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BRIAN D. JOHNSON | Jun 24, 2005

In Canada, she has to wage constant battle against getting typecast as a "ditz." Maybe that's because in her native land she's best known for playing a prime minister's flaky bride in the Trudeau miniseries and a wide-eyed airhead in the movie Men With Brooms. Or that she's a good enough sport to pose in a bikini on a Malibu beach because Maclean's happened to be doing a cover story on tanning this week(she kept her agent in the dark about the purpose of the shoot). But in Hollywood, where she now makes her home, Polly Shannon is making a different sort of impression. She's just landed a plum role in ABC's What About Brian, an upcoming one-hour series from the producers of Lost and Alias. And she plays a pediatric oncologist, a seriously smart babe.

It might be easy to get the wrong impression about Polly Shannon. Over the phone, the 31-year-old Canadian actress is irrepressibly giddy. I keep asking her to repeat herself, because her answers keep dissolving into gales of laughter. And the questions aren't that funny. But behind the carefree demeanour, you can sense a wellspring of determination that may explain how she's become a contender in a town that's a permanent American Idol contest for thousands of pretty, talented actresses.

Shannon is a marathoner. "I run every morning, usually six miles," she says. "I'm obsessive-compulsive about my running. I've missed 13 days in 12 years. There's a place here called Lake Hollywood, a reservoir, and it's 3.2 miles. So I just do that twice." Because she's often driven to the set as early as 5 a.m., that means hitting the pavement at 3 a.m. When she was living in Toronto, she says, "I'd run down Bloor Street at three in the morning and I'd wear big baggy pants and my hair up in a hat. But I've had people recognize me on the street -- getting home from bars while I'm getting up."

Born in Kingston, Ont., Shannon was raised in Aylmer, Que., a suburb across the river from the nation's capital. Her father, Michael Shannon, is a doctor who now works in the private sector after serving in various senior posts at Health Canada, including director general for the Laboratory Centre for Disease Control. Her mother, Mary Mackay-Smith, writes children's screenplays for film and TV. After acting in theatre as a child, Shannon became a model at 13, with assignments that took her to New York, London and Tokyo. She launched her TV career in 1992, landing a part in Catwalk, a YTV series about a struggling rock band. Since then, her notable roles have included a schoolgirl who seduces Henry Czerny in The Girl Next Door, a model married to a tormented NHL player in The Sheldon Kennedy Story -- and Margaret Trudeau. "Playing Maggie was a really thrilling experience," says Shannon. "It was a challenge that was different from anything else I've done."

The lesser challenges include myriad guest roles on episodic TV, such as Human Operator of Starfighter-88 in The Outer Limits. And if you Google her name, the first few sites that come up include a gallery of nude photos from that series, with this illuminating caption -- "Polly Shannon showing us her small, pert breasts while standing fully nude as a guy runs his hand over her naked body." Shannon says she doesn't mind showing her body onscreen when it feels appropriate. "I don't love it. It's an awkward thing to have to do. But if it's for the right reasons, then I'm all for it. If it's because they have a quota of nudity they have to fill, then no way -- but I don't even have the boobs and the butt for that kind of job."

As a brainy doctor in What About Brian, Shannon may never have to consider bimbo roles again, although the show is not without spice. "It's comes on at 10 o'clock at night," she says, when asked if it pushes boundaries. Brian is a thirtysomething guy who realizes he's in love with his best friend's fiancée; Shannon plays the fiancée. Since landing the part, she's been deluged with media attention. And after years of commuting between Toronto and L.A., she's got a green card and appears to be settling in.

But she remains close to a broad community of Canadian actors working in L.A., including her boyfriend, Callum Keith Rennie. They've been "seriously" dating for six months. Rennie is "such a sweet, awesome, shy guy," she says, "but he turns into a monster onscreen. It's so weird." Rennie has played a sex fiend in Last Night, a rapist in Suspicious River, and a dictatorial dad in Falling Angels. "Showing my mum his movies was really hard. But when she met him, she said, 'He's so lovely.' " Then again, this ex-model -- a doctor's daughter who's going to play one on TV -- knows that in her business appearances can be deceiving.

From here.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
waltzforanight
Oct. 11th, 2009 05:14 pm (UTC)
*giggles* Oh Polly, honey, next time show your mom Wilby Wonderful or Double Happiness, okay?
c_regalis
Oct. 12th, 2009 06:53 pm (UTC)
Or Flower & Garnet! Murder Seen! Torso! Code Name: The Cleaner! Oh, wait.

(And that was 2005. Which means BEFORE Unnatural & Accidental. And Harper's Island. *g*)
mrs_laugh_track
Oct. 11th, 2009 09:18 pm (UTC)
Rennie has played a sex fiend in Last Night, a rapist in Suspicious River, and a dictatorial dad in Falling Angels.

Dude, Last Night is one of his LEAST messed up roles. At least throw in a murderer or something instead if this is the kind of list you want to make.
_unhurt_
Oct. 11th, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC)
still. imagine showing your mother last night and being all like, hey, THIS is my hot new BF! (okay, maybe this only applied to *my* mother?)
c_regalis
Oct. 12th, 2009 06:58 pm (UTC)
Or maybe Californication. :)
_unhurt_
Oct. 12th, 2009 07:00 pm (UTC)
oh. yes. imagine! that is even better. hee!
c_regalis
Oct. 12th, 2009 06:57 pm (UTC)
I agree! I guess they just checked out the most famous movies. The most famous Canadian movies even. But really, I don't even need a murder, but what about Slapshot 2?
neu111
Oct. 11th, 2009 09:47 pm (UTC)
Wot? He also played inocuous characters- like a harmless floor director in The Raffle, right?

he turns into a monster onscreen
and this must be the counterpart to Callum's interview in The Making of Unnatural & Accidental: "My girlfriend was in town for a little while, and there I am reading books about severed heads and asking her crazy questions, and she's, just, "Can you stay away from me?""
surya74
Oct. 12th, 2009 09:24 am (UTC)
and this must be the counterpart to Callum's interview in The Making of Unnatural & Accidental: "My girlfriend was in town for a little while, and there I am reading books about severed heads and asking her crazy questions, and she's, just, "Can you stay away from me?""


Hm! Good catch.
c_regalis
Oct. 12th, 2009 07:03 pm (UTC)
Ha! Nice catch indeed.

And you mean GeorgeRaymondHenryDonnyJohn? Absolutely. He was definitely a good guy. Or, less famous example, what about Ed from Flower & Garnet? Or Jim from CC? Or... um. Characters he played in TV series? Hm? (Wow, it's really not so easy to find a nice guy he played in a movie. O.O)
neu111
Oct. 12th, 2009 08:44 pm (UTC)
less famous example :D

Not so easy to find a nice guy he played in a movie
Right. Even Ed, though I do heart him, nice guy, um? Apart DH Mark, WW Duck and CC Jim, most of his movie characters have got too serious issues to be downright nice. Or they lean on the sleazy. Not talking about serial killers. Or else, not seen long enough to make a judgement. Yeah, better still to rely on TV *shrugs*

akamine_chan
Oct. 15th, 2009 02:43 am (UTC)
Wot? He also played inocuous characters- like a harmless floor director in The Raffle, right?

*snicker*
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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