Based on Lauren Beuke‘s best-selling Novel, Chicago-filmed SHINING GIRLS is set to arrive later this month on Apple TV+. Starring, produced and directed by Golden Globe, Primetime Emmy and SAG Award winner Elisabeth Moss, the genre-bending Series centers on Kirby Mazrachi, who must confront her traumatic past after being attacked violently by Harper Curtis (Jamie Bell). As aspiring Journalist herself, she teams with Reporter Dan Velazquez to uncover the truth, all as her present reality is ever-shifting.
Our Amanda Gilmore had the pleasure of chatting with the Cast and Creators of SHINING GIRLS, hot-off its premiere at SXSW ’22. Joining us were:
Elisabeth Moss (“Kirby Mazrachi”/Director/Executive Producer)
Wagner Moura (“Dan Velazquez”)
Silka Luisa (Showrunner/Executive Producer)
Michelle MacLaren (Director/Executive Producer)
You wear multiple hats here as Producer, Director and Star. What made you want to tell Kirby‘s story to the world?
Moss: “I really wanted to work with the other people on the Show. Michelle MacLaren was gonna do the first two episodes, and Dana Reid four of them. Obviously, I’ve worked with Dana on The Handmaid’s Tale and Michelle I’ve always wanted to work with and we had this third spot for a Director. When they asked if I wanted to do it, I jumped at the chance to work with those women. I like the opportunity to work with other Directors and get inspired in that way. So as a Director, to get with these women I’ve admired so much – and have so much more experience than I do – and have watched for many years, to be learning from as a new Director, was the thing I leapt at.”.
A lot of reality shifting happens in Kirby‘s world. If you could shift into any reality what would it be?
Moss: “Honestly, I would shift it to be Bora Bora in one of those over-the-water huts and it would be a beautiful, beautiful day. I’ve been in Toronto since the end of November and Toronto winters – they are what they are – gotta love it. So that would be my reality shift. It’s so superficial and I’m really sorry!”.
“Where is Spring? Where is it coming? God, it’s maddening. I’ll meet you in Bora Bora!”.
Dan is a loving father and a truth-seeking Journalist. But there is a dichotomy to him as he is troubled. How did you balance those aspects?
Moura: “I think that’s great. That’s what you want as an Actor. To have a character that has different layers. I’m a father myself. I have three sons. And it was great to work with the kid who played my son. I was able to show a side of the character that brings a lot of humanity to a guy trying to raise a kid by himself and dealing with alcoholism, getting his life back in order and try to do Journalism. I think Dan is a really awesome character. When I first read it, I really wanted to play this guy.”.
Can you tell us about working with Jamie Bell and the rest of the Cast?
Moura: “Jamie is amazing. We had a few scenes together. Most of the scenes I have with Jamie I’m completely drunk, which is an extremely hard thing to pull-off. I’ve seen the first four episodes and he’s so creepy. But Jamie is a funny, lovely, cool guy to hang-out with in-between takes. I was drunk, he was making jokes. All the Cast was amazing. I love Erika Alexander who plays my boss in The Chicago Sun-Times. She’s an amazing Actress, really great to work with. We had a really great time in Chicago, it was Summer.”.
Each episode directed by you is laced with mystery, but you almost manage to give us clarity on Kirby‘s reality-shifting world. What were some of the greatest challenges you faced in balancing those lines?
MacLaren: “That’s a really good question, Amanda. The biggest challenge is how much we reveal to the audience and how little do we reveal to the audience? Audiences are so sophisticated and smart today. We want to draw them in with the mystery and trying to figure it out. But we don’t them to be so lost they won’t be engaged. It’s a balance. In this case, the time-shifts are metaphors for the aftermath of trauma so we wanted you to feel unbalanced. We wanted you to feel that Kirby‘s life is constantly shifting. And what would that mean for you? We want to do it in a grounded, real way. We didn’t want to do it in a fantastical way. So it’s actually done a lot editorially. As the Show evolves, they get more complex and more convoluted in their execution. But they’re done in a way you can really identify with it.”.
You’ve worked on some of the most iconic Television franchises of our time. What drew you to the Shining Girls?
MacLaren: “Really good writing. Characters I felt invested-in. Lizzie Moss. And something I haven’t done before. It’s genre-bending, it’s different. It was a challenge. It scared me. I like to choose things that challenge me that put me out of my comfort zone. And I got to use different things from genres I’ve worked in to bring to this. And Apple TV+, I’ve collaborated with them before and I’m doing it again. I love working with them.”.
Does adapting an already beloved Novel add any more pressure than already is there?
MacLaren: “I happen to know that Lauren Beukes loved what Silka did in her adaptation. So I think if the Author is happy, that’s awesome. That’s really great and takes a little bit of the pressure off. If she’s supportive of it, that’s really wonderful. It’s always interesting. It’s like doing a sequel. Some people love it, some people don’t. It’s subjective storytelling. It’s Silka‘s version of Shining Girls. Hopefully, people will love it and there’s people that may miss certain things from the Book. You never know. But I think she did an amazing job of adapting a really challenging story.”.
How did you navigate the pressures of adapting this beloved Novel especially seeing how this story involves a reality-shifting element?
Luisa: “I think because I loved it so much, I felt so intuitive. It felt the story was in my bones. It wasn’t so much a pressure. It felt like a pleasure, living in a world I was really connected to. Hopefully in the translation that really shows.”.
Can you walk us through the process of finding your Ensemble Cast?
Luisa: “So Lizzie was the first piece of Casting. It was fantastic because she came on right after the Pilot and became a part of the development process. So as we got a Writers’ Room and started to write more scripts, she actually helped shape Kirby‘s character. At that point, once we were closer to production we had to fill-out the rest of the Cast. Wagner gives an amazing performance. Jamie Bell brought so many unexpected turns I hadn’t imagined in Harper myself. As we got closer to production, we filled-out all those other roles.”.
SHINING GIRLS premieres globally on Apple TV+ Friday, April 29, 2022 with the first three episodes of the series and will be followed by one new episode dropping each week.
(Photo/video credit: Apple TV+)
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