‘Heroes Reborn’ star Judi Shekoni found peace beyond career success

HEROES REBORN -- Season: 1 -- Pictured: Judi Shekoni as Joanne -- (Photo by: Jeff Riedel/NBC)

Photo courtesy of NBC

British actress Judi Shekoni is understandably excited. She’s appeared in films like The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn and television shows like “The King of Queens,” but now she’s tackling the world of superpowered action and drama with NBC’s highly anticipated “Heroes Reborn” mini-series. Shekoni spoke to rolling out about the project and how she’s been able to maintain a sense of balance in Hollywood throughout the ups and downs of being a working actress.

“I’ve definitely gone through periods like ‘What’s the point?’ but I’ve had to turn inward,” Shekoni says. “The industry is not the most important thing in my life. I feel like I have other things going on, so my happiness is not completely reliant on Hollywood or working as an actor. I am spiritual and I do believe that what’s mine is meant to be mine. It’s given me an interesting way to approach rejection — using phrases like ‘It’s not rejection, it’s redirection!’ And just not taking things personally.

“It’s interesting because as an actor, you have to have a thick skin on one side so that you as far as not getting the jobs, but you also have to have an incredibly thin skin on camera so that people can see your emotions in the character. As an actor, you have to do both.”

On “Heroes Reborn,” Shekoni plays Joanne Collins, a vigilante who’s out for revenge after enduring a terrorist attack that cost her deeply.

“I would describe [Joanne] as maybe a little tortured. Very complex, I think,” Shekoni explains. “Maybe a little crazy and tormented! She’s just lost her only child, so I think anybody who experiences that doesn’t really stay in her right frame of mind. And when we come into the story that’s where we find her; in a stage of grief and she’s trying to figure out what the world needs right now.”

Obviously, the original “Heroes” was a pop culture phenomenon in the early 2000s, and Shekoni says that die-hard fans have never worried her. She relishes the opportunity to become a part of these well-established worlds.

“I think I was just excited,” she says of her initial feelings regarding the project. “I’d just done Twilight, the last film of the series, so I’d already experienced that. And I found it positive, from the perspective of already having a fanbase and a world that you occupy that is already established. Maybe now that it’s going to air,  there’s going to be people watching it and a lot of people are going to have opinions about it. But when I got the job, in choosing it, it’s advantageous that it already has some history to it.”

Shekoni has been able to mature as a woman and as an actress during her time in Los Angeles. Part of that process meant allowing opportunities to come even when — it seemed like they were a long time coming.

“I think I’ve started to learn it’s less about other people and more about me,” she explains. “The more work I do on myself, the better opportunities I get. I’ve really learned that as an actress, the more I know myself, the better I become. And in the industry, not necessarily believing the hype and attraction is better than promotion. Opportunities come when you’re ready and patient. And I believe in not getting impressed easily. When I first came here, I was impressed by a certain person or a certain agency or celebrity. I’ve realized a lack of importance that those things have on life and me and my career.”

And she’s learned how to tell the real from the fake — an important skill in Tinseltown.

“I think L.A. is a tough town. I think there’s a lot of superficiality. And trying to find good people in L.A. is a little bit like searching for diamonds.” she says. “But as I grow, it’s become a bit easier. As I’ve become less impressed by shiny things, I’ve been able to choose people who may not be the shiniest or the most successful, but have the most integrity or the most honesty or who are the most reliable and consistent. I’ve started to look for those qualities in people, rather than the things that people have the most value here.”

And now that she’s starring in one of the television events of the fall?

“I think I’m still OK!” says Shekoni proudly. “I’m driving around L.A. and I’m seeing my picture on billboards and I’m doing interviews and going to premiere, but I feel like I’m still grounded and I still don’t think it’s the most important thing int eh world. That’s exciting; that I’m still keeping my head on my shoulders. Whether it’s success or failure, I’m maintaining myself and I’m the same person.

Todd "Stereo" Williams, entertainment writer based in New York City. He co-founded Thirty 2 Oh 1 Productions, an indie film company.

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