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Life & Work with Shereen Khan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shereen Khan.

Hi Shereen, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
Raised on a delicious regiment of I Love Lucy and MGM musicals, I knew I wanted to be an actor from a young age. I studied theatre at LACHSA and established a strong foundation for being this vessel for storytelling…and then I launched into adulthood and did everything else but acting.

I ran a martial arts studio, taxied aircraft off runways, bartended, played music, edited sound, was a studio executive, was an in-theatre technician…the list goes on.

And there are reasons for these detours that I’ll one day do a TED talk or podcast about, but while on the 10 year trajectory of a perfectly respectable, if exhausting, executive career path at a major studio, I was gifted a moment to stop and reassess when the company made my position redundant and laid me off.

At the time, I was learning from a wellness coach this concept of Primary vs. Secondary Nutrition. Primary Nutrition is not food you eat but things that feed your mind, spirit, relationships, vocation, etc. If one of these “nutrients” is off balance or depleted, it’s fundamentally unhealthy. I remembered when I was studying theatre at school, how the hours disappeared without needing a break because the work itself was fueling me. I realized, “I’m an artist and I’m starving creatively.” or, to coin a trope, ”I’m not a starving artist, I’m starving the artist in me.” It had become bad for my health to continue to do anything else. No benefits package could compare to the life-saving, spirit-enriching action of simply committing my soul to the thing I know I’m here on earth to do. So, instead of submitting resumes executive work elsewhere, I pivoted all my ambition toward a creative life.

This is what I’m doing today: finding a deep joy in choosing my life as an actor. I often can’t help but proselytize about it to other creatives at a crossroads whenever given a chance. If you’re a creative facing doubt, let’s have coffee, and I will tell you all the reasons why I think you need to keep going.

Since fully committing to an acting career in 2016, I’ve been laying track. Most people know that you don’t just decide to do this one day and then walk into a starring role. Rather you show up to a million auditions and become excellent at learning from rejection until finally you land a co star, maybe a guest star, part – and then start the process all over again. We play a long game, all about tiny movements that hopefully jostle some molecules enough to resonate far and wide and eventually transmute reality into a viable career. I begin with my own molecules,  daily coercing them into a more refined mass that can be in full service to storytelling. Training is critical, and I’m always in a class or workshop; I’ve found some incredible revolving cohorts, and Beverly Hills Playhouse is where I call home for ongoing practice and skill sharpening.

Activity Talent represents me commercially and, happily, I book at a good clip, getting great audition and on-set experience in this way. When I was ready to level up in 2020, I utilized the pandemic shutdowns to refocus my intent on signing with a theatrical agent and and joined SAG-AFTRA. I found fantastic representation with Aqua Talent at the end of 2021, and I’m going out on the biggest auditions of my life.

I started to produce short-form content. At first it was meant only for my reel and marketing materials. But the practice sparked my love for creating stories as an actor, a writer and producer so now I’m producing this content with larger distribution in mind.

So, yes, of course I’m also writing a pilot because, you know, if you’re in L.A. and not writing a pilot, what are you really doing? I jest. But seriously, get that thing registered at WGA asap.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
This work is full of paradoxes:

For example, I need support but I can’t delegate the actual work. The comparison to a marathon is apt in that, while I’m running alongside many others like me, the intent must remain personal-best through a unique expression of merely similar steps. But even though this process has so much individual focus, it’s ultimately about telling the story of what happens when we join forces. I see my job as recreating that energetic supernova that happens between humans when we relate and I need to reach an emotionally vulnerable place to do that well. When my nose is to the grindstone or when I’m licking the wounds of what can feel like rejection, that vulnerable state can be challenging to access.

But if I stay real about results and eschew the need for instant gratification – because that’s not typically available in this work – most days are good. And when I’m at peace with the effort and can recognize the fulfillment I’m getting, I adore every moment of it.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I have a pretty fun performance history overall. If you were between the ages of 3 and 7 in 2005 or so when I was making music, you might have seen me performing with the kiddie rock band Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang on Entertainment Tonight, Noggin, or live at The Geffen, Sunset Junction, or about town. I also perform live foley sound FX for the theatrical radio play trend rekindled primarily by the brilliant team at L.A. Theatre Works;  I’ve taken this work to Bozeman Montana to perform with Small Batch Arts Ensemble produced their local Children’s Shakespeare Society.

When I wrote and shot material for myself last year, I referred to my character type as “The Wounded Warrior.” She’s that archetype of someone who’s been put-upon all her life, and now you’re seeing her boss-up. Think Peggy from Mad Men or any of the three lead characters on Good Girls. It was a way to develop myself through the arc of a character and I produced three original short pieces on this casting theme.

As an Indian-American woman, it’s exhilarating to be in an industry that is currently celebrating diversity and representation. I especially love seeing stories like “Never Have I Ever” or “Master of None” which emphasize that people of color are core Americans with experiences both idiosyncratic and universal. It’s stories like these that I feel aligned with and make me excited to audition for the content being created today.

What are your plans for the future?
I’m shooting the pilot episode of a series I’ve written based on America’s fractured relationship with intimacy. It’s a concern that came up for me during the pandemic shut down and I think many people can relate to it. I wrote the script last year and I’m excited to be in the development phase.

And I’m always searching for collaborators with whom to produce content. Just like offspring can be stronger when pulling from a more diverse gene pool, I feel like having more than one perspective feeding a production can often render more dimension. Plus I learn so much from everyone I work with in the process. I find that even if I’m stumbling through a workflow, with a capable crew the experience is a kind of master class.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Maria Proios Dana Patrick Alessandro Nori “Unfair and Ugly”

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