Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
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 Indiegogo Video: 'Dear White People' Breaks Domestic Box Office Record for a Crowdfunded Film Indiegogo Video: 'Dear White People' Breaks Domestic Box Office Record for a Crowdfunded Film Bring on the Racist Comments - Mehcad Brooks Cast to Play Jimmy Olsen in New 'Supergirl' Series Bring on the Racist Comments - Mehcad Brooks Cast to Play Jimmy Olsen in New 'Supergirl' Series These Films & TV Series Are Leaving Netflix's Streaming Library at the End of This Month (January) These Films & TV Series Are Leaving Netflix's Streaming Library at the End of This Month (January) Say Hello to the Cast of the All-New, All-Female 'Ghostsbusters' movie Say Hello to the Cast of the All-New, All-Female 'Ghostsbusters' movie Review: Nuance-Deprived "Race" Movie 'Black or White' is Actually About White Frustration (Opens Friday) Review: Nuance-Deprived "Race" Movie 'Black or White' is Actually About White Frustration (Opens Friday) Trailer: Musical Take on the Gospel According to John the Apostle w/ a Black Cast (Harry Lennix, Chaka Khan, Mali Music, More) Trailer: Musical Take on the Gospel According to John the Apostle w/ a Black Cast (Harry Lennix, Chaka Khan, Mali Music, More) ABC Picks Up New Pilot From Shonda Rhimes' Shondaland Titled 'The Catch' ABC Picks Up New Pilot From Shonda Rhimes' Shondaland Titled 'The Catch' First 'Fantastic Four' Reboot Trailer Surfaces! Watch It Now! First 'Fantastic Four' Reboot Trailer Surfaces! Watch It Now! Review: 'Girlhood's' Strength Lies in Its Naturalistic Depiction of Young Female Friendship (Opens Friday) Review: 'Girlhood's' Strength Lies in Its Naturalistic Depiction of Young Female Friendship (Opens Friday) Ava DuVernay & David Oyelowo Make It a Trifecta as They Re-Team for Katrina-Set Love Story/Murder Mystery Ava DuVernay & David Oyelowo Make It a Trifecta as They Re-Team for Katrina-Set Love Story/Murder Mystery Review: Lifetime's 'With This Ring' - So What Did You Think of It? Review: Lifetime's 'With This Ring' - So What Did You Think of It? Here Are 10 Reasons Why Many of You Aren't Going to Movie Theaters Anymore, According to a New Study Here Are 10 Reasons Why Many of You Aren't Going to Movie Theaters Anymore, According to a New Study 'Empire' Breaks Fox TV’s 22 Year Old Ratings Record 'Empire' Breaks Fox TV’s 22 Year Old Ratings Record An Open Letter to My Sister, Ava DuVernay An Open Letter to My Sister, Ava DuVernay 'Supremacy' Director Deon Taylor Talks Race, Horror, and Working With Lela Rochon (LAFF Premiere) 'Supremacy' Director Deon Taylor Talks Race, Horror, and Working With Lela Rochon (LAFF Premiere) Macy Gray, Bryshere Y. Gray (aka Yazz The Greatest) Will Have An Affair In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' Macy Gray, Bryshere Y. Gray (aka Yazz The Greatest) Will Have An Affair In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' It's A 'Hustle & Flow' Reunion! Taraji P. Henson Joins Terrence Howard In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' It's A 'Hustle & Flow' Reunion! Taraji P. Henson Joins Terrence Howard In Lee Daniels' 'Empire' 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...

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