Shining Girls Interviews with Elisabeth Moss, Jamie Bell, Wagner Moura, Silka Luisa, and Michelle MacLaren

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By now, you've read my Shining Girls review and know that the new Apple TV+ series is essential TV viewing.

We had the chance to participate in the virtual press day for Shining Girls, so now you can discover why it's worth your time from the stars and producers.

Shining Girls uses a genre format to tell a story about learning to live with trauma. It's beautifully done, and those who brought it to life provide valuable insight before you start watching.

Shining Girls Poster Vertical

Silka Luisa adapted Lauren Beuke's novel, The Shining Girls, for TV. It's an awe-inspiring adaptation that adds essential layers to Lauren's characters.

Silka talked about what inspired her approach. "I was a huge fan of the book. As a genre fanatic, I thought the way Lauren blended the genres was something I just hadn't seen before. The way that she focuses on the aftermath of trauma, as opposed to the action of it, felt really unique," Silka said.

"In terms of breaking that to television, though, I really wanted to stay with one character. I really wanted to anchor the show through Kirby's point of view, and to really be with her and have audiences connect with her, so you're with her on this mystery.

"Once I did that, the mythology had to change because I felt like I wanted to talk more about the aftermath of trauma. All of that shifting reality was built around that experience. Hopefully, for people that read the book, it adds something new because you're trying to figure out, "Okay. Well, how is this similar? How is this not similar?"

To take the story in a new direction, there were other changes that she felt she needed to make, such as advancing Kirby's age out of her 20s.

Fed Up - Shining Girls Season 1 Episode 1

"By making her older and making her more active in breaking her own story, it's not really just about being the subject of the story; it's about being the author of the story and reclaiming her own narrative.

"In that sense, that was really, really important to me, that arc for the season. In terms of the violence, that's not what I think matters. It's really that 'What are the ripple effects from that violence' was much more interesting to me. That's what we focused on in the show."

Also, in the book, Harper's actions were singular as the villain. He did things, and everyone else moved around what he did. That changes for the series, and how others perceive what he's doing is more important.

Silka talked about why she thought the switch would work.

"Well, in thinking about trauma, it feels like you're still metaphorically tethered to the perpetrator. Right? Even though it feels like there's this invisible string that's pulling you towards them across time, wherever they are, even if you don't know where they are.

Obsession Tall - Shining Girls Season 1 Episode 3

"To me, that's the metaphorical version, but what if you actually made that literal? That's how the mythology came about."

I shared with Silka my own history with trauma and how I appreciated the metaphors used in Shining Girls because it shows what is so difficult for people like me to verbalize.

"Kirby goes through a lot over the season. Sometimes it's two steps forward, one step back. I hope what people feel is her resilience and that the process of recovery can be really messy, and it doesn't have to be a straight line. That doesn't mean that you're not moving forward."

Silka also talked about the relationship Kirby has with Dan Velazquez, a reporter and coworker who helps her tell her story.

"I think that their relationship is really the heart of the show. You have these two kind of broken people. Right? Obviously, we know what her story is, but from his side, which I think Wagner Moura did such a beautiful job depicting, it feels like he, very publicly, has made so many mistakes in his life that he carries a lot of shame with him.

Not the Best Place to Be - Shining Girls Season 1 Episode 3

"You can just sort of feel how he moves through the world in a very defensive way. I think that because they have this weight to them, that's why they're able to connect. That's why they're able to see each other, to feel safe with each other.

"As that relationship develops over the season, you see both of them open up and be vulnerable in a way that is unexpected."

When you mention Elisabeth Moss, who plays the lead, Kirby Mazrachi and also produces and directs, simultaneously with trauma, other roles she's played jump to mind. But Shining Girls introduces her to high concept genre storytelling, which she's always wanted to do.

Elisabeth said, "I was just as if not more interested in the show as a whole, which is why I wanted to produce and direct on it as well. I was interested in the entire thing, not just the character."

With the scripts taking a different tact than the novel, Elisabeth is pleased that she didn't read the book beforehand.

Studying News Articles and Evidence - Shining Girls Season 1 Episode 3

"I hadn't read the book, so when I first read the script, I had no idea what it was about. I had nothing. And so I read it completely blind, and I'm really glad that I did because I felt like I had the experience that hopefully, the viewer will have. And you can only have that once.

