The first thing people do in the face of a challenge is to stop breathing. And that feeling of sheer terror and panic doesn’t go away immediately. It lingers, like in the South African drama series Still Breathing, which is now ready to binge-watch on Showmax.
Eight friends are reunited by a tragedy, but mystery floats through their sense of grief, because car-crash victim Trent wasn’t the loving, caring, compassionate friend and husband he portrayed himself to be.
Trent took a secret to the grave that only one other person knew about, and as the series unfolds, that truth seeps out like bodily fluid from a rotting corpse. Because, let’s face it: that’s what this secret is: death stalking the circle of friends.
In episode 1, we got an all-too brief introduction to the group as they tried to steer themselves through the busy shipping lane called life. Whether it’s attending a school talent show to support their child, supervising a restaurant renovation or dealing with the harsh realities of medical conditions like infertility and dementia, each person had a lot on the go.
And don’t think those wedding flashbacks, when they were all together in one place and celebrating, won’t play a role later down the line – it’s the perfect place and time for a secret to be borne.
With the friends still coming to terms with Trent’s demise and his widow Abi unaware of the secret in his closet, here’s a proper meet-and-greet as Still Breathing carries Trent’s coffin out of the church and down to the cemetery…
Abi (Kate Liquorish) was smart, funny and quirky. That has been replaced with a shadow of despair as she mourns Trent. Abi desperately wanted to start a family, but years of trying to fall pregnant have left her feeling emotionally separated from her friends who have children. The actress, who played Ruth First in 2017 biographical movie Madiba, fell in love with the role when she got the script, adding that “Abi is a fighter. When I think about it, Abi and I are so alike that it gives me goose bumps. We are both perfectionists and total romantics who lead with our hearts rather than our heads”.
Trent (Brendan Pollecutt) had it all… on the outside. The seemingly perfect life, money, security, a beautiful wife. And yet he threw it away. He wasn’t satisfied, reveals Brendan (Tom Carter in 2016-2013 drama Wild At Heart), leading to Trent’s affair and second life hidden from his family and friends. Now that he’s six foot under (almost), Trent’s demons are coming for his loved ones and there’s nothing he can do to save them.
Candice (Shannon Esra) is a strong-willed businesswoman who has a close connection to Abi and her late hubby. She was actually with Trent in the car accident, which she miraculously survived. That will impact the ring of friends as more truths come out. Don’t think that this role is a walk in the park for seasoned actress Shannon (most recently as advocate Sandra Stein in soap The River in 2019): “One of my first scenes was Candice having a breakdown. I went into a shadow. I didn’t want to talk and I had little enthusiasm after we’d built the momentum. It was draining,” explains the actress.
Jessica (Tiffany Barbuzano) is Abi’s ex-wild child sister. She has settled down and been married to her high school sweetheart Danny for 20 years, but she misses her carefree youth. While Jessica has been a level-headed rock for her family and friends, Trent’s death has sent her spiralling… maybe hinting that the lies Trent left involve her.
Tiffany does more than just act on Still Breathing – she’s behind the scenes too as co-producer and scriptwriter. That has let her search for answers to one of her unanswered questions about life, as “it has allowed me to explore grief and how that affects people,” says the actress who also played Grace in local dramedy Sober Companion in 2016.
Danny (Brandon Auret) is tired of being consumed by fear… the fear of losing his wife Jessica, the fear of losing their children and the fear of losing his life. That constant urge to protect everyone and everything resulted in paranoia and insomnia, which further fuel his anxiety. “The script spoke to me (when I read it). I simply had to be a part of the show,” says Brandon, who knows a thing or two about productions – besides working behind the scenes on a number of movies and series, Brandon has been in everything from soapie Isidingo (as good-guy cop Dup) to big-screen Hollywood blockbusters like 2013’s dystopian sci-fi thriller Elysium.
T-Boss (Siv Ngesi) aka Thabo is a man caught between worlds. He was raised by two mothers, his biological mom and the woman his mom worked for, which has led to him struggling with his identity. As a doctor, Thabo knows how to save lives when they’re physically bleeding. But as T-Boss, he is clueless when it comes to helping someone whose heart is bleeding out emotionally, says the actor who played tough-guy Goatee in 2019 crime thriller movie Knuckle City.
Lucille (Lorcia Cooper) is a hard-hitting lawyer and a champion of truth. She will do anything and everything to protect her friends from harm, but there’s a reason she is estranged from the group and it’s got something to do with Abi and Trent’s wedding. We will get to see more of this as the series airs, but keep an ear on every word that comes out of Lucille’s mouth, hints Lorcia, best known as inmate Tyson since local prison series Lockdown started in 2018.
Stephen (Ty Keogh) is the group’s resident bad-boy, and, like Lucille, he has been shunned. Back in the day, he was an IT prodigy with endless promise. That fell apart and he’s now a cynical old grump in a young man’s industry. Ty (Shane Moolman in The Girl From St Agnes) hints that his character has spent a lifetime running from growing up and that while he and Abi haven’t seen each other in years, their unfinished business will pick up at Trent’s funeral.
All episodes of Still Breathing are now streaming on Showmax.