Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Monster Cast Interview: Shoshannah Stern/Bonnie

This lovely young lady certainly needs no introduction. We all know and love her as "Bonnie." She was so gracious about doing this interview even in the midst of her busy life. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

1. Did you always want to be an actress? Are there others in your family?

Yes. I never wanted to be anything else. I think I came out of the womb wanting to be an actor. I have vivid memories of me being maybe 4 or 5 and having people ask me, "So, what do you want to be when you grow up?" and me answering without hesitation, "An actor." I wish I knew where that came from, but I don't. My mother was highly acclaimed on the stage. Her face is on the cover of the first play written of, by, and for the deaf, called Sign Me Alice, and I have beautiful photographs of her on the stage on the wall in my bedroom. She was asked to direct a revival of the play when I was 7 or 8 years old, and I remember coming to rehearsal with her after school everyday, sitting next to her as she took notes and gave direction and blocking, and just loving every minute of it.

2. How has being deaf impacted your career?

That's a difficult question. I've been deaf since the day I was born and it's such a big part of my being. So, it's rather difficult to consciously isolate the specific impact that being deaf has had on me as a person and as an actor. On one hand, I only go on a handful of auditions per year, because there's not exactly a huge abundance of roles out there for me. At the same time, it's so difficult for actors to try to find a niche in this business, and I came into this with a clearly defined one. I was very lucky early on in my career to be able to book roles with absolutely no professional experience because I fit in the specifics they needed. I've always believed that nobody should define themselves as only being one thing, because nobody really is. I think definitely the rarity of roles that I can actually book has made me very hungry and passionate. I take my work very seriously and am always grateful to be working. Almost all actors I work with are like that, but I think maybe it's a bit more visceral with me.

3. I have to ask how it felt to work with the incredible Marlee Matlin in " The Division"?

I felt extremely blessed and so grateful to have the opportunity to work with someone as accomplished and highly regarded as her so early in my career. I have to say it was the first time I truly felt star-struck. I had to remind myself not to stare at her! I felt like I was seven years old again. She was more than generous with me and I learned so much working from her. She is a true pioneer and paved the way for so many people. It was kind of ridiculous how fortunate I was to be able to work with her.

4. Do you think people today are finally more accepting of the deaf community?

I think so. There's a lot more awareness out there. People have access to a lot more information nowadays with all the technology we have. I've met so many people who've been bored at work, decided to surf the web, and started picking up sign language from a website. There are also a lot of deaf bloggers out there that get thousands of hits per day, so anyone who wants to can just happen upon the plethora of information that's available about the community. I think society has also started to actually gravitate toward people and ideas that are different. Do you remember the standard of beauty in the '80s? Everyone looked the same, typically with teased blond hair and blue eyes. Now being different is beautiful and we're encouraged to speak our minds. I think that social progression has had a very positive impact toward the public perception of the deaf community.

5. How did you get the role of Bonnie?

After finishing two seasons of Weeds, I felt like I wanted to challenge myself more and go out for roles that weren't necessarily deaf. My new agency agreed, and so on my first day of auditioning for traditional roles, I went in for Emily on Jericho. I was in that room for hours waiting with girls who were taller, prettier and skinnier than me, and I almost wanted to leave a few times but I was like, you know, you've got this far, just go in and read. So I did, even though for my audition I had to pretend to talk on the phone and I'd actually never done that. I was holding the phone backwards and upside down I think. But the casting director was so welcoming and open and I was like, at least I got validation I could really read for traditional roles and not be laughed out of the room! The next thing I knew I was being offered the role of Bonnie. They'd rewritten the role to make her deaf and there I was, on board this great ensemble drama. It was crazy. But so unbelievably amazing.

6. You are the only actor in history to have regular roles in two different prime-time shows. You're in Jericho and Weeds.How are those roles similar? Different?

