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The Comedy of Errors

Interview: Shauna Shim

2 October 05

"We shot Dogville for two months in Sweden and it was phenomenal. Lars is a genius and working with him is such a privilege."

Shauna Shim is an 25 year old actress who came over to Nottingham as a youngster with her family. She honed her trade at the Nottingham acting hive that is the Central Drama workshop and has been acting professionally for fourteen years. She last appeared on our screens last year in the BBC series A Thing Called Love and also had a regular part in the revival of Crossroads. On a more global tip, however, she also appeared alongside Nicole Kidman in the 2003 film Doggville. We caught up with her to chat about crossing the Atlantic and working with Lars Von Trier and Billy Ivory…

You’re not originally from Nottingham. What did you think when you first moved here?
I was ten years old when we moved to Nottingham from Miami. I didn't really like it very much at first. I thought people spoke funny and it was too cold!

I understand that you got you first break in TV as a presenter at the age of eleven?
Yeah I did a show called Go Wild! with Chris Packham and some other kids from the workshop. Good times man! We got a couple of days off of school a week and we got to be on TV!

You’ve got a noticeable US accent still. Have you made an effort to keep onto that or did it just happen naturally?
To be honest I don't think my accent is really that strong anymore. It's very diluted. Kind of a strange hybrid of both Miami and Nottingham. My older sisters have much stronger accents. Compared to Andrew however, I sound like a full on Yank. I haven't made a conscious effort to stay particularly American, it's just kind of turned out that way. Also it depends on what I've just been working on. If I've just played an American my accent will be a little stronger.

Tell us about the Central Drama Workshop and how it helped you to train to become an actress?
It's so funny because people always ask me where I trained and I'm just like, "ummmm, I went to Workshop." It's basically a drama group that's funded by Carlton Television and the upshot is that you sometimes get cast for TV shows and stuff. When I auditioned for the Workshop I didn't know about the link with TV and whatever. I was eleven and bored and my grandma found out about the group and asked me if I wanted to audition. I went along and got in!

There is absolutely no way I'd have had anywhere near the success I've had so far without the Workshop. I didn't go along so i could get famous or any of that crap. I love to perform and down at Workshop there were all of these wicked people who shared my passion. There was no competitiveness or back stabbing or judgement and that is something that was so liberating for me. For me workshop is priceless. Even if I hadn't gone on to become an actress, I'd feel the same. It taught me so much, not just about the industry, but about life and stuff too. Most of my closest friends are from Workshop. Sorry, that got a little deep then didn't it?

Take us through your early acting parts in the TV series’ Microsoap and Coping With. How did they come about?
The upshot of the group being funded by Carlton TV is that you sometimes get cast for TV and stuff. Casting directors and directors sometimes use the workshop as a casting pool and Coping With was one of those times when I was cast. It was excellent because it was a great show and all the cast were from workshop so we were all hanging out together on set and having an absolute ball! I did Microsoap after I got with my agent so instead of it being a workshop type audition I went to London for a meeting. Microsoap was a real learning curve. It was the first show I'd done where the cast weren't predominantly Workshoppers. Plus I was coming into a show that had already enjoyed a successful first series so people knew each other really well. I was basically the new girl all over again. Still had a blast though!

You were a regular in Crossroads as Philomena 'Phil' Wise. It must have been loads of fun doing that…
Crossroads was such a great job! Being able to live at home was such a novelty because most of the time I have to travel. Although saying that, I do love to travel! When I did Crossroads there was only Lucy Pargetter and myself from Workshop. The series before mine had plenty of workshop talent in it though! I'm still really close with a lot of the cast from my series.

You had a small part in Doggville. Where was that filmed? What was it like working on a film with Nicole Kidman and Lars Von Trier?
We shot Dogville for two months in Sweden and it was phenomenal. Lars is a genius and working with him is such a privilege. He works you real hard and it's something I really appreciate. Nicole is such a lovely woman. She's very kind and giving and generous with her time. She taught me a lot. She's got a great sense of humour too.

From an internationally famous director like Von Trier, you then went on to work with Nottingham’s own Billy Ivory in A Thing Called Love. What are your memories of that? Any chance of another series?
I adored A Thing Called Love and we had an amazing time shooting it. Billy's writing is so honest you can't help but be drawn in and relate to his characters. He's a poet. It's an absolute dream working with Billy. Though I want it to, I don't think a second series will happen. It would kind of defeat the point of doing the first one. As for memories, every night out was unpredictable and never dull!

Who are your favourite actors? Is there anyone that has really inspired you?
I never know what to say when people ask me this! Honestly, I always knew I'd be an actor. There wasn't any one moment when I was watching a movie or whatever and suddenly thought, "that's what I wanna do." I really like Sean Penn. When he's on the screen you can't take your eyes off him. Nicole and Gary Oldman are chameleons which I admire. Halle Berry for her range and grace. I think Rosario Dawson is amazing. Also Rachel McAdams.

What have you got coming up over the next year?
I've got a couple of movies I did whose release dates are penciled for 2006. There are a few projects I'm considering though I don't think I'll be able to do them all. I don't like to talk about future stuff until the ink's dry on the contract. I'm a little superstitious like that.

Have you ever starred in anything with your brother Andrew?
Not once! Well, we were in the same play once at Workshop and we had one scene together, but our characters didn't even talk. I'd love to work with Andrew. I think he's incredible. Every time I see him perform I'm blown away. I'm well proud of him.

What are your favourite places in Nottingham? Any plans to move to London?
I love Wollaton Park. Every time someone comes to visit me here I'm like "I have to take you to Wollaton park!" I like all the space. The town centre is pretty cool. I like to walk around with my headphones on and just feel the buzz and energy of town. The architectures beautiful too. As for London? Never say never…

What advice would you give to young actors in Nottingham?
Don't become disheartened by rejection. They're not saying you don't have a spark, it's just not the spark they're looking for. Also believe in yourself. Because if you don't, you can't expect anybody else to.

You’ve also been known to work the bar at the Malt Cross on LeftLion nights. Can we buy you a drink? 
Sure thing! I'll have a gin and cranberry with plenty of fresh lime!

Anything else you want to say to LeftLion readers?
You all Rock!

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