#BreakingDawn Great Judi Shekoni Interview On Bella,Books, Kristen & Rob Mentions
Fanhattan: I actually have not read all the books so can you tell us about your character?
Judi Shekoni: Absolutely not. You need to go and read all four books before we can do this interview. [Laughs] My character is called Zafrina. She is an Amazonian vampire. She has a special power which is that she can make people see anything she wants them to see. So you could also say that she can alter reality. An example would be that I could be with you right now and I could suddenly make you think that you’re in the middle of Egypt, or the Pyramids. So it’s a useful talent for her with the other vampires, to not only show them where she’s from and things like that, but useful as another way of fighting and defense, and for detecting people. She’s very animalistic. She wears very animalistic clothes. She’s got things made out of animal skins and things like that. The other person in the movie that’s part of her coven is Senna and they have a very kind of special unusual relationship that’s kind of a mixture of family friends, kind of loved, kind of ambiguous relationship.
Fanhattan: Had you read the book before you got the part?
Judi Shekoni: I have read all of the books and I already read all the books way beforehand and I’ve seen the movies. I’ve even bought tickets in advance to see the first Twilight movie. So I was already a fan so it made it so much easier and I really do believe that’s one of the reasons why I probably got the role, because I’ve already done my own two years’ worth of research before I even had the audition.
Fanhattan: How competitive was the audition for the role of Zafrina?
Judi Shekoni: For some people, I know it was particularly competitive and it took six or seven auditions to get. I was very blessed. It just took me one audition and when I actually went in and I just did it once, she was like, “That’s fine. Let’s just do one more for fun.” So I only actually did the audition twice and ultimately one audition. I think there are certain parts that if it’s meant to be it’s meant to be. I think this is definitely one of them.
Fanhattan: As a fan, what scenes were you excited to get to act out as Zafrina?
Judi Shekoni: I really enjoyed doing scenes with Robert and Kristen, with Bella and Edward because one of the things with Bella’s character is when you read the books, the books are in Bella’s perspective. So as you read all of the Twilight books, you’re almost living Bella’s life and you see yourself as being Bella. So I don’t know. I have a special affinity towards the Bella character because I feel like her experiences in particular, I’ve lived through.
Fanhattan: Were there any scenes you were disappointed you didn’t get to do, because they didn’t make it into the movie?
Judi Shekoni: I would have really liked to have been in the wedding scene that was inBreaking Dawn – Part 1. Me and Tracey, the other Amazon vampire, we were actually up in Canada while they were shooting it and we just had days off. We were like to the producers, “Is there no way that we could just be extras and we could just be background in the wedding?” It’s like well, you’re both six feet tall. I don’t think you’re just going to blend into the back of the Cullen wedding. And it kind of ruins the plot if the Amazon vampire pops up to the wedding a couple of years earlier. So they wouldn’t let us do that but I would have really liked to have been there for the wedding.
Fanhattan: When you were cast, what was your interaction with the Twilight fans? Did they all come after you once they found out you were playing the role?
Judi Shekoni: It’s just been amazing. I think it’s one of the few projects literally ever in the world where just being a part of it automatically gives you entry into this family, to this society. And it automatically gives you the love and the following of these fans. So as soon as I became Zafrina, I’m active online with the social networking and just the internet generally, so I was aware of so many people just being so supportive, saying that I was the right look for the character, I embodied the character’s essence. From that moment onward to when we finished shooting, the cast had been there waiting at the hotel near the set to going to the premiere last year, and then at Comic-Con this year, I got to go and see all the fans who’d been camping out four or five days. The whole experience has just been amazing. It’s just love. They’re just super supportive.
Fanhattan: Were you on stage at Comic-Con with the entire cast?
Judi Shekoni: Mm-hmm. We were brought out and we were behind the scenes waiting while Kristen and Nikki, etc. were talking. Then they brought us all out to introduce us all. It was kind of exciting, all waiting behind the scenes to come out. To be fair, Comic-Con has been a little bit of a turning point, where after Comic-Con people who aren’t avid fans of the film now appreciate that we are an official valid part of this upcoming film. It’s kind of what brought our characters more to the stage, to the arena.
Fanhattan: Do you have to wear any special effects makeup as Zafrina?
Judi Shekoni: No, not really. When I got the job, we actually went, they took a few of us to go to Baton Rouge early and we spent a week there doing hair and makeup tests so they could figure out what they wanted and put it on camera and sent it back to the powers that be. We kind of came up with just a slightly dark beauty look for our general makeup on our face. There is some special makeup that we do that you’ll see in the character pictures that Summit released where me and the other Amazon girl have battle paint, Amazon tribal paintings on our face. I feel like that made our characters different.