A lot of people have that misconception. I wish that was true, but unfortunately, it's not. My role on Weeds was a recurring one, not a regular one. I think someone once said that I had two roles on two different prime-time shows and then that got kind of exaggerated a bit. But both jobs were amazing. My characters are similar in that they're the same age, but they have completely different backgrounds. Megan, who I played on Weeds, is kind of this girl who's bored with Suburbia. She's not afraid of anything and she speaks her mind. She's got spunk and she's so confident. She's deeply intelligent and ambitious but she doesn't always live in the moment, I think. For her, it's always about what comes after Agrestic and she has every intention of getting out. Bonnie has a deep sense of responsibility and her life really is all about Jericho. She has a good head on her shoulders and is wise beyond her years. She's always just put herself second and everything else first, even though she does rebel at times! Especially with Sean Henthorn. What was she thinking?

7. How did you feel when Jericho was canceled?

It was really hard for all of us. We all had thought we'd be picked up and that CBS had faith in the show and was going to give us a second chance. They said that they knew they'd mismanaged the show, and it kind of felt like we had the rug pulled out from under us. We knew people loved the show and to have the show end like that, poised on the brink of so much, felt like we were ending with a whisper, not a bang. I know in this business, everything ends eventually, but it just felt so wrong to have it end then and there. I was kind of like a zombie for a couple of weeks, I just walked around in complete disbelief.

8. What was it like to here it had been renewed?

I was almost numb. I couldn't believe it. But in a way, it was so much more fulfilling and satisfying to have the show be brought back because of the determination and passion of our fans. It was surreal. You can't write that stuff. It was like the best underdog movie of all time. And it made us so grateful for everything we got because we knew we almost had it all taken away.

9. What would be your dream role other than the two you have now?

In general, I want to continue in the direction that I've come and just keep trying for traditional roles. I feel like that's the best way to educate people about the deaf community and what people are capable of if they're given the chance. I do want to start writing one day. I have a few roles I really want to sink my teeth into, but I don't want to talk about them until I really start to make that a reality. When the time is right, I'll tell you all about that and you won't be able to shut me up.

10. What is it like for you to work on Jericho with such a wonderful cast and crew?

It's wonderful. On every television show possible, you have people saying, "Oh, this show is like a family!" But most of the time, they're lying. Seriously. But not on Jericho. It's always such a blast to come to work. I'm always laughing and happy to see everyone. After a difficult scene we had to do, we all even went to TGI Friday's to chill for a couple of hours. You'd think we'd be sick of each other and be like, "Dude, I'm going home." But it's not like that. I think they tapped into some rare form of alchemy when they put the cast and crew together for this show.

Is there anything you'd like to say to the Jericho Rangers?

I don't think they really know how often they're talked about on the show. It's like they've become an omnipresent force on the set. We know that they are the reason why we're back and it's the most amazing thing possible. We're all really working hard to give them what they deserve and that is an amazing, action packed second season. I think we've succeeded and I hope you guys like it!


Starring Roles

Jericho (2006) CBS - Bonnie Richmond
Weeds (2005) Showtime - Megan Beal
Last Shot, The (2004) - Steven's Girlfriend
Threat Matrix (2003) TV Series - Holly Brodeen Justice (2003) - First Patron
Auteur Theory, The (1999) - Founders' Day Girl

Guest Starring Roles

The Division - Testimonial (2003)
ER - Rosemary - A Little Help From My Friends (2003)
Boston Public - Chapter Fifty (2002)
Providence - Reenee - Great Expectations (2002)
Off Centre - Rebecca - Hear No Evil, See No Package (2002)


maybei said...

Shoshannah, the Jericho fans love you! Thanks for sharing your experiences as an actress - great interview!!

Balceroregontr said...

It was so great to learn more about Shosannah. I am glad she is a part of the Jericho cast but know we will be watching her for many years to come in many different roles.

openminded1 said...

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to inspire us with this interview. Thank you for helping to bring us all into a new era- in which everyone's individuality can be celebrated. One has to look very hard in the entertainment industry to find positive role models. However, one has not to look very hard to find them among the Jericho cast. This interview is a wonderful example of that.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your time, Shoshannah. I really enjoy the interaction between you and Mimi.
But get rid of that Sean dude, he's not good enough for you!

lovejohnston :)

terocious said...

