Local girl Judi Shekoni made her name as bad girl Precious in Eastenders before moving out to Hollywood to pursue a career on the big screen. Her most recent role sees her playing the role of Amazonian vampire Zafrina in the fourth Twilight instalment, Breaking Dawn. We caught up with the Gorton girl to talk about life in LA and working with RPattz on location in Canada.
You’re originally from Manchester; do you still have roots with the city?
I’m a Manchester girl at heart; I grew up near Levenshulme and still have family and friends in the area. I come back at Christmas or whenever to see them, and keep in contact via Facebook so the city is never far from my mind.
Do you miss it? Is it still home to you?
One thing I miss the most is the shopping! The change in the city centre is totally obvious, and every time I come back something else has happened or opened, there’s such a transformation. In LA, the shops are spread out, and there’s a gap between normal clothes and evening wear, no in-between, so I miss out on all the good stuff, whereas I come here and the local girls blow me away with their style. I wish we had an Arndale in the States, the mall near me is how it used to be in Manchester; a bit dodgy! I’ll always see it as home though, regardless of where I live.
Would you ever consider moving back?
I don’t think I’d move back to Manchester but I’d love to get a job here, maybe rent a little loft in the Northern Quarter or something. The thing I miss most about the city is the people; everyone has a fantastic sense of humour. I think that sort of dry wit is unique to the UK, we can all take the mick out of each other of enjoy it in jest. Very down to earth as well. In LA, everyone is always so nice but quite serious and it can get a little tiring.
You moved over to Hollywood in 2004, are you still enjoying it over there?
Yeah I mean it’s the same with everywhere, you experience ups and downs but just have to go with it. The sun is always shining which is great, and I live out in Venice right by the beach so that is obviously brilliant. I like the lifestyle, it’s very chilled. I make the most out of it.
You’re currently filming for Twilight: Breaking Dawn, playing Amazonian vampire Zafrina – were you a fan of the franchise before securing the role?
Absolutely. I read the first two books when I was on a cruise around the Bahamas with my friend Jenny. I tend not to read fiction but I got to the stage of boredom that I would have tried anything. At first, it seemed a bit weird and I remember thinking ‘I don’t understand, it’s all about kids’, but the more I read, the more hooked I was. At one point, I was like get me off this ship I need to go buy the next book. When the first film was released, me and my friends all booked tickets in advance and we just adored it.
It’s taken on element of the surreal now because just the other day I was stood in the Cullen house, looking at their book shelf thinking as if I’m here!
What has it been like working with the cast?
Everyone has been super nice, there’s an atmosphere of family. Spending time with everyone has been great, Rob (Pattinson) is such a laugh and it’s been an enjoyable experience. There’s a mix of nationalities here, and the Canadians are a lot like the Brits with their humour. Sometimes you can join a project like this and be met by a few prima-donnas, but that couldn’t be further from the truth here. All us newcomers are welcomed like we’ve been involved since the beginnings. It helps that we’re in the most beautiful hotel. It’s like a network of private mini lodges; I’ve even got my own fireplace!
Are you Team Edward or Jacob?
I’d have to say Team Edward. Being a fan of the books, it’s hard not to fall for him; he is the dream man we’re all looking for.
Are you ready for the influx of media attention you’re no doubt going to receive for being part of the Twilight Saga?
It’s been crazy already. Fans seem to know where we are before we do, and are always waiting near the set or hotels and airports. Being associated with such a high profile film, there’s bound to be a lot of attention. The premiere is what I’m most looking forward to, getting to go the Kodak Chinese Theatre in Hollywood for my own film, and coming to London to show it to home audiences. I can’t imagine how exciting it’ll be.
What would be your dream job?
After all the training I’ve done to play Zafrina, my body is literally amazing, I could go work out on Muscle Beach now. I’d love to play some sort of superhero role to keep in shape. I feel like I could get into bar fights and win, although I doubt I would! But yeah something along those lines, where I could do stunts and keep the muscles up. Either that or something dark and gritty. I’ve trained with Leonardo DiCaprio and Halle Berry’s acting coach, so if the opportunity came up to get my teeth into a dramatic role I’d go for it.
What have you got lined up next – any exciting projects?
Well I do actually have a hair extension range called Extension Evolution. About a year and a half ago, work had gotten really quiet and I came back to the UK to do an MBA, and decided to set up this company. We sell fabulous, brilliant quality extensions, so hopefully in the next year I’ll just be able to keep building the business up. Of course I’d love to carry on working in the film industry too; doing Twilight has shown me how amazing it can be.
Follow Judi on twitter http://twitter.com/#!/judishekoni