning, an extreme motorsport where he can put his driving skills to better use.

Jihaad Otto and Cantona James in “Spinners”. Picture: Supplied

The brothers live in a tiny flat as their drug-addict single mother abandoned them. But they constantly live in fear as Ethan skips school to run with the gang to earn enough to support them.

When Ethan finds himself at a crossroad after a teenager with down syndrome is caught in the crossfire of the gang wars, he realises he needs to get out and spinning seems to be the answer.

On getting into character, James said: “I was smoking for like three years at the time, a pack and a half a day, but as soon as I stepped on set as Ethan, I stopped smoking. It helped me a lot because the anxiety started resurfacing in my body, so I could show everything he is going through.

“In preparation for the role, I started eating once a day as well, because Ethan doesn’t have the luxury of eating more than once a day. I realised that when your stomach speaks louder than your thoughts, your moral meter starts fading, because now you will do anything to survive.

“Your fight or flight starts being louder than anything; louder than your conscience. And so you will do what you need to do to survive.

“Having that going on in my body but reminding myself that someone else is feeling worse, my baby brother, that just enhanced the responsibility that I felt I needed to take care of him.”

James admitted that walking in the shoes of his character changed him.

“I took my character home, which never really is a good thing. The people I lived with didn’t really like the fact that I didn’t show any emotion for four months of shooting. But there’s only one scene where my character cries.

“Only one, and he goes through so much. So to do my character justice, I can’t go home and feel these things when he doesn’t. It’s the least I could do for him.”

Much like his character, crime affected his life in 2012.

“I lost my mother in 2012, she was murdered along with my brother and sister by her boyfriend. I felt that similarity because I walked a lot of years with guilt at not protecting my family. I lost my entire family and being the eldest child (as is Ethan), I felt like I didn’t do enough to protect them,” James shared.

In May 2023, Cantona won Best Performance at the inaugural Dakar Series, where “Spinners” also took home Best TV Series and Best Editing for 2023 Safta nominee Andrea Shaw (“Recipes for Love and Murder”) and Safta winner Matthew Swanepoel (Emmy nominee “Reyka”, Oscar-shortlisted “Inxeba – The Wound”).

James, who is not the spinning type or a car enthusiast, said he grew fond of the sport after the making of this series.

“Spinning is making art with your car, the car going in a doughnut, making an eight, people hanging outside a car while it’s spinning, standing on top of a car… it’s just thrilling, it’s a lekker feeling thing to see.”

∎ “Spinners” season will air on Showmax from November 8.