Actress Brit Shaw shares her incredible journey to telling the story of ‘Peace in the Valley’
Fulfilling one’s dreams is never as straightforward as they may think – especially in Hollywood. You struggle at the bottom and, if you’re lucky, you make your way to the opportunities at the top. Actor Brit Shaw shares her journey from working hard behind the camera to shining bright in front of it. Let’s see how she came to star in Peace in the Valley!
1. Tell us about your history as an actor. How did you get started?
My first job was working as a casting assistant in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee when “Walk the Line” came to film there one summer. I wanted to learn as much as I could! I got the opportunity to put myself on tape for a small role and got the job, so I was so excited to also play a very small part in the movie as well. After that, I went to college and then moved to Los Angeles as soon as I was able to! From there, I started auditioning and booking roles, trying to learn as much as I could along the way.
2. Who were your biggest acting influences growing up?
Oh goodness, there are so many! I loved watching actors like Cate Blanchett, Amy Adams, Meryl Streep, Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Morgan Freeman, Kate Winslet, and many more. The list goes on. When I was a kid, I loved Julia Roberts. My friends and family will laugh when I say this because I idolized her as a kid! I just loved actors. Every actor has a different approach, which I think is wonderful about the art of acting and why so many performers have inspired me.
3. You’re the star of the new film Peace In the Valley. What initially drew you to the project?
The subject matter and complexity of the story caught my attention. It deals with something that unfortunately too many people in our society have experienced. The story of innocent, everyday people just going about their day, caught in the wrong place and at the wrong time. I wanted the audience to know these people are just like us. They didn’t choose this path. These random acts of violence change your world and those around you forever in an instant.
The character that I play, Ashley, takes us on her journey after the 24-hr news cycle is over and the attention has faded away. The story is about love, loss, grief, and hope. We didn’t want to show the shooter, the gun, or the blood, we wanted to show the other side – the ones that have to pick up the pieces when their lives are changed forever in an instant. It was an important story for me to tell.
4. Do you find it’s easier to play characters that you have a personal connection with?
Not really. Every role has its own unique challenges and I enjoy the process of discovering each character I play for their similarities and differences. That’s what makes acting so exciting. You get to inhabit roles and bring these characters to life.
5. Do you have a routine or practice for helping yourself get into character?
Just hard work and focus, being as prepared as I can be, and staying present in each moment.
6. In addition to starring, you are producing Peace In the Valley. Was it difficult to juggle these two different responsibilities?
The most challenging part was shooting during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic! We got shut down in March of 2020 and resumed in August of 2020. It was a very challenging time to be making a movie! We were a small, independent film; I knew our production schedule was tight and I knew we’d only get about 1 or 2 takes per setup. As an actor, I needed to stay in a certain headspace because I wanted to serve the material and be truthful to the character, but I also had to be a producer in between takes.
I was constantly going back and forth between both jobs but worked within myself to stay in the headspace of Ashley because I knew there was no room for error with our tight shooting schedule. I did a lot of work ahead of time on the role before shooting began so that I could come to set fully prepared and able to go from producer to actor. It kept me on my toes – that’s for sure.
7. Do you feel your experience as an actor helped when it came time to produce a film of your own?
Yes, most definitely. I’m grateful for all of my prior experiences in this business.
8. Do you foresee a time when you work exclusively as a producer or do you always want to be in front of the camera?
I don’t know. They are both such different jobs with their own challenges. I really like both acting and producing, so that’s a hard question to answer. In a perfect world, I’d love to keep doing both. I really enjoy bringing interesting stories to life.
9. What is the main thing you want audiences to take away from Peace In the Valley?
The film reaches past political perspectives and aims to shine a light on the most human of issues: overcoming grief and tragedy. That the impact of gun violence is felt by many people, not just the direct victim. That grief is messy and unpredictable. You never know what someone else is going through. We all need to be there for one another no matter what.
10. What has been your greatest professional success?
I would say learning to stay within a specific mindset. Work hard, never give up. Stay persistent.
11. What about a professional setback? What did you learn?
This business is really tough. There have been many times when you lose out to just one other person on a life-changing role. It’s hard to get back up each time, but learning how to do that is what keeps you going. Stay persistent.
12. Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?
You’ll have to stay tuned! We currently have a few projects in development that focus on female-driven content. As a female actor and producer, it’s very important to me to support and tell stories of strong women that deserve to be told.
13. What advice do you have for aspiring actors?
Have thick skin and never stop working on your craft. Create your own opportunities. Believe in yourself above all.
14. Lastly, what is your favorite film of all time?
Oh, this is a hard one! I would have to say “Dumb and Dumber.” I mean… it’s just timeless and still continues to make me laugh out loud every time I watch it. It’s one of the best comedy films ever made.