This is the first in a new series of profiles centered on the people who make web series. The goal is to provide a bit of insight into not only the actors but also the writers, creators, and even the agents and executives working in the web TV space. Hopefully, this will be a series that readers will enjoy. First up, OzGirl star, Shanrah Wakefield.
Shanrah Wakefield grew up in the small town of Moe (pronounced Mowee) in Victoria, Australia before moving to Melbourne when she was 17. After a stint at the Lee Strasburg Theater Institute in Los Angeles, she returned to Australia and graduated from Monash University in Melbourne, earning degrees in Liberal Arts and Law. In Australia, one can earn a law degree in four years rather than the debt-crushing seven needed in the US. “I think people will be surprised to learn I’m a lawyer”, she states with a certain degree of self-deprecation. Even at an early age the self-described show off knew she wanted to be a performer.
In 2008, Shanrah starred in the short film, Rock Shop directed by future OzGirl creator Nicholas Carlton. Later that year, Carlton cast Wakefield in the Streamy Award winning series portraying the pivotal role of Megan, a self-obsessed former child star who serves as a guide to Sophie Tilson’s Sadie. Surprisingly, she has little in common with her OzGirl character save for the fact that they both can string together a row of expletives that would make the saltiest of sailors blush. The critically acclaimed series ran for 23 episodes taking home several awards at the 4th Annual ITV Festival including Best Acting, which Wakefield accepted with her costar Sophie Tilson. Wakefield would later star in a short film, written and directed by Tilson. Following the success of OzGirl, she moved to LA to pursue an acting career.
When I finally caught up with Shanrah, she had spent the afternoon trying to finalize her move into a new apartment in LA. While moving halfway across the world might seem daunting, for the 25-year old Aussie expat, it is just another in a series of travel related adventures that have spanned six continents. Shanrah has traveled extensively, often eschewing tourist sites for small villages and back alley restaurants. In fact, her choice of favorite places to visit reads like the State Department’s travel advisory watch list. As I listened to her recount tales of hitchhiking through areas most Americans would not visit without an armed escort, I was thankful I never bought a web-cam and that she could not see the abject shock roll across my face. However, for the aspiring actress and human rights’ advocate any potential danger is a distant thought compared to the opportunity for enrichment and personal discovery.
“Everyone should travel alone or at least alone part of time. It is a great way to build character,” she states with the tone of an experienced world traveler or Zen master. “It is [also] a great way to meet people.” Truly, she has met her fair share of interesting characters during her travels, such as the time she found herself hitchhiking through the Middle East with a Santa Claus doppelganger who liked to hoard food from buffets. Each new experience she embraces fully with an infectious wide-eyed enthusiasm. Whether finding herself stranded in a Bolivian village or being arrested in Laos for having three girls on one motorcycle, which, in her words, was a bogus charge since locals put whole families on a single motorbike, every experience brings its own opportunity for enrichment.
“People are so much more open and loving than they are given credit for,” she responds to my question about attitudes towards Westerners. In example, she mentions the time she found herself in a Northern Syrian village, where the locals treated her like royalty, refusing to let her pay for meals, cabs, or anything.
“It is a misconception that people hate Americans,” she states definitively. Her experience in Syria is one that particularly resonates with her, since she does not believe if situations were reversed that they would be treated with the same warmth and generosity in either the US or her native Australia. Shanrah’s experiences certainly challenge the conventional wisdom or perhaps the people she has encountered simply found themselves enthralled by the pretty Aussie with the intelligent eyes and easy smile.
When I asked her what she liked most about web series, she replied ‘ballsiness’. The fact that so many people are willing to take risks is something that, undoubtedly, strikes a cord with a person who hitchhikes alone through third world countries. Although, she does text the license plate number to her mother before embarking, which I imagine is great comfort to her mom back home in Australia. In her opinion, the key to taking web series to the next level is to gain mainstream attention by attracting bigger names.
“Yeah, I know I’m going to lose out and I don’t want to see it taken over by large corporations,” she added, “but if you are going to make money and call it an industry then you need outsiders to step in.” A bold statement for an actress who has carved out a niche in web series.
Shanrah Wakefield is still a person on the move. While she has finally moved into her new apartment, she is still looking forward to the next adventure. In fact, she is already planning her next trip, this time to Italy. For the aspiring actress and former competitive roller skater (I checked, it is a real thing) the future holds a great deal of promise. To keep up-to-date on her latest projects, follow her on Twitter, or friend her on Facebook. Tell her Tubefilter sent you.