The bard tells us we’re all players, but for Shannon McDonough, that’s not just a metaphor. She’s graced many a stage in her decade-long experience as a thespian, often cast in those glossy roles once reserved for the likes of the Hepburn girls, that of the saucy eye-batter, the woman of modern refinement and biting banter, who likes a little elegance, but isn’t afraid to get down and dirty, just so long as she can do it with wink and wit. McDonough has excelled at hurdling between the polar realms of stage and screen, which, despite both being storytelling mediums, are about as alike as matter and antimatter. McDonough is a most amphibious actor and she’s kindly agreed to share her experience of a woman between worlds, clapped between the interior landscape of the human theater and the pinched frame of filmdom.
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1) I understand you do a lot of theater. What plays have you acted in?
Honestly, there’s been so many, that I forget some. But the more well known ones I’ve done include: "The Mousetrap," in the role of Mollie Ralston; "Murder on the Nile," as Jacqueline de Serverac; "Barefoot in the Park," as Corie Bratter; "The Odd Couple," "Dracula," "Arsenic and Old Lace," as Martha Brewster and "Tartuffe," as Marianne.
2) How did you make the transition from theater to film?
I was always really interested in films and how they were made. I remember practicing my Oscar speech all the time when I was a kid. I did my first film when I was 17 or 18 and found something really challenging and fun about it. I loved it. I decided a year or so after that to switch my focus from theatre to film, although live theatre is something I still really love to do.
3) How does being a film actor differ from being a player on a stage?
It’s immensely different. On stage you have to overdo everything slightly, project your voice, remember to stay open, etc. Although, when something goes wrong on stage, you can’t just do it again, you have to think on your feet more. With film, it’s so much more about the details. It’s much more real, the microphone is so sensitive and can pick up the lowest whisper. I had a bit of a problem remembering to tone it down at first. I had been a stage actor for so long it was kind of ingrained. It’s a completely different style of acting. You also have to worry about staying in frame and hitting an exact mark, and you’re saying the same two or three lines over and over and over again for hours. It gets pretty tough to keep the lines fresh. And what’s kind of nice about live theatre is that you get to go through the story from beginning to end, whereas in film, all the scenes are shot out of order. It’s a little harder to remember where your character’s mental state is at.
4) How did you get involved in "It Came From Another World"?
Craigslist. I love Craigslist. They had posted the auditions on the Web site and it sounded right up my alley. It’s a melodrama-style film and I had just recently done several plays like that and really enjoyed the genre. Plus, I met the height requirement. It was meant to be.
5) What was it like working on a ’50s-style B-movie?
It was so much fun. Not only did I love the look of the period, but I got to be hypnotized and kidnapped by an alien, there was a fight to the death to save me…come on! How many people can add that to the list of their life experiences? (LOL) Plus, the rest of the cast and crew were amazing and so nice. It really was a joy to work with them.
6) How did you get involved in "Unholy Reunion"?
Again, I believe it was Craigslist. I found the audition on there for a smaller role that appears just at the beginning of the film, but I ended up being really sick the day of the audition. So I wrote Ric, the director, a note apologizing and he wrote me back saying he’d like to see me audition for a more substantial role in the near future. I auditioned and was cast as Vicky.
7) What was it like working on a psychological horror-thriller?
It wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be. I had done a short horror film a year before that involved zombies and such and I was so jumpy all the time, I was having nightmares. It was awful! But Ric, who’s a comedian as well, was really great at keeping the set really light and fun. We did a lot of bonding stuff. There was a lot of gross stuff, though, too. We went through a lot of blood. It was a lot of really late, long nights and I got pretty crabby at some points, but, honestly, there’s nothing else I would rather have been doing.
8) What are some of the plays that inspire you? Films?
Huh, good question. I don’t know if it’s so much films as the actors. "Breakfast at Tiffany’s" has always been a favorite of mine, I’ve always wanted to play a very Holly Golightly-type role, but anything Audrey Hepburn does is amazing. Lucille Ball is another actress I’ve watched a lot and used as inspiration.
9) What are some of your upcoming projects?
Right now I’m working on a film in Wausau, WI called "Thieves Like Us". I’m playing the ingenue, Lindsey against Jarrod Crooks, whom I met on the set of "Unholy Reunion" last summer. Jarrod is not only starring in the film with me, but he’s also directing and writing it. It’s an action/comedy about, well, thieves who end up in a blackmailing mess. There are lots of banging fight scenes, good laughs, kidnapping, romance. It’s going to be fantastic when it’s completed, which hopefully should be no later than this November. Please visit www.myspace.com/jcfilms for more information about the production.
10) What are your future goals as an actor of stage and film?
To rule the world.