Rachel Shenton: "I miss the community feel that Stoke has"
Interview by Carl Marsh
You've come a long way from Stoke-on-Trent, and you were born only a few miles from where I was born in Longton, so was it locally where you learnt all your acting skills before you got your break into TV?
Yes it certainly was, I was born in Caverswall, where I started working with my now dear friend and then acting coach, Amanda Andrews. I still love the area and get back as often as I can.
Was acting always what you wanted to do, and what is the best piece of advice you can offer to any budding actors or actresses?
Yes absolutely. I don't remember ever wanting to do anything else. My one piece of advice would be to keep going, don't give up, and as hard as it may feel at times, believe in yourself.
I don't get back that much to Stoke-on-Trent, I do miss the place, especially knowing that Stoke-on-Trent for me has some of the nicest people in the World, so what do you miss the most, and do you go back much? Oatcakes spring to my mind when I reminisce!
I miss the community feel that Stoke has, it's really like no other. I get back often, as my mum and friends still live there. I'm also heavily involved with two local charities, so I'm there a lot working with them. And of course I miss the oatcakes!
A short while ago you went from Hollyoaks to Hollywood, so was it a tough decision moving out to LA, as I know the place is not all glitz and glamour?
I'm not sure it was a conscious decision as such, so I can’t really say if it was difficult. I got the role on Switched at Birth and moved for the job, which was a lovely order to do it in, and I'm so grateful it worked out like that.
Well your new show Switched At Birth, it is the first U.S. TV series to feature actors/actresses that suffer with deafness or are hard of hearing. I know you learnt Sign Language for personal reasons, how important a step has this show made in the U.S.?
The show is very pioneering, and has really smashed boundaries - which I believe is the reason it's so successful. It's won numerous awards including a Peabody Award and ones for outstanding achievement. So I'm very proud to be part of the cast.
Do you miss Hollyoaks and the rest of the cast, and do you catch up with any of any of the other ex-cast members who have also moved out to LA?
Hollyoaks will always be special, I had such a great time on the show. I am still good friends with Victoria Atkin who played Jasmine Costello, she lives in LA too so we frequently go for a frozen yogurt - God that's so American!
What does it take to become a successful actress like yourself, especially as there is so much competition out there?
Thank you, and yes, there certainly is a lot of competition. I read a quote once that said "To make it in the business you need talent, luck and a thick skin, but unfortunately you need an equal measure of all three" - I'd say that's fairly accurate.
What do you love to be asked about yourself, and why?
I love to get asked about the work I do for the NDCS and Deaflinks - they both do such incredible work, so it's nice when people are interested in that. I also "love" to get asked if I wear hair extensions because I never have but I like to get asked!
One of my main aims is to inspire more to read. Is reading important to you, and why?
Absolutely! It's positive excercise for your mind. For me, I find I can truly escape and relax when reading. I also get so inspired from reading a good book or script.
I actually have recently discovered a website called www.warmvellumbookshop.co.uk.
You say what you like to read and they send books that would suit you, so they do the hard work of selecting books. You can also have a monthly membership, it's all bespoke and they do cool gifts too.
Don't you think it's important that people should read more books?
I think right now it's more important than ever for people to read books.
We live in a society where social media plays such a huge part in our daily routine. As much as I think social media can be fantastic when used correctly - I also think it can be counter-productive and quite mind consuming.
A book is an incredible way to lose yourself and expand your imagination.
What authors/books, have been those which you have enjoyed the most, and why?
Oh far too many..., the best book I read in the whole of last year was Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson - I loved it because there are so many plot twists. I'd say I like suspense and adventure books the best. I've just finished All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and Life of Pi by Yann Martel - Life of Pi was awesome, I like the young boys journey of discovery - particularly his religious beliefs. The author does a brilliant job of making the unbelievable events seem credible.
Have any of the characters you have played on screen ever come close to being the real you?
Well my job is to bring as much truth to each role as I can - so I guess they all have elements of my personality, as I try and make them real. It's just not necessarily my situation.
What makes you sad?
When people don't believe in themselves and realise their true potential. I've been working with a charity in Stoke-on-Trent for over 3 years called 'Ruby Girl', it helps young people who are suffering from low self-esteem and self-worth - it's an incredible charity and they are improving so many lives, but it breaks my heart that they have to.
So what really makes you angry?
Inequality and ignorance.
You must have lots of ambitions, what would they be?
I have many personal ambitions, so aside from my own stuff, I am an advocate for raising deaf awareness, and I'm very ambitious that deaf people will face less social barriers in the future.
In the future, have you any desire to move onto the stage at some point in your career, or perhaps the big screen?
I would love to do both, I've actually got something very exciting happening at the end of the year but I'm sworn to secrecy right now.
Last question, if you were an animal, what would it be and why?
Ha ha..I'd be a lion, they go out and hunt.