Actor Sheaun McKinney leaves police academy behind to chase dreams in Hollywood

Photo courtesy of Sheaun Mckinney

Sheaun Mckinney has taken on a dramatic role co-starring in HBO’s comedy series “Vice Principals” opposite Danny McBride and Walter Goggins. The 18-episode rollercoaster follows two vice principals, Neal Gamby (McBride) and Lee Russell (Goggins) as they compete to replace their school’s retiring principal played by Bill Murray.The show has garnered tremendous success causing producers to film the second season before the first season finale airs. The date is to be announced.

The Miami native’s acting journey has been a complete blessing, landing him roles on “Burn Notice”, “Common Law,” and “Graceland”. “Vice Principals” is definitely his biggest role to date. In the fall, viewers can also catch him starring in “Great News,” executive produced by Tina Fey, Robert Carlock and the producers of “30 Rock.”

What kind of role does your character Dayshawn play in “Vice Principals”?
I play the character Deshawn who for all intensive purposes is Danny’s character’s voice of reason. He’s a good friend and probably his only friend in the beginning of the show. He is an in-depth friend that always keeps it real with you no matter what. Dayhawn as an allegiance to Danny. He likes the core principles of the person but doesn’t agree with the tactics and how he goes about doing things. Dayshawn is the coolest kid that you’d ever met.

I got the part by the casting office. Bialy Thomas had called me because they had seen me do some other stuff. They called me in for an audition. I remember reading once and felt I did an okay job and then the next audition I remember sitting in the waiting room and hearing that Danny McBride laugh. I was like, “Oh! Crap! Danny is in the room.” I went in the room and it was Danny and Jody and I want to say one of the other producers. I did it once with the casting director. The casting director said, “Tell the truth. Were you nervous?” I was like maybe a little and then Danny said, “You couldn’t tell. You nailed it.” At that point, I thought to myself if I don’t get anything else the fact that I got that from Danny McBride then I think I’m doing alright. They had me read with Danny and at one point he dropped the script and said, “Are you ready?” We did the scene and we did a whole lot of improv back and forth. It was great and then maybe like a few weeks later my manager called and said I got the part.

What was your experience like filming with Danny McBride?
I’ve told people before, they see how funny he is but Danny is a real genius. He is really really smart. Him and his whole team with the way they crafted the story is brilliant. Danny rarely breaks. I pride myself on not breaking ever. I grew up doing theater in college and that’s where I started in acting. I always prided myself on being the person who was not going to break. I think Danny might have broke me once and it wasn’t intentional. I don’t know if I ever broke him and for me that would be a highlight right now. In the beginning, it was just surreal to be filming in a real high school. I remember the first shot of the entire show was myself and Danny. I remember walking up to our marks where we had to be and looking around at all these kids, extras and camera stuff and it hit me like “Holy crap! This is an HBO show and Danny McBride is standing right next to me.” It was the most surreal and humbling moment ever. I remember they said action and I said something and then I heard crickets. I thought to myself I’m about to get fired immediately and I was like this is not funny. A lot of people had to hold their laughs. Till this day it’s been the greatest learning experience for me that I’ve had on film. Danny and his whole crew made it so easy. There was no pressure. You just got to come in and play which is great for actors.

There are a lot of funny moments and some that are a bit more serious. What has been your favorite episode to watch or film from the season?
Filming the whole thing, I think the way that I came into it is awesome. I am a very faith-based person. When this came, I saw that God had designed a plan for me to get where I am. I just trusted that this was what he wanted and this was going to come to fruition. I think even that very first moment right before they called action made me realize that this was really happening. I remember being a little kid and the first time that we got HBO. Watching the emblem pop up I thought we had arrived. My highlight is getting the phone call that I got the part. I was with my roommates at the time and we were counting coupons to go to Burger King to get something to eat and my manager called me and said I got the part. It’s things like that when you put the work into something and you have faith that’s just completely humbling. At some point, you might realize the company your around and realize you’re doing okay. That’s the greatest thing for me so far.

HBO’s “Vice Principals” had been your biggest actor role, thus far. Did you feel any kind of pressure acting alongside a cast of seasoned veterans?
I put pressure on myself as an artist and as a competitor coming from playing sports. My first reaction as a guy is to be competitive. I am a part of a theater company back home where I started out in school. I have always said from the very beginning, “I just don’t want to suck.” That is as simple as I keep it and I don’t want to be the guy that you walk away from. Thinking that way I feel like I can take the pressure off of myself a little because I realize much of acting is just listening and reacting. If you can keep it as natural as possible then everything is going to come out around you. I felt like they chose me for a reason.

Tell me about your upcoming role in “Great News.”
When I got the part my agent he goes “I got great news” and I was like just get to the point. [laughs] I am blessed to be working again. It’s an NBC show called “Great News.” It takes place in a newsroom and I remember going in to read and they called me at like 11 a.m. and wanted me to be in at two that same day. I went in to do it and I thought it was really funny. I got the part like two weeks later. It was a little awkward for me at first with the new cast because I spent so much time with the “Vice Principals”crew. We still get together on Sundays and watch the episodes sometimes. At first, I thought I was cheating on a girlfriend with all these new people. Nobody knew yet that I was doing this new show and I couldn’t tell anybody but it’s been really fun.

What made you decide to leave the police academy to pursue an acting career?
Here is the full rundown. I had always been in the vicinity of police work. There are cops and military people in my family. I grew up in the inner city in Miami and had always felt like I know those people and if I were a cop I would be able to help as cheesy as that may sound. In the beginning, that was my reasoning before I started acting.

I was very fortunate when I started doing professional theater in Miami and then everything kind of led me to L.A. I got to L.A. and I was like this place sucks and I’m getting the heck out of here. I was there for about five years on and off. I went back home and was like I’m going to do the cop thing. I trained and passed all of the preliminary tests and I was just waiting for a call from the department to be accepted or sponsored into an academy. I was working at a law office but my manager called me from time-to-time just to put things on tape and long story short I put something on tape because they wanted to see me in person. I was standing at the mailbox and my manager called. I had a letter from the police academy that said they didn’t accept me. I thought maybe I should just go out for the weekend and come out to L.A. While I was in L.A. auditioning for some projects my best friend said to go to church. I am at the church with him and the pastor is speaking. The pastor is from the Bahamas and so is my dad’s family. I thought it was interesting and he keeps talking about Miami so I thought that was more interesting. He keeps saying it’s time for you to move and I thought to myself it’s easy when God is speaking directly to you anywhere you go.

He closes out his sermon saying, “If you have faith then it’s time for you to act and move.” My best friend is looking at me like “Yo, son! Jesus is talking to you.” The pastor also closed by saying, “God gives you an earthquake to get rid of all your obstacles.” I go back to my manager’s spot that night and I’m asleep while the entire apartment starts to shake. I decided to stay in L.A. a week longer and doors just started to open. All the other obstacles I had before were just gone. I ended up auditioning for a Netflix gig and the next thing I auditioned for was “Vice Principals.” That is how I’m here and not a police officer right now.

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