Fanhattan: What was it like working with Bill Condon?
Judi Shekoni: It was just wonderful. I think that was one of the highlights of booking the movie to where it was such a prominent director who had so much success and he geuinely inspired me that the people who are at the top genuinely are lovely, authentic real people because he is. I don’t think there was a single moment where he ever raised his voice, ever got outraged, ever made anyone feel anything less than special. From the moment we got the part and were taken out to Baton Rouge and we had private meetings with Bill to discuss our characters to the very last day of shooting on the saga, we were doing a bit of additional shooting. Bill brought his iPad and played it and showed us a little bit of our entrance and some of our scenes. Just from the moment I got the part until the end of shooting, he’s managed to give everybody individual attention and really have such an eye for detail. It was an awesome experience.
Fanhattan: Did you get to meet Stephenie Meyer?
Judi Shekoni: Yes, Stephenie was on set most of the time and she was awesome. She could be used as a resource. You could talk to her about your character and character’s backstory and just having her approval on hair and makeup on what we were doing day to day with the characters was just wonderful.
Fanhattan: Did you have any questions for her?
Judi Shekoni: Yeah, how do I write books that can make millions and millions of dollars? Unfortunately, she couldn’t answer that in two sentences or less, but I think we just asked her where did the world come from? Questions about how did she see our characters, so nothing too intrusive. She is Stephenie Meyer after all. It’s kind of like meeting the queen.
Fanhattan: What was your background and training in acting?
Judi Shekoni: I was acting in England where I’m from. I was in a television show calledEastEnderswhich was the number one show out there for a while. I also appeared in lots of national staples on some channels out there. In Los Angeles, I’ve guest starred in fairly good shows,The King of Queens, Damagesand NCISand Brothers & Sisters. I have been in studio films before like Garfield 2 but this definitely is the biggest thing on my radar, the biggest opportunity I’ve had so far so I’m really glad.
Judi Shekoni: Yes, it was wonderful. I was modeling in London so we were hired as Bond girls for a particular scene in the movie. It was incredible. It was again my first foray into big budget movies, and from the moment they started off where they measured us and designed our dresses completely from scratch, they like stitched us into our dresses, and then I think we spent four or five days on set. Then we met Pierce Brosnan. It was a really awesome experience just to be a part of something so big, and it really is kind of crazy because it was such a small part that people mention. I’m like wow, what would it be like to be a real Bond girl? That would be fun.
Fanhattan: Well Twilight fans, even if you’re only on one page of the book, they know everything about you.
Judi Shekoni: I know, it can be quite crazy. I’ve actually never thought about it like that but yeah, if being in that Bond film for a millisecond actually can count, then what will being in Twilight for a considerable period of time be? It’s exciting.
Fanhattan: For most of the cast this was the end wrapping up and probably emotional. Was it different for you because you were just getting started?
Judi Shekoni: Not really. I think one of the things that happens is there’s quite a gap between shooting the movie, so I feel like for the other people it’s not necessarily been like shooting a TV series where they’ve just been doing it nonstop for 10 years and not being able to do anything else. I think most people still had other things that they were doing, but I do think that obviously it was emotional because there were a lot of lasts. There were the last times to put the costume on, the last time to shoot in the Cullen house, the last time we were all together. There were lots of lasts for them going on, but there are so many opportunities that we know that we’re going to all be together as a group that it wasn’t necessarily emotional goodbyes, but more last moments of shooting.
Fanhattan: What was it like to be in those sets and locations you’d read about and then seen before in movies?
Judi Shekoni: I’m quite into esoteric studies and visualization and manifestation and stuff like that, so for me it was really quite dreamlike in that I can read these books, I can really truly be a fan of these books and these characters. I can watch them on a movie screen and it can come into my life where I can actually be there and be a part of it all. I do remember that there was one time in the Cullen house, we were waiting around and it was taking forever. They have a computer on the desk in the Cullen house and I’m playing with the computer and it’s empty, but it’s an iMac computer. So I go to the photo booth and I take lots of pictures of myself with the camera. I’d just leave them on the computer and I’m just like, “Oh my God, I’ve taken pictures of myself on the Cullen’s computer.” It’s kind of funny that the world can work in such a way that you can be inside something that you read about.