Meet Shannon Kook.
This summer, the South Africa native (previously known for his role of Zane on Degrassi) exploded on the big screen with his role on The Conjuring.
While his quest to become an A-list actor is well on its way, Shannon continues to work a regular job, commutes to LA for auditions (on his own time), and maintains a separate social life.
I had the chance to sit down with Shannon to discuss his ups and downs, Degrassi, Bruce Lee, and plans going forward. Our discussion is presented below.
1. What can you tell us about your character, Drew, in The Conjuring? What makes it different than your previous roles?
You’ll probably notice my 70’s hair and bell bottoms. You’ll also think twice playing with a ouija board or sleeping alone after this one. It’s a horror movie, but it’s different than the usual stuff you see today.
The first night we read the script, Vera Farmiga put her laptop down and went to sleep. The next morning, she woke up and there were three gashes down her screen. When I asked her about it, she looked off awkwardly and didn’t really have a response. Stuff like that happened.
To be honest, it was actually supposed to come out in January. We cut my best lines to keep it PG-13. It got an R-rating and we pushed it to the summer not because of the gore, but because of how scary it was. Plus, it’s based on a true story.
In fact, James Wan (the director) insisted on keeping things as authentic as possible. The studio wanted to streamline the script, and suggested we have less than five daughters. James didn’t budge, and that’s why there are five in the movie. He wanted to keep it true to life.
2. What was the biggest challenge with this role?
Finding my stride.
I joined the cast in the middle of shooting, and was the only Canadian involved. This cast has some big names, and my previous roles have always been leads or guest spots, so I had to find my space and not obstruct “the machine”. It was a learning experience.
3. What part of experience will stay with you going forward?
You always remember your first time, and there were several on this trip. I’d say arriving on set, arriving at my hotel, and doing the press line at my first personal red carpet premiere. It’s my first feature film and my first movie to top the box office.
4. You’re from South Africa, and you’ve spent time in LA and Toronto. What place has left the biggest impression on you?
South Africa. It’s who I am. It’s where I’m from.
I’ve gained my own North American flow, but my beat is still from down South. From the Afrikaans to the Zulu songs I’d sing in school, to the sport culture and the demeanor of the people.
People are often surprised when I say “yes, I was born and raised in South Africa”. My accent has curved a bit since I’ve been away for so long (which is inevitable) but that doesn’t change where I’m from.
In LA, when my friends respond to strangers, they say “we’re from Canada”. When that happens, I can’ t help but correct them because (a) they’re probably asking to find out what the hell my accent is; and (b) I feel like I’m disowning my roots.
5. On that note, is there anyone, specifically an actor, that you’ve tried to model yourself after?
I don’t model myself after anyone, but I do learn from others.
Bruce Lee is the man, though. He was a philosopher, warrior, perpetual student and thrust of passion.
He merged what he learned with his own style and voice. He was a model of expression through several manners. He was a champion dancer, and a generous teacher. He’s hilarious when he wants to be, and piercing with intensity when he doesn’t. Even when he’d kill someone, you could feel the agony sear through his performance. He broke down racial barriers, rewired stereotypes, and is spoken of as the “father of MMA” by many in the UFC. Plenty of respect for this man.
6. A lot of people recognize you from Degrassi. Are you constantly trying to get away from that?
I’ll never want to break away from Degrassi. Their fanbase is one of the best on TV.
The crowd is younger, so their hearts are more open to express their appreciation. They’re not too invasive, either. We have it good. If people still look back on their teenage years when they’re 80 with some memories of Degrassi, I’ll be very happy.
Plus, my role on Degrassi wasn’t just a role. I get mail from people who came out or found footing because of my role. One fan got in amazing shape and sent me a picture of a tattoo on his waist. It said, “In Your Eyes”, in commemoration of my first episode on the show. It was a moving story.
7. What’s a realistic expectation of success going forward?
No idea. If I went into this industry jotting down what was realistic, I wouldn’t have jumped. I’ve seen people with minimal experience blow up and dismantle just as fast. Things can change very suddenly. Here today, gone tomorrow.
My friend Fefe Dobson said to me once, “your fans will hate you just as fast as they love you”. So, I try not to take any of it for granted.
8. Are you working on anything new at the moment?
I just got back from the premiere in LA, so I’ve been applying for extra jobs to pay rent. I’m also auditioning every week. I have a lead role lined up with Charlize Theron, Chloe Moretz, Nicholas Hoult and Tye Sheridan at the end of September for a movie called Dark Places.
9. What goals do you have outside of the acting industry?
I run my own acting studio, which is picking up more and more. I also have my eye on directing, writing and music. I’ve been doing MMA four times a week. I also just got a new tenor ukelele and intend to join dance classes in hip hop and modern. There are too many things I want to learn right now. I’ll have to prioritize.
10. Anything else you want our readers to know?
There’s no rules on how things are achieved. If you want something, take a step forward and figure it out as you go. You wake up and go to bed with your own thoughts. Make sure you’re not kicking yourself later for being towed by someone else’s.Follow @cavejordans