Dillon Windvogel and Chelsea Thomas on going full throttle in ‘Spinners’

A scene from the local series, ‘Spinners’. Picture: Supplied

A scene from the local series, ‘Spinners’. Picture: Supplied

Published Nov 3, 2023


With days to go before “Spinners” premières on Showmax, there is a lot of hype around this local series, which is set in the Cape Flats.

It centres on Ethan (Cantona James), a 17-year-old working as a driver for a notorious gang in the neighbourhood. With a younger brother to support, this is his only way of ensuring they have a roof over their head and food on the table.

But the more time he spends on the job, the more disgusted he becomes with the gang life. And when he learns of an extreme motorsport known as spinning, he is not only intrigued, he sees it as a way out, especially with his skills behind the wheel.

With a gang war looming, though, can he turn his life around fast enough?

To date, this series has already been impressing audiences. It won three awards at Dakar Series, including Best TV Series, and received a standing ovation at 11th kykNET Silverskerm Film Festival.

It was also the opening night screening at MIP Africa, generating rave reviews, with TWFLD hailing it as “the gold standard for local productions”.

Ahead of the show’s debut on the streaming platform, we caught up with Dillon Windvogel (“Blood & Water” fame), who plays Shane, as well as Chelsea Thomas (“Arendsvlei“ fame) as Amber.

Dillon Windvogel and Cantona James in Showmax’s Spinners. Picture: Supplied.

Dillon Windvogel

Car culture is integral to coloured culture. How do you think “Spinners” honours that?

Spinning is more than a sport; it's a lifestyle. So “Spinners” is a love letter to coloured culture. The show truly encapsulates all that spinning is. I was blessed with the opportunity and the privilege to see spinning culture up close, and it's amazing. It's mind-blowing.

Tell us about your character, Shane.

Shane is like a sunflower among thorns. Even though he's been surrounded by crime and this world is similar to a battlefield, he still stays loyal. He is very close to his friends. He prioritises them above all and he'll go to extreme lengths to save them or help them.

What attracted you to “Spinners”?

The story. It's so gritty. It reminded me of a fusion of “Vikings” and “Game of Thrones” in terms of the characters. It also reminded me of “Noem My Skollie”, the roughness of it. It's very raw. It's not sugar-coated, which is what I love. The story has a lot to do with trauma and pain, and how each character overcomes it and makes it through this life that has been handed to them.

How is Shane different from characters you've played before?

What makes Shane different is his maturity. I feel like, most likely at the age of 12 or 13, he had to fend for himself. There was that point of responsibility and independence that hit him early. And that makes him completely different to the rest of the characters I’ve played.

It’s also the first time I was able to play a character in my mother tongue. And I don't mean “suiwer” Afrikaans. I don't mean English. I mean “Mengels”.

Why do you think Spinners is unique in how it deals with gangsterism?

What makes it unique is how gangsterism is portrayed, especially by Elton Landrew and Brendon Daniels. These gangsters have a heart yet they're not afraid to ignore what the heart says. And I think that's what makes it different from all the other gangster movies, where we assume they're shooting, and they don't care, it’s just gunshots.

Why do you think people should watch “Spinners”?

It's exciting. It's exhilarating. It's rough.

Any person who likes a high-speed action thriller, anyone who loves comedy, anyone who wants a touch of romance, would enjoy the show.

And if you're a huge fan of Cantona James, like I am, this is definitely the show to watch.

Chelsea Thomas

Tell us about your character on Spinners?

I play the role of Amber; she is the best female spinner in the country. She's Ethan’s rival but she could potentially become his love interest.

Are there many women in spinning?

I grew up in Kraaifontein and for all of my childhood I would go to the pitch on a Sunday. That would be where all the cars gathered to spin. I’d only ever seen men spin. So when I started the job on “Spinners”, then only I learned that females are actually dominating the sport now.

Do you relate to Amber and her story?

I won't say I relate to Amber at all. Funny story: I'm in “Spinners” but I failed my licence twice as I’m an anxious driver. So for my character to be a spinner? Hello…

To be in the spinning car as well, that was definitely a highlight for me, that was definitely a first for me. Spinning is the craziest thing that people do, but it's so much fun.

This is the first time that I get to tap into a role such as this; Amber is definitely something else compared to all the innocent little girls that I used to play, or the 17-year-old high school kids in other series.

So we are two very different people but I love that we are worlds apart and I’m so out of my comfort zone; it’s been such a humbling, growing experience.

As an actress, I've learned to always be open to new, to more. I want to keep taking on more of what I’m not used to; I want to be as versatile as I can be.

You worked with Cantona on “Arendsvlei”. What’s it like working with him again?

It’s been an absolute joy. He's one of those actors who holds space for you, who makes you feel seen, who makes you feel like you're part of something bigger. To be able to play alongside Cantona again has just been a dream come true.

You grew up in Cape Town. Why is “Spinners” important to this community?

Spinning has always been a big part of culture in Cape Town, in the Cape Flats, so they will love seeing these stories finally being told.

There have been a lot of documentaries about spinning but this time there's a series, and the story has heart and it's being told from the ground up.

Growing up in Kraaifontein, I know spinning is sometimes seen as something bad. But “Spinners” shows a different side to it: it shows the passion, it shows the drive, it shows the adrenaline, it shows the joy.

It’s so encouraging and inspiring to tap into a different side of spinning, to show that it isn’t all bad.

∎“Spinners” premieres on Showmax on November 8.