(Second of a series)
LOS ANGELES—Shannyn Sossamon was one of my first interviews in Hollywood. My memory of meeting her is bittersweet, because it was also the first time I was introduced to Heath Ledger, Shannyn’s costar in “A Knight’s Tale.”
The medieval dramedy marked Shannyn’s breakthrough role, and it was one of Heath’s first starring parts since he moved to Hollywood from Australia.
I felt a certain kinship with these two, so learning about Heath’s passing that afternoon in 2008 was particularly sad for me to hear. The shocking news instantly took me back to my first interview with him and Shannyn in 2001.
I only learned about Shannyn’s part-Filipino roots (from her maternal grandmother) later. I just remember her striking good looks, her slight resemblance to Angelina Jolie, and her exotic sounding name.
Aside from her Filipino heritage, the actress—born Shannon Marie Kahololani Sossamon, in Honolulu, Hawaii—is of English, French, Hawaiian, Dutch, Irish and German ancestry. She grew up in Reno, Nevada, but left right after graduating from high school to pursue a career in dance in Los Angeles.
In 1999, in so-Hollywood fashion, a casting agent spotted Shannyn as she was helping a deejay friend at Gwyneth Paltrow’s birthday bash. It led to an important audition—for the female lead opposite Heath in “A Knight’s Tale.”
After several callbacks, the virtual unknown beat the competition, which reportedly included Kate Hudson, and won the Lady Jocelyn role.
Shannyn went on to rack up other credits, including “40 Days and 40 Nights,” “The Rules of Attraction,” “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” “The Holiday” and “Sinister 2.”
Among her TV stints are M. Night Shyamalan’s “Wayward Pines” and “Sleepy Hollow.” She has finished the action-drama, Alfonso Pineda Ulloa’s “The Jesuit,” which also stars Ron Perlman and Tommy Flanagan.
Shannon dabbles in music—she composes, plays the drums and guitar. She was once a member of Warpaint, an indie rock band. Based in Los Angeles, Shannyn has two sons, Audio Science and Mortimer.
Excerpts from our interview:
How would you describe your journey as an actor so far? In and out and up and down.
How do you prepare for an audition? Any good luck rituals? I like to work with an acting coach whom I trust, who helps me get out of my head and into the world of the given material. My auditions are the strongest when I feel relaxed and prepared.
What is the most frustrating part of trying to land roles in Hollywood? It’s difficult to not be considered for the roles that you’re more attracted to.
How do you handle rejection? So far, I handle it all right. Once in a while, I get a little heartbroken when I want a job quite badly, and it just doesn’t happen.
Have there been times when you almost gave up? What motivated you to keep trying? Many times! Sometimes, it seems crazy—deciding to continue to compete in this business. I’ve kept at it because of a small voice inside me that says I’m not done yet.
As an actor of color, do you feel that opportunities for minority actors are improving or getting worse? They seem to be improving!
Can you talk about: “The Jesuit” and your role in it? I loved working with its cast and crew so much! We wrapped it quite a while ago. I haven’t seen it yet, but I remember the experience with fondness.
To people who are planning to pursue acting, what should they prepare for? One should study, fall down and get back up. I never went to performing arts school, and I always wish I had. A safe place to fail and to experiment with a variety of feedback and criticism can only be priceless.
(To be continued on Sunday)
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