PHOTOGRAPHER EMANUELLE CZERWINSKI @emmanuellecz
INTERVIEW JESPER GUDBERGSEN @yessirjesper
STYLIST KAT TYPALDOS @kattypaldos @forwardartists
HAIR MARANDA WIDLUND @marandahair @homeagency
MAKEUP STINE RASMUSSEN @stine_rr @linkdetails using Submission Beauty @submission.beauty
PROP STYLIST PRESTON BAILEY @preston_bailey
STYLIST ASSISTANT SAVANNAH TYSON-YARBROUGH @thatssosav
It’s so great to finally meet you Shelley, we’ve been meaning to catch up with you forever, since our last interview years back. How are you?
I’m coming off a day of purging, sorting through clothes I no longer wear, so I am ready for a break ! It’s a weird thing to have to face your past through old clothes, finding an old pair of underwear and going “hey pal – I remember who you are connected to…”
Clothes hold so many stories, don’t they… Speaking of – how did the photo shoot for this interview go?
It was everything I imagined it would be having collaborated with Submission beauty for a few years now. It’s really rewarding to find people who share the same nontraditional values as you. All I had to do was show up and chill. And for someone who is ironically camera shy (with still photography) this is saying a lot about the creatives behind Submission. It’s all about trust for me!
Let’s jump right into it, Shelley; congratulations on the new show you’re starring in – “Obliterated’ on Netflix, premiering this week – and tell us about the woman you play ?
Obliterated is a high octane action comedy that takes place over 24 hours with an aggressive amount of comedy, action, drama, sex, drugs, nuclear bomb threats, etc. The brilliant minds behind this show: Jon Horowitz, Josh Heald, and Hayden Schlossberg, really bring us back to those major summer blockbuster original idea comedies but in tv form. The premise is killer: an elite special forces unit has to find and deactivate a nuclear bomb that’s threatening to eliminate Las Vegas. I play Ava Winters who is in charge of calling the shots… think of her as your friend’s bossy mother you’re petrified of… After the team thinks they’ve successfully finished the mission and have deactivated the nuke, they go out to celebrate. They all get really fucked up (even un-fun Ava), only to get a call from the big boss telling them they deactivated a fake and have to go out to search for the real one again, all of them hammered on one thing or another. It’s very ‘The Hangover’ meets ‘24. But within the show are real stakes and heart.
Because of the SAG strike, actors haven’t been on the red carpets in a long time. Did you go to the premiere, now that it’s finally over?
The end of the strike was announced just 2 hours before the red carpet in Vegas… I was with Eugene Kim, one of my amazing costars who I reconnected with on this project, and we looked at each other and immediately turned into our characters on the show – looking up flights, searching for ways to get there on time, haha… Ultimately, it turned out the end of the strike actually was at midnight, so we did not get to go on the red carpet in our sweat suits after all.
The show sounds ludicrous enough to be the kind of escape that a lot of people are looking for at the moment – considering everything that is going on in the world?
You’re exactly right. That’s always been my favorite part about my job. I feel so lucky to be a part of something that brings guttural laughter but also makes you extremely uncomfortable but somehow is for everyone. What a gift!
Can you share a fun anecdote about the show?
We shot a lot of the show in Vegas which was really unique, interesting – and very loud. We filmed in casinos as well as on the strip and it’s impossible to have a controlled environment so we certainly had the commotion of real Vegas around us, it felt perfectly hectic and fed into the energy of our characters and the stakes that were at play within the story. I did somehow take a nap outside on Fremont Street at one point, while there were 3 competing concerts happening. Another moment that stands out is the scene we shot on the coldest Vegas day in memory. I was wearing a bikini and speaking Russian. This show asked a lot of every single one of us and we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
I can’t wait to see why they have you playing a CIA agent in a bikini…
Well, that’s the thing about CIA agents – they’re actors. Something that became more obvious to me while doing my research. To be honest, I didn’t have much time to prepare as I was coming straight from filming a movie in Ireland to film this series In Albuquerque then Vegas. But i did watch a very good interview on youtube which probably was the first one to pop up but it spoke to me and where I was at the time. I learned CIA agents can tend to look weathered because of lack of sleep, and since this show came along at one of the busiest times in my life, that made me feel comfortable about jumping on this journey as is. Great, if I don’t look my best, I will still look like a CIA agent, let’s relax on the skincare routine… Secondly, CIA agents are actors undercover at times. Because of that, I got to play a lot of different characters. I certainly was never bored.
Sounds like the perfect high energy project to jump on, at a time when we were all collectively still coming out of a slow-paced time after the height of the pandemic? (The show was filmed in the latter half of ‘22) And now you’ve just gone through a long period of downtime again. Tell me more about what the strike has felt like for you?
I read the script for “Where’d You Go Bernadette”, a Linklater movie starring Cate Blanchett, that has one of my new favorite quotes. It goes something like “Artists who don’t create, are a menace to society” Times of not working are obviously tough. I feel privileged to get to do what I love to do when I’m allowed and I really don’t have a backup plan.
Ultimately, what we’re discussing is having too much time on your hands…
… and what you decide to do with it, yeah. The pressure we put on ourselves: how can I be of help during this time, how can I be of assistance to others who may need more help than I do. Starting projects for myself every other day and never finishing them haha.