"I didn't come into it with any baggage from the book. I didn't come into it with any like, 'Oh, but I liked this part. And that part's not in there anymore.' I came into it really fresh. And so I think as a person who had to tell the story from the show's point of view, and not the book, I think that was really was really helpful."

With so many people fully invested in Elisabeth's portrayal of June in The Handmaid's Tale, we asked her to compare Kirby's journey to June's.

"Kirby is like a few years away from June. I feel like a few years behind June. I don't know how long she was in Gilead -- for six years or seven years or something like that? I feel like Kirby is just arriving at the place where June gets to Gilead.

"Not quite story-wise, but just in the way at the end of the season, I feel like she's just getting to where June is at the end of the first season of Handmaid's Tale.

Tracking Reality - Shining Girls

"I feel like Kirby's behind June. June is on another fucking level. She has gone way past any character I've ever played before as far as like how complicated her life is right now."

Wagner Moura plays Dan, who is as front and center throughout the season as Elisabeth's Kirby. He was drawn to the material as much for working with Elisabeth as he was to the character, which he describes as "a very well written great character, troubled guy who is also a journalist."

Dan's profession meant a lot of Wagner who is a journalist himself.

"I worked as a journalist for a while back in Brazil, and I think that it's a good time to be playing a good journalist, considering that journalism is in such a weird spot nowadays with the spread of fake news, with people getting information through social media, with world leaders discrediting the work of journalism. And so I was happy to be playing a good journalist in the show. So yeah, there's a lot of reasons."

Wagner sees Dan as "a good journalist, but a very, very troubled human being."

Barefoot in the Rain - Shining Girls Season 1 Episode 1

"We meet him in the first episode coming from a leave of absence; we don't quite know why. And from episode three on, we start to know more about him, that he's a guy who is trying to raise a kid by himself, that he's an alcoholic, a very vulnerable character."

Wagner appreciates the relationship between Dan and Kirby "because I think that these two characters kind of recognizing each other very similar sort of scars and wounds and that attraction comes out of that."

Dan might start with the relationship hoping to get his career on track, but it becomes something different. "His relationship with Kirby becomes more personal, which I think it's beautiful.

"It becomes more about helping that woman to find her voice and therefore avoiding that that guy was going to keep killing other women. But to help her, to help Kirby to have her life, to empower herself, to have her life back on track is a means for him to also do that for himself."

"Dan is a complicated man, a vulnerable character, a very insecure guy, but also a very, very good journalist," Wagner said. "I think that both characters also have that, not only do they connect on a personal level, but since Kirby's career was sidetracked by her traumatic incident, he's also helping her find her way back to her career."

Hanging at the Laundromat - Shining Girls Season 1 Episode 2

Working with Elisabeth was easy, Wagner said, because of their similarity in their approach to scenes.

"There's a lot of discussion, but as soon as we start, we jump in the scene, and that doesn't matter anymore. It's just about what's going to happen there.

"And I love to work with actors like that. There's no right or wrong. There's no previous conception of the scene that can't change as soon as you jump in the scene.

"So sometimes I thought the scene was going to be like this, and the scene went to another completely different place, just because the way we were doing it; there's no right, no wrong. It's just about being there together. And I absolutely love that."

Wagner shared his views on what being a part of Shining Girls means to him.

Trying to Help - Shining Girls Season 1 Episode 3

"Well, listen, I think that this is, again, it's a mix of genres. It's a crime story; it's a sci-fi thing. But at its core, I think Shining Girls is about femicide, and it's about women getting killed just because they're women.

"And so politically, I'm very happy and proud to be part of this, coming from a country where this is a big issue. I like the fact that this is a show produced, directed, written by women only. I'm happy to be part of this.

"And then I like to be playing a part that supports this woman that no one believes. Metaphorically I think that that's a place that I would like to be as a man, although I'm still struggling with all the sexist background that I've come from. I'm still learning, but I would like to be."

Jamie Bell plays Shining Girls' villain, Harper Curtis. He, too, took the role because of his interest in acting with Elisabeth. Also, taking the role led him down a dark path that he hadn't gone before. "I think, like a lot of people today, weirdly, I have kind of a morbid fascination about people like this," he said.

Taking the role of Harper Curtis found him tasked with trying to uncover why he does it and why this stuff happens.

Just Hanging Around - Shining Girls Season 1 Episode 3

A significant portion of Shining Girls the novel was told from Harper's point of view, but with the show, "people are experiencing Harper through other people," Jamie said, noting that Harper is entering the world of the other characters instead of being the story's driving force.

