Every Thursday evening at 19h30, since the end of August, the charismatic Sharon Spiegel Wagner has had South Africans glued to their TV’s watching SABC3’s BEDFORD WIVES, as the local comedy-drama unfolds with her character, the feisty Despina Giannopolous, taking centre stage.
Set in the lavish but seedy Johannesburg east suburb of Bedfordview, Bedford Wives follows the lives of four women and a somewhat sordid community of Bedfordview criminals who, on the surface, live pristine and perfect lives but, behind closed doors, have skeletons in their closets and secrets aplenty.
When her charming restaurateur husband, Marco Giannopoulos, is found dead under a side of lamb and dripping in gourmet olive oil, Bedfordview housewife and Mrs South Africa entrant, Despina, vows to keep the family businesses going – but then learns the real family business is crime…
Nothing is at it seems…
I’m not ashamed to say I’m completely hooked, and won’t miss an episode! It’s completely addictive, and ticks all the boxes for unmissable TV!
I recently sat down for coffee and a chat with Sharon to find out what life’s been like for her since Bedford Wives hit our TV screens – and if you haven’t caught on yet (we’re already 9 episodes in with just 5 left), you can catch up on YouTube where you’ll find all past episodes.
And indeed, nothing is as it seems, because Sharon is quite delightful; modest and unassuming and not at all like her onscreen persona, Despina, who is very much the typical ‘Bedford Wife’ and wouldn’t be caught outside of the house (or probably inside, for that matter) without her full armour of make up, designer clothing and killer heels!
Although Sharon’s first love is definitely musical theatre, her experience on Bedford Wives has been so positive that it’s quite encouraged her to explore the possibility of further TV roles in the future. She wasn’t initially asked to audition for the role of Despina, and in fact, was the very last person to audition for the part. Just an hour later, she got a call from her agent to say she’d got the job. Sharon describes her complete shock at hearing the news, but once she realised that it was actually true, she was (I quote) “sublimely excited”. And it’s proved to be a dream from beginning to end with the entire cast and crew being not only amazing to work with, but also completely understanding and flexible around Sharon’s other role: that of being mom to her 2 young daughters, one of who was just a few months old at the time of filming the series.
It was this that made Sharon realise that she might quite like to pursue more TV work in the future as it’s more adaptable to family life. She loves the art of acting and has grown enough within it to know what’s right for her and what isn’t. When she knows a role’s not for her, she’s excited to see who will play it. This is the mark of a true professional, or as Sharon so aptly describes it: “There’s an actor that loves the art, and there’s the actor that loves himself in the art.” That individual who purely loves himself in the role, and who cannot bring himself to rejoice in the success of a colleague is not quite there yet, regardless of whatever talents may have been bestowed on them.
When asked if she’d be happy for her kids to work in a similar or related industry to the one she’s currently in, knowing what she knows about all of the demands and drawbacks as well as the constant struggles and one-upmanship that the business is notorious for, Sharon’s immediate reaction is “Preferably not!”
But then … on reflection … she reconsiders. She feels that no matter what career they decide to follow (even if they want to become actors), there has to be understanding, appreciation and love for what one does, and they need to feel a true purpose for what they’re doing. When it comes to sensitivity they need to know how the business works. She reiterates, “… especially this business.”
For now, Sharon is taking a break, spending time with her kids and thoroughly enjoying watching them grow. She’d love to do more TV work, and is thrilled that Bedford Wives has opened up new horizons for her. We shared our strong views on how absolutely crucial it is for women to support each other and encourage each other. So often though, you find the opposite happening – we tear each other apart, instead of building each other up! Here once again, Sharon returns to the Bedford Wives set, speaking admiringly of her female director who allowed her the freedom to add her own interpretation into her role of Despina, or as she describes it, “a bit of quirk,” and who put her at complete ease with some scenes that she might otherwise have felt quite uncomfortable performing.
So, what’s next after this break? “Something BIG … I hope,” laughs Sharon, explaining that this is usually the work pattern that she follows. Whether it’s back on stage, where she feels most at home, or on our TV screens playing another feisty, go-getting, glitzy leading lady, Sharon puts heart and soul into everything she does, so whatever it is, we know it’s going to be fabulously fantastic!!
(But … no pressure, or anything!)
Situated on 15 hectares of landscaped gardens and waterways within an extensive private nature reserve in the heart of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, NIROX Sculpture Park is renowned for its magnificent views, picturesque scenery, and overall tranquil locale. In recent years, it’s also earned a superior reputation for holding exhibitions and festivals of eminent worth, relating to all areas of contemporary art.
This weekend, NIROX presents its newest festival: NIROX |WORDS, the title being “Why The World…”, which invites artists and audience to finish the question as they may … why the world is the mess that it is … the challenge and the joy … why is it at all?
I posed a few questions to Batya Bricker, the festival’s Books Programme Coordinator, to get some background and understanding as to what exactly this festival is all about:
Q: So, obviously, my first question (actually more like 3 questions) is why WORDS now? After so many years of NIROX art, photography, music and sculpture? Where did the idea come from? What was the initial vision and has this materialised (so far) as was hoped? Where did the theme ‘Why the World …’ come from?
A: (I combined these questions because its part of one answer.)
Our world is in chaos. Can we do things differently to change this trajectory? Are there alternative ways to dissecting problems, and finding new solutions? Can words help us think differently? Create a new reality? Engage differently? The idea behind NIROX|WORDS is an exploration of how words can change the world – or not. All the art, music, poetry and book discussions explore this idea in different ways.
Q: How long has it taken from formulating the idea, to bring this to life?
A: About a year
Q: Did you have to approach all of the participants or did the word get out and did some of them start contacting you, saying that they want to be part of this?
A: A little of both. The idea that we need to approach our world in a different way is gaining traction across all walks of life and all over the globe. Whilst we approached some authors and artists, there were many who jumped at the opportunity to contribute to this conversation through their craft. This idea resonates with the zeitgeist.
Q: Where to from here?
A: We hope to make WORDS an annual weekend event attracting both local and international talent across all art forms.
And so, there you have it in a nutshell. To really get to grips with NIROX|WORDS though, you’ll have to just attend the festival this weekend and take in all the wonderful delights that the programme has to offer. There are a diverse range of talks, performances and films; an entire childrens’ section and of course various places to feed your body as well as your mind!
The programme starts at 10h00 on both Saturday and Sunday.
There are several ticketing options, so for a full list of these, to make your booking and get details of the festival programme, and everything else about NIROX (including how to get there), go to http://niroxwords.com/