Friday, March 29, 2013

The 5er: Actor Shannon Komai

She's an actor, dancer, writer and producer and her name is Komai.  Shannon Komai.  As a young girl from a small town in Pennsylvania, Shannon found herself in awe while watching her older sister rehearse for a school's performance of "West Side Story". That was the moment she was bit by the acting bug and since then, she has worked both in front of the camera and behind the camera learning every aspect of the production world.  She most recently had a supporting role in Clint Eastwood's film, "J. Edgar" starring Leonardo DiCaprio as well as playing a red carpet interviewer in "The Muppets."  Learn more about Ms. Shannon as she talks about knowing a thing or two about Hollywood, what makes her laugh like there's no tomorrow and what advice she would give her younger self.

Who or what inspired you to become an actress?  
My two sisters and I were raised by a single mom who worked very hard to support us.  She kept us very active in after-school activities like drama, horseback riding, and chess, while she was at work.  My older sister, Angela would sometimes pick me up from elementary school and take me with her to her drama practice to keep an eye on me after school.  I would sit in the back of the auditorium doing my homework and watch her perform.  I remember she was playing the role of Anita in a production of "West Side Story". I'd watch her doing the "America" number from the musical.  I already thought my big sister was the coolest person in the world and when I saw her perform so powerfully, I wanted to feel that powerful, too. 

As far as professional inspirations, because I grew up singing, dancing and acting in musical theater, I also love triple threats like Dorothy Dandridge, Barbara McNair, Lena Horne, Josephine Baker, and Rita Hayworth.  I'm also really inspired by the work and careers of Meryl Streep, Jane Fonda, Angela Bassett, Penelope Cruz, Marisa Tomei, and Whoopi Goldberg.

Dorothy Dandridge

What challenges as a woman have you had to overcome in the entertainment industry?  
My biggest challenge has been people wanting to pigeon-hole me. People that know me as a dancer are shocked when I can pick up a script and portray a character, do an accent, or sing a song.  Others that know me as a producer find it hard to believe that I can also write comedy and perform live sketch & improv. 

Also, there's the Hollywood game of men dangling a carrot in front of an actress's face. Basically, they'll offer an actress an opportunity when all they really want to do is sleep with her. It's hard to find people with true integrity and morals in this town. NOT impossible, but I am very careful about the projects I choose to be a part of and who I will do business with.  I've been in this game for over ten years, so I'm not the desperate and green actress from Coatesville, Pennsylvania anymore.  Now, I know how to play the game just like the boys and I will check somebody in a quick second if they come at me in a slimy or shady way.

They say everyone has a doppelganger.  Who do you think your celebrity doppelganger would be? 
The celebrity people tell me that I look like almost everyday is Mariah Carey.  When my twin nephews, Ian & Jordan were little and a Mariah Carey music video would come on TV, they would scream out my name.  I do see the resemblance. We're both multi-racial and have some similar features.  I've also gotten Rosie Perez.

What makes you laugh so hard your eyes tear up and you seriously just about pee your pants?  
I love satirical comedy that pushes the envelope. When people imitate others spot on is what gets me.  My cousin, Mark Allen, is one of the funniest people I know. He's an observer and can watch someone for a few minutes and then be able to imitate them, their mannerisms, little nuances in their personality. Whenever he does that, I literally CRY!

If you met yourself as a young teen, what would you tell her, er, you, er, her?  (This feels like a "Back to the Future" moment.)
If I could go back and talk to the younger version of Shannon, I would tell her that life is going to get easier.  I'd tell her to believe in herself, trust her instincts, and don't be afraid to speak her mind.  Life isn't about pleasing everyone else or doing what other people expect of you. It's about staying true to God's purpose for your life.  As long as you're doing that, everything else will fall into place.

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