Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Righting a Past Wrong? Academy to Present Spike Lee with Honorary Oscar Righting a Past Wrong? Academy to Present Spike Lee with Honorary Oscar Viola Davis Says She Will Star in a Film Adaptation of 'Fences' Directed by Denzel Washington Viola Davis Says She Will Star in a Film Adaptation of 'Fences' Directed by Denzel Washington Vin Diesel Says He's Returning for a 'xXx' Threequel - Filming to Start in December Vin Diesel Says He's Returning for a 'xXx' Threequel - Filming to Start in December Updates on Steve McQueen's "Epic" Series Centered on a Black Community in London, Over 3 Decades Updates on Steve McQueen's "Epic" Series Centered on a Black Community in London, Over 3 Decades This Is What Angela Bassett and Naomi Campbell Will Look Like in 'American Horror Story: Hotel' This Is What Angela Bassett and Naomi Campbell Will Look Like in 'American Horror Story: Hotel' Quentin Tarantino Says 'The Hateful Eight' Will Be Timely & Will Tackle White Supremacy Quentin Tarantino Says 'The Hateful Eight' Will Be Timely & Will Tackle White Supremacy But What About Black Superheroines, You Ask? Watch Episode 1 of CW Seed's Vixen Series But What About Black Superheroines, You Ask? Watch Episode 1 of CW Seed's Vixen Series Watch: First Look at Season Three of 'Hit the Floor' Watch: First Look at Season Three of 'Hit the Floor' Brad Pitt's Plan B + 'Ex Machina' Distribution Company Team up for Barry Jenkins' 'Moonlight' Brad Pitt's Plan B + 'Ex Machina' Distribution Company Team up for Barry Jenkins' 'Moonlight' Jay Ellis and Yvonne Orji Join Issa Rae in 'Insecure' for HBO Jay Ellis and Yvonne Orji Join Issa Rae in 'Insecure' for HBO Tupac Shakur Facebook Page Posts Cryptic Message on Upcoming "Special Announcement." Biopic News? Tupac Shakur Facebook Page Posts Cryptic Message on Upcoming "Special Announcement." Biopic News? Weekend B.O. Aug 21-23 (F. Gary Gray Becomes a Prominent Member of the $100 Million Black Directors Club) Weekend B.O. Aug 21-23 (F. Gary Gray Becomes a Prominent Member of the $100 Million Black Directors Club) Dr. Dre Issues Public Statement Apologizing for "The Women I’ve Hurt" Dr. Dre Issues Public Statement Apologizing for "The Women I’ve Hurt" Timely Brit Documentary 'The Hard Stop' Explores Life & Death of Mark Duggan + Riots That Followed (Trailer) Timely Brit Documentary 'The Hard Stop' Explores Life & Death of Mark Duggan + Riots That Followed (Trailer) Say Hello to Marvel's Newest Superhero - Moon Girl Say Hello to Marvel's Newest Superhero - Moon Girl Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... AFM News: Danny Glover, Derek Luke Will Play Prison Inmates In 3D Drama 'Long Day Journey' AFM News: Danny Glover, Derek Luke Will Play Prison Inmates In 3D Drama 'Long Day Journey'

Actress Shanti Ashanti on Embracing Conflict in the Role She Plays in 'Gun Hill' (Re-Airs on BET Tonight, 7:30pm)

Shadow and Act By Shanti Ashanti | Shadow and Act July 24, 2014 at 12:55PM

When I auditioned for the original BET movie, "Gun Hill," writer/director Reggie Rock Bythewood asked me, “How would you feel about playing a woman who is half Israeli and half Palestinian?"
2
Gun Hill

My name is Shanti Ashanti. I was named after my family’s non-profit organization, Beit Hashanti, based in Tel Aviv, Israel. Beit Hashanti is a shelter that takes in homeless and abused youth from all sectors of the population, regardless of religion, race, gender or nationality I was raised with forty different brothers and sisters at any given time. In the shelter, the “war” we are engaged in is a daily battle to help kids choose life, to find the power to accept their past and to stop being victims of circumstance.

When I auditioned for the original BET movie, "Gun Hill," writer/director Reggie Rock Bythewood asked me, “How would you feel about playing a woman who is half Israeli and half Palestinian?"  

Ashanti Shanti

In an ideal reality where a human being is a human being, where there is no separation of religion or race, this question wouldn’t even come up.  However, the ongoing, unending, and decades-old conflict between my people and the Palestinians, provoked the question and I was now forced to think about what my personal views were about playing such a character.  To be honest, I wasn't really sure.  

I flashed back to my upbringing.  

Growing up in Israel, a country that is consistently under attack, exposed me from a very young age to the fact that in war, the price both sides pay is unalterable.  But the questions I really needed to answer as an actress were:

"Would playing this character teach me something about myself?"  

"Would it challenge my views in ways they hadn't been before?"  

"Did the role scare me?"  

The answer to all three questions was, yes.  And it was exactly those reasons why I needed to take on this role.

After I agreed to play the character of SEMI FARAJ and started preparing for it, I was able to draw on some of the experiences I had in Israel and things I witnessed growing up.  Some of it was not pretty.  I would have to enter the mind of a woman who has family members on both sides of the conflict. And while some of my character's back story ended up on the cutting room floor, the opportunity to explore this duality is what made the role so interesting.

There's a scene in the movie where the lead character, BIRD (played by Larenz Tate), a man who has just come out of prison and takes on the identity of his twin, says, "Wrong and right ain't a concept I subscribe to." 

Semi's identity, like Bird’s, is always divided, in that she can never commit to one side of herself or the other.  But maybe there lies the answer...   

It is not about committing to one side or the other, it is about being willing and figuring out how to embrace BOTH.  

Shanti Ashanti is an Israeli actress living in Los Angeles.  She can currently be seen on the TV movie, "GUN HILL," airing on BET this Thursday, July 24, at 7:30pm/6:30pm Central Time.


Shadow & ActNewsletter