Since featuring in Adulthood and starring in 126.96.36.199, Shanika has been non-stop on the go. Luckily for me, my new girl crush took some time out to talk about her role in this year’s highly anticipated film Suicide Kids, her new film Victim, touring in South Africa and her plans for the future…
When did you decide you wanted to be an actress? It is something I’ve always wanted to do. You know those baby books from when you are a kid, my mum kept one and she recorded in it, saying I was wanted to be an actress when I was about 2. By the time I was 8 I wanted to be an actress in Hollywood! I started to take it more seriously when I was about 14 or 15 at school cause I really enjoyed Drama. I bugged my mum about going to a drama club, and so I went to Young Blood Theatre Company. I met some really cool people, Kerry Mulligan used to go there, and a few people came up from there. I went every Saturday until I was 20, while I was still at university.
What did you do in university? Do you prefer it to drama school? I did drama at Richmond College and at uni. The course I did was quite theory based, I did enjoy learning about types of theatre and the history. But in drama school you learn more about technique. Between going to uni, drama school and being on the job, it would be drama school and the job. I think that learning on the job is the way a lot of people get through it, really you pick things up as you go along. But it can go either way, depending on what type of person you are and what you enjoy the most. But for me, it’s been about going out on a job and meeting people.
Who are your inspirations? I like to look at British actresses who have done well, but who are not hugely famous, because that scares me a little bit! Actresses like Thandie Newton and Sophie Okonedo, I love her! They have done really well out in America, but they are both still very British actresses.
So first you were in Adulthood, then 188.8.131.52 – How was it working with Noel Clarke? Working with Noel was a good experience. Because he’s an actor, I feel he directs from an actor’s point of view; I’ve worked with some directors who are quite technical, but Noel will show you what your character should express in sense of emotions, from an actor’s level, where some directors don’t do that. He isn’t strict, but he knows what he wants and he demands respect on set, and it’s pretty much given by everyone! He has a good eye and he knows what he wants and how to get it.
In 184.108.40.206, Kerrys was quite a kick-ass character. Did you relate to her? I can stand up for myself, but Kerrys is one of those people who engages her mouth before she has fully engaged her mind sometimes! She doesn’t have fear or think about consequences. It was really fun to play someone who says what they think, says how they feel, and does what they want… everyone wishes they were a bit more like that!
How was it to play a bisexual character? Normally there is a stigma attached to it, so Kerrys character was a refreshing change. I really liked the way Noel had written her, she was like ‘this is me and I’m cool with it’. There were little subtle touches, like in her room she would have posters of girls up, not sleazy ones or anything! But she was very open about it; she got on with it and didn’t really care what anyone said. There wasn’t anyone in the film who displayed a negative attitude, apart from with her brother but there were issues there anyway. I thought it was really refreshing to play a bisexual or gay character and for it not be the focus of the story. It wasn’t an issue, it was cool, she had her friends, her family, her girlfriend and other things going on. She just didn’t care, and I really enjoyed that.
How have you adapted to your fame? Well, it’s not at Angelina proportions yet! [laughs] I still think it’s funny when people come up to me I start racking my brains wondering how I know them, I really don’t clock until they say where they know me from, so it is still often a surprise! It is nice, it’s really nice when you go on Twitter and people have good stuff to say about a film you’ve been in.
So the release of Suicide Kids has been pushed back, I can’t wait to see it! When is it due out? It will be out late September maybe, because the film has been picked up by a bigger distributor, so it will get a bigger release, so it is a good thing really!
The name pretty much says it all, but the film covers pretty deep subjects. How was it making the movie? It was quite intense, but not as dark as what you may imagine. There is a lot of humour in the characters and with what happens. But it does deal with emotional subjects and there are quite touching, heart breaking moments in it. I can’t give anything away, but I researched into my character and it was really intense. But it was an amazing cast to work with, everyone was young and doing their own thing in all different areas… like there was Robert Sheehan, Ashley Walters, Reggie Yates, there is so many people in it. It was so cool and really fun. We’ve all stayed friends, so it will be nice to see them again. I like working with young casts.
You were also in the film Victim. When is that released? It hasn’t got a release date as yet. It is quite a small British film, but I think it is going to be quite a beautiful film, and I made loads of friends there too, so that was good. I play a character that is in the main group, the main characters have a love story going on, but my character ends up being a bit of a honey trap, so..! But it was fun to be part of the group, us girls got to get all dressed up and pretty and stuff for the club scenes, [laughs] it was really fun.
Wow, it’s been a busy year for you… Yeah, I was on tour for my birthday this year with a theatre production, it was for a show called Crunch, we did it originally two years ago I think. It was a show we wrote ourselves, there was a bunch of young people, I think around 12 when we first started, ‘cause the theatre do a yearly summer scheme for young people. This year we got to write our own spoken word poetry and we created a performance piece. It went really well, and in 2010 we went to perform in South Africa at their arts festival. We also did it in London and Birmingham. So, yeah I have had quite a good year so far!
What do you hope to do next? I definitely want to do some more over here, but I wouldn’t rule America out. I’m not saying I’m out to conquer Hollywood, but I would like to go maybe next year and see what it is about. I’d also quite like to write one day, I’ve had a few ideas but I know not everyone is a writer so I might end up writing them and not showing anyone! If I am not the writer, I would at least like to pitch some ideas to people, get some new stuff out there.
What advice would you give to up and coming actresses? You have to be prepared for how competitive it is. It isn’t easy, it isn’t a piece of cake at all, and there are times when you wonder when you are going to get your next job or audition. You may even question why you are doing it! But it’s because you do love it, and you have to keep it giving it another go and another go. I supposed a lot of it is how you present yourself, and the people that you meet. So you can meet people, make good contacts and they could think of you for something else. It is also about not giving up, trying to practise as much as you can, if you aren’t working get involved in student films, or a local theatre group like I did. Keep getting experience, and keep practising. Believe in yourself, and if that’s all you want to do then keep that belief and carry on.
* This interview was originally posted in the July issue of NXG Magazine (http://bit.ly/nhxurR) *