Shannon Elizabeth will forever be ensconced in pop culture history - and all of our memory banks - when she arrived out of nowhere to play Nadia, the beautiful, foreign exchange student in AMERICAN PIE. She subsequently lit up the screen in films like SCARY MOVIE, JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK and, of course, the AMERICAN PIE sequels.
Now she’s appearing in this month’s A GREEN STORY (opening in limited release on May 24th -- that's today) based on the true story of Earth Friendly Products founder Van Vlahakis (Elizabeth plays his daughter, Kelly). I spoke to Shannon about her new role, her alternate life as a poker player, her Hollywood crush and her methods of maintaining her fabulous figure. Let's rock this...
What attracted you to this project, and what can you tell me about the character you play in it?
I play Kelly Vlahakis, who is based on a real character. I was attracted to this because I’m very environmentally conscious, I try to be as green as possible. I’m very vocal about it sometimes, and that’s what attracted them to me as well; they wanted somebody who would represent their product in the film in a way that they actually live their life. When I was reading the script, I just identified with it so much. I want to do projects that have a message and that I can get behind.
It has got to put a lot of pressure on you to play a character that is based on a real person, and have them there to watch your portrayal of them.
Yeah, because they really wanted me to take on a lot of her quirks, there were times when they actually wanted me to watch her do it and take on all of the nuances that she has. It’s hard because it’s not how I would naturally do something, so to try to make something look natural that isn’t natural is not an easy task.
Aside from this one, can you name a favorite character of yours?
I don’t know if I have a favorite role. I get something out of everything; sometimes it’s more about the experience I have on set with the other actors and the director. I’ve never been able to pick one thing as a favorite. I had a lot of fun doing SCARY MOVIE, that was a project I really fought for and really wanted. I love doing comedy like that.
What about AMERICAN PIE, I’m sure you get recognized for that a lot.
Yeah I get recognized a lot if I’m out of the country, or if I’m not in L.A. or NY. I think it’s great, and granted we keep bringing it back. It’s what launched my career.
Do you Google yourself?
No, I try to avoid that. I think you’re just asking for trouble. Anybody who googles themselves online is bound to find something bad; you could find a million good things and one bad thing, and you’ll always remember the bad thing, so why go looking for it?
Good point! You have this alternate career as a poker player, how did that start?
Well, I’m not doing it anymore. I did it for a while. I learned how to play because I was raising money for my charity, and there happened to be a lot of poker events going on and I became friends with some of the poker pros and I just caught the bug. I liked the strategy that goes on in your head versus what’s happening with the cards, that fascinated me.
And being an actress, you could bluff a little better.
Yeah, sometimes. That’s a big part of the game and I think that’s why a lot of actors are attracted to it. I like to play for fun, but it’s not really where my heart lies. I’d rather be directing and producing and focusing on my jewelry business. I just kind of stopped playing.
Switching gears here, I’m wondering how you stay in such great shape?
Well I’m a vegan; when I stopped eating meat, my body stopped holding weight the same. I remember, when I ate meat, I was working out three hours a day and struggling to keep the weight off. And as soon as I stopped eating meat, I didn’t have to work out like that anymore. I think it’s still important to work out, as much for your mental health as your physical.
In terms of your personal life, are you someone who likes to go out a lot, or do you prefer to spend your evenings in?
I’m a quiet night in kind of girl. I hate going out, I hate putting on makeup and doing my hair. So much wasted time to get ready, and then you’re out for an hour or two.
What is your snack of choice? I assume you’re not sitting there eating nachos.
I can eat nachos if I want, I’ll use diet cheese, which is a vegan cheese, and I’ll use corn chips, so it’s gluten free. I’d make it baked, not fried, put some veggies on it; I just find ways to make it healthy.
What is your favorite TV show on right now? Has there been a movie in the past year that you really loved?
I haven’t seen a lot of movies actually this year. I loved SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and ARGO, but I think everyone did. Those were the last two that I saw that I absolutely loved. Besides A GREEN STORY, of course.
Of course! Who is your biggest celebrity crush right now?
Bradley Cooper, I’d say. (Laughs) But I mean, who doesn’t like Bradley Cooper. I played poker with him once, and yeah, he was really beautiful in person. I was very happy to play poker that night.
Did you wipe him out?
It was friendly game, it was more social, more just a hanging-out kind of game.
Have you ever sat across another celebrity at a tournament who was really good and just as into poker as you were?
Always, anytime you see an actor playing poker, it usually means they’re really into it. Mekhi Phifer is a great player. Jason Alexander is a great player.
George?! Jennifer Tilly is so huge into it, have you ever played against her?
Always, but I don’t think of her as a celebrity who plays poker anymore, I mean, she’s like a poker pro. I put her in a different category now.
Thanks a bunch, Shannon!
Remember that her film, A GREEN STORY opens today in limited cities, so check your listings! Otherwise check out our awesome Shannon Elizabeth Photo Gallery or go follow the girl yourself over on either her Twitter account or on Facebook.