Culturally, we saw such a huge shift during and after the last strike in 07-08, reality TV taking center stage while the majority of the industry were striking. This time around, the conversation seems to zero in on what role AI might play in the future of entertainment. What are your thoughts on this?
What I’ve learned from being in this game is that you have to adapt. Personally I love reality TV: I love great content, trash content, silly content – I’m here for it all. I just hope everyone gets their space. I am partial to acting and working with humans and I will take that over technology any day – I don’t think you can compare human content to that generated by artificial intelligence. But again, it comes down to adaptability, and I think that’s one of the only reasons I have survived 16 years in this industry.
Adaptability is something we touched on when Submission Beauty first spoke with you a few years back , specifically how you were breaking into new territory with roles. Are you happy with the types of roles you are being offered at this point in your career – and how have they changed?
I feel like I’m in a sweet spot right now, and I think it is happening as I am ready for it. Playing a teenager for years on end felt really safe and fun but I’m enjoying the harder challenges. The roles now are fun in a different way. They’re more diverse, more interesting and for whatever reason I feel a bigger responsibility with the portrayal of them. I feel like I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.
I guess maturing and aging also brings a calm that allows you to open up in a different way, with the security of knowing yourself a bit better?
Yeah, and I’m proud of having broken many molds and not feeling like I’ve been put in a box. I’ve done a lot of genres. I’ve never done a show like ‘Obliterated’ before. We had to have the weirdest conversations during that shoot. Like, “ok so when the camel is watching us have sex…” which is far from when I did the movie “Ouija”, and my 8th catholic school teacher called me up with her entire class on the phone. She explained to me that they were all so proud of me and couldn’t wait to see the movie – but she needed me to explain to them how I did not believe in Ouija boards. I wonder what she’s gonna say this time – I might not answer the phone for a bit after the premiere…
While we’re touching this subject, do you have a spiritual practice?
Being spiritual to me means putting good things out into the universe and helping wherever I can. I’m not very spiritual or religious in the traditional sense, I’ve had some hard times with this growing up and I am finally at peace with just focusing on humanity. One space that does feel religious to me is the dancefloor at the Cowboy Palace Saloon. I love to linedance and that’s sort of a spiritual practice for me! I have a dance partner there who takes care of me and he’s my 80-year-old Italian stallion cowboy. Sure, line dancing can get challenging, but the basic moves are easy and I remember them from when I was a kid growing up in Louisiana – that’s what we do at weddings. It’s nostalgic and can be very simple. As much as I am an artist, I enjoy mindless activities and I love being in my body.
How about your community – where do you find your people and who are they?
I’m lucky to have a community all over the world really. At the end of the day, I’m a porch girl – that’s where I am right now talking to you. And everyone is always invited. I tend to prefer a simple lifestyle shared with people of all different types. I love connecting with people and I love a variety.
Last time you spoke with us, we spoke quite a bit about social media. What’s your relationship with that beast at the moment?
For me, Instagram is a work tool, a place where I can maintain somewhat of a control of my own story, and for me that means keeping a bit of mystery while being entertaining. I don’t know how entertaining I’ve been recently though – I’m in a place where I’m unsure what to do. I am excited to share some ridiculous behind the scenes of Obliterated very soon though!
I personally find your bare bones humor and a slightly distanced – yet funny – coldness to feel so much more intimate, actually, probably way more than the people who think way more than you about how much and exactly what they show the world – I can’t wait to see what you’re about to share…
Ok so the pressure is on..shit. Let’s start here with this interview and these photos where they took away my freaking eyebrows! You know I must love them if they took away my eyebrows.
Finishing out the social media subject – where do you think you got your humor from?
A disrupted childhood maybe? I think for a lot of us, humor can be a way through. I’m from a suburb just outside of New Orleans. I have an amazing family and community there still. I’m really proud of where I am from. It is very different from where I live now but I haven’t changed much at my core. Some of the funniest people I’ve ever known (and I’ve worked in comedy for quite some time) are friends and family from back home. They keep it real and in return I do the same for them.
Speaking of home – I like to always ask this – what is an early memory of beauty for you?
UGH – My mom curling my bangs for school pictures or dance competitions. I wasn’t a pageant girl growing up, but I was a competitive dancer and I just remember being burned in the forehead by the goddamn curling iron and my mom just saying “Beauty is pain – Beauty is pain”
What does beauty look like to you now?
It’s completely changed. Beauty to me now is in the imperfections. It’s cool to not be so symmetrical, it’s cool to not have washboard abs. And apparently cool not to have eyebrows now hahaha. Everything is cool as long as you own it. I’m so relieved that this is where it’s at now. It’s good for our mental health and I think it’s amazing that shows, movies – pop culture in general – are just embracing everything as beauty. Beauty is diversity and self care and however you want to indulge in that.
What makes you proud?
What are you most afraid of?
What excites you right now?
Something popped into your head when I asked you, but are you trying to think of something more clever?
It’s funny, because I am private but also so honest, so I struggle in these moments. What excites me right now? New love.. My biggest fear is my open heart.
I have been thinking about legacy a lot lately – what would you like people to remember you for?
Can I answer this during our next interview 😉