Wow! I am speechless. Thank you!

Skeeterbit said...

What a sweetheart! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. I hope all your career aspirations come true AFTER at least a few more seasons of Jericho. Few? Several?

Jericho Monster rules!

kestral said...

Many thanks to Shoshannah for a terrific interview. As openminded1 said, it is nice to have such a wonderful role model for young women. There is no shortage of good role models in the Jericho cast. Once again, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to provide us with this interview.

Can I just say how cool I think it is that the cast talks about US???? Is that crazy or what? Blows my mind!

Jericho Monster...amazing job, as always.

LisiBee said...

Jericho Monster, you have outdone yourself--thank you so much for this interview with Shoshannah! And Shoshannah, thank you for taking the time to allow yourself to be interviewed, it's always fantastic to learn more about the cast. I had no idea that you originally read for Emily, but I truly cannot imagine you as anyone else but Bonnie. You bring such sparkle to the role, and you are a joy to watch on-screen. I'm looking forward to watching you on many more seasons of Jericho, as well as in your future projects. Best of luck in all you do!

Jericho247 said...

Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule, Shoshannah! You totally rock!! Great interview!!

And the cast/crew talks about us? US?? Man, that is so amazing, it blows my mind!

And major props to Jericho Monster for this interview.

rubberpoultry said...

What a joy it was to follow the link this morning to this this incredible interview. Jane, you just keep bringing it! Just when I think you can't top yourself again, you go and do it!

Shoshannah, you are so good on the show. You communicate so much without even saying a word sometimes. Bonnie may be more of a secondary character on Jericho, but you make her shine, and that sparkle makes her stand out as a beloved character.

Thank you so much for sharing your time with us.


Briarpatch said...

Thank you Shoshannah, for taking time to be interviewed, and thanks to Jericho Monster Blog for doing it. I know you understand, Shoshannah, how much a deaf celebrity can mean to deaf teenagers, and I have an appreciation for that because I work at the Schools for the Blind and Deaf in my state. Kids need to see role models so they can understand they need to reach for more in life. The role of Bonnie on Jericho is much richer for having the character be deaf. Lucky for them you went in to read for Emily.

Darthmad said...

I am just a kid and I am not deaf but I know how it is to be in a small place and stand out for being different. Bonnie not only had to be like that but she has to deal with stuff like getting a boyfriend and becoming a lady while everyone is in so much danger in Jericho.

When I was a baby I had a picture book of Helen Keller and I used to read it all the time. I have a lot of other books now about her and about other stories with deaf people in them. I read the Miracle Worker when I got it for Christmas and I really would like to be in that play. I think it is neat about your mom and how you always wanted to be an actress.

I have been learning some sign language and I have three books and I try to teach myself new things so that by the time I am all grown up it will be something I know how to do. I am also interested in animals and how animals can help people.

You are very pretty and nice. I like to watch you on Jericho when I get to watch it.

Kmac said...

Shoshannah, thank you so much for taking the time to give this interview! I loved reading this.
Jericho Monster, You are the best!!!!!!!!!

AmyV said...

I love the scenes between Bonnie and Mimi and look forward to many years to come. I somehow suspect that sometime in the future the two characters will gang up on Stanley and set him straight - in a good way, of course. ;-)

Jane, your interviews just keep getting better and better!

flutterby10 said...

Shoshannah..........a beautiful person portraying a beautiful person (Bonnie). She has made herself one of my favorites...

I loved reading every bit of this interview. Thank you very much.

kystorms said...

WOW, this was awesome! Those of us who enjoy this blog just got the best surprise. You rock Sweat629, thanks for all your wonderful interviews.

Chris C said...

Great interview!

It is such a great thing when the actors of the shows we love sit down with us and give us some interesting insight into themselves and the show.

auntvonna said...

Wow Sweat, you've outdone yourself yet again! You rock!

Shoshannah, we all do indeed love you and thanks so much for taking the time out for the interview!
You are a classy young lady and it was so cool to learn more about you and your career.