We are midway through yet another week my Little Monsters. August is well underway, the kiddie winkies are heading back to school (HUZZAH!), and Halloween lurks in the not so distant future – a mere 83 days to be exact. But f you’re here, it means you’re in need of creepy, horror related goodies. And as I an known to do every Wednesday, I have returned to bring you all another wonderful Woman of Horror.
This weeks female focal point is Miss Shawnee Smith. I don’t know about the rest of you, but the first time I remember seeing Shawnee Smith on screen was in the movie Summer School. And while it wasn’t a horror film, it did feature Dean Cameron and Gary Riley as the horror film (specifically the Tobe Hooper classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) addicted characters of Francis “Chainsaw” Gremp and Dave “Just Dave” Frasier. Of course Shawwnee’s versatility has enabled her to skillfully work across other different genres than just horror and comedy. But I’m not gonna get all froggy and jump ahead, so lets go back to the beginning, shall we?
Shawnee was the youngest of two children born to Patricia and james H. Smith. And while she is a South Carolinian by birth, being born in Orangeburg, SC, her family moved to Van Nuys, CA when she was only a year old, thus turning her into a California girl. She grew up around Hollywood, attending Ranchito Avenue Elementary School in Panorama City, Los Angeles, Madison Jr. High in North Hollywood and then attended and eventually graduated in 1987 from North Hollywood High School.
Her acting career began at the age of 8 when she started appearing on stage for a Christmas Carol repertory group, and at the age of 15 shared the stage with Richard Dreyfuss in a production in which they both starred. She was also the youngest person (at the time) to be awarded the Dramalogue Critics Award for her performance in the original stage production of To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday.
At the age on 9, Shawnee joined SAG (that’s the Screen Actors Guild to you and me, Rusty), and four years later made her big screen debut as an orphan in John Huston’s film adaptation of the Broadway Musical Annie which was also based on the comic strip and radio show character of Little Orphan Annie. It would be four years before she would appear on the big screen again, but during that time Shawnee made appearances on such TV series as Silver Spoons, It’s Your Move, Cagney and Lacey and a television movie titled Crime of Innocence.
In 1986 she returned to the big screen in the film Iron Eagle, which she followed up in 1987 with the aforementioned comedy movie, Summer School. But it was in 1988 that Shawnee dove headlong into the horror genre starring along side Kevin Dillon in the remake of the 1958 classic, The Blob and the made for TV horror-thriller I Saw What You Did. She would go on to star in the mini-series adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, The Stand, appear in an episode of The X-Files and the mini-series based on Stephen King’s novel The Shining, and would also appear in the loose remake of Herk Harvey’s classic horror film, Carnival of Souls. Then in 2004 came the film that Shawnee would-refer to as her”lucky strike”, that movie was Saw. She would go on to appear (sometimes in archive footage) in all seven of the films of the original franchise, thus solidifying her spot as scream queen, a horror icon, and definitely as one of our wonderful Women of Horror. She even lent her talents to another franchise in the genre, appearing in 2009’s, The Grudge 3, in the role of Dr. Sullivan. Shawnee also starred and served as executive producer on the mini-series 30 Days of Night: Dust to Dust, and was a host/mentor on the VH1 reality series, Scream Queens.
Despite her involvement in the genre, Shawnee has stated that she doesn’t like (possibly even hates) horror films, due to the fact that they truly are upsetting to her – especially those she’s starred in. In fact she originally turned down the role of Amanda and only accepted it the second time it was offered after having viewed James Wan and Leigh Whanell’s original short film of Saw. It was actually due to the fact that Whanell had a been crushing on Shawnee, since he was 14 years old, that she was actually was his top choice for the role of Amanda.
With an innate ability to display diverse acting range, Shawnee has experienced career consistency and longevity beyond that of horror fare. She has lent her talents to comedies (Summer School, Who’s Harry Crumb, Breakfast of Champions), dramas (Desperate Hours, Leaving Las Vegas, Never Get Outta the Boat, Jayne Mansfield’s Car) and and also to television (The Tom Show, Becker, Anger Management).
I’ll bet that many of you didn’t know that Shawnee is a multi-facted musician, who not only can play guitar, piano, drums and also sing, but even fronted a hardcore punk/metal band known as Fydolla Hoe…if you need help figuring out the name, I weep for you. The band’s lineup, when it was formed, consisted of Shawnee, Robert Trujillo, Rick Battson, and Benji Webbe. For a short time she also teamed up with fellow actress Missi Pyle to take a whole different musical direction more in the vein of country rock, as the duo of Smith and Pyle. Together they released on album, It’s OK to Be Happy, and even gave several live performances between 2008 and 2010. In 2011, before completing a second album, Smith and Pyle disbanded. Shawnee has stated that her reasons for the split were so that she could devote more time to television work and also more importantly, her three children.
For any fans who wish to meet Shawnee, keep an eye out on the horror convention circuit as she does make convention appearances. In fact, I had the pleasure of meeting Shawnee at Days of the Dead in Indianapolis, in 2016. I have to say that she is incredibly kind, gracious and just as lovely as ever. In fact, she still loves it when fans will tell her that they recognize her as having played the character of Meg Penny in The Blob. Considering the fact that most likely recognize her for the Saw franchise, it has to be a nice change to be remembered for earlier work. Hmmm, I wonder how she feels about being recognized for Carnival of Souls or The Grudge 3. Guess I’ll have to ask her when next I see her.
You know the drill my Little Monsters, if there is more you wish to know about Shawnee, just hop on the Global Spanning Interwebs and see what there is to see. You can keep up to date on what film or television projects she may have coming up over at her official IMDb page. As for Twitter and Facebook I haven’t found any verified accounts, but there is one on Twitter that’s an “official unofficial” account, so follow at your own risk. Was that too ominous?
Anyways, in similar fashion to that on screen duo of “Chainsaw” and Dave, from one of Shawnee’s early films, Summer School, I’m T.Love and…well it’s just me here, but I’ll see you…at the movies? Yeah, probably not, since I’m not into that whole stalking thing.
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