But Jamie thinks the most significant divergence of his Harper and the book's version is that he's playing him.

"I think he's written in the book as very handsome, and everyone notes how handsome he was. I think there's something about that, and we wanted to do something different. We wanted him to be someone you don't notice, that you wouldn't really look at twice," who could not only blend in but put people at ease.

Jamie also notes that Harper is a deranged sociopath doing what sociopaths do.

"He doesn't show you that he's a deranged sociopath, so we were always going to go the way of if he's meant to be scary and intimidating, let's do the opposite. Let's have this be a meet-cute, a romantic scene for him, a fantasy. In his mind, he's making a joke, so the person opposite me was more unsettled by what I was doing."

Not Far Enough - Shining Girls Season 1 Episode 2

They avoided any intention that Harper enjoyed himself by his actions. "He does this because it's a compulsion. He does this because he can't help himself; he enjoys seeing people terrified. That's his gratification. He's thrilled, addicted, satisfied; he feels the most complete when he's observing someone terrified for their life."

Jamie said that it's the same thing that drives others to watch sports for enjoyment, so understanding Harper's compulsion for his need for control is part of the journey.

"He's a weak, diminished, humiliated, small man, and he tries to correct that by enacting violence on these women," Jamie said.

All of that is a pretty decent jumping-off point for viewers, and Michelle MacLaren was on hand to talk about her roles as producer and director of the first two episodes.

Michelle heard about the production first and read the book after the fact. "Silka's adaptation is brilliant, and she took a different approach to it, which I really liked. The adaptation aspect, I have to give all that credit to Silka. That's in her court. And I know that Lauren Beukes is really happy with it."

Not the Best Place to Be - Shining Girls Season 1 Episode 3

Because of the show's mythology, scenes changed midway through, and Michelle talked about what it was like working within that framework.

"Well, it's really unbalancing, which is the intention of what we wanted to have happen.

"So, the time shifts are a metaphor for the aftermath of trauma. And so, we wanted to approach it in a very grounded, realistic way, very tangible way for the audience.

"And that was a challenge in figuring out how to do that. But in my gut, I thought, 'We need to do it simplistically. Let's just start out doing it editorially.'

"I think as a result of that first shift, you're wondering, 'Did something happen, or is she crazy?' And as they evolve, they get more and more complicated, and they get bigger and bigger. And then you start to feel for her, and you start to think, 'Oh my gosh, what would that be like, if suddenly my world changed like that?'

Rachel Laughs - Shining Girls Season 1 Episode 2

"And we're seeing the story mostly through Kirby's point of view. And she is an unreliable narrator because her world keeps shifting, but that's also a result of trauma. It's representative of it.

"And I think that just embracing that in a very grounded, realistic way is something that all the directors, Dana Reed, and Lizzie and myself, took on. And they do get complicated and bigger. Even though it's a kind of a fantastical thing that happens, we took the fantastical element out of it, so to speak."

As Kirby's reality shifts, everyone around her does, as well, but she's the only one to notice. Michelle talked about how she approached Dan in the midst of those scenes.

"That's an interesting question because Kirby's living this incredibly lonely life because she can't tell anybody what's going on because they'll think she's crazy.

"The last time she told somebody, they put her in an institution. So she doesn't have anybody to talk to until Dan comes along. And they have a shared interest in solving the mystery and getting to the bottom of the story.

Ultimate Creeper Alert - Shining Girls Season 1 Episode 1

"And she pretty quickly sees this guy has his own trauma going on. So she has nothing to lose but to tell him the truth.

"Dan is the first person who hears her, who listens to her, and takes a leap and doesn't think she's crazy and tries to understand. And that is incredibly liberating for her.

"I think it really helps in her transformation going from somebody who is going to run to somebody who thinks, 'I'm going to get to the bottom of the story. I'm going to take back control of my life.' And that relationship is very key to the evolution of her character."

Hopefully, you're now well prepared to step into Kirby Mizrachi's world, and at the very least, your interest is sufficiently piqued to watch.

Shining Girls premieres on April 29th with its first three episodes. Will you be watching?

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on X and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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Shining Girls Quotes

Kirby: The detective who was on my case, he called me in. Doesn't matter. It's- I thought it did, but it doesn't.
Dan: He called you in for what?
Kirby: He thought it was the same guy.
Dan: What someone did to Julia, they tried to do to you?
Kirby: It was six years ago.

First we find its shine, and then we take it away.