First Interview with Judi Shekoni
A couple of weeks ago, UK Twilight were lucky enough to be granted an interview with the lovely Judi Shekoni who we will see on our screens in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn in the role of Zafrina from the Amazon Coven. Although my transcript of the interview reads like a Q&A, in reality it was more like a chat with an old friend. Judi is passionate about her craft and dedicated to the ‘Bite the Ballot’ Campaign, and at times during our chat her responses became very emotional. So without further ado, here is the interview…
UK Twilight: What can you tell us about the ‘Bite the Ballot’ campaign and your involvement with it and how you feel about the fact that 60% of young people in the UK eligible to vote in the last general election chose not to?
Judi: I know right? So 60% don’t vote, so that means the 40% who did, their parents have instilled in them or they go to schools that encourage them to. It’s a certain group who are voting and there’s another group who aren’t, those are the ones whose parents aren’t involved in politics or who don’t go to a school that encourages that, you know what I mean, so it ends up a kind of a bit one sided and we are not getting a good cross section of what the country wants.
UKT: How are you involved in the campaign?
Judi: My friend Catherine brought it to me because she’s been involved with them for a little while and she knows I have an incredible passion for education. A lot of education for me is self education where I did what I wanted in life, lived the kind of life I wanted. I just feel that what happens in the country is directly related to what happens politically, and because you need money to make changes. Anything that I can do to help that trickle down to the education system and those kind of changes are something I want to be involved with.
UKT: So, do you think being a public figure helps to raise the profile of the campaign?
Judi: Well you know, hopefully it will. I think Twilight is such an incredible phenomenon and I know that if there’s any way I can use any of my involvement towards it for the greater good, then I want to. I think more and more will understand that with politics it can be cool, it can be hip, and you should be involved with it, and in any way my career can help me establish that point then I’m happy to. It’s nice to talk – it’s good to talk about something I might actually be able to help with.
UKT: Talking about your career, has politics played a role in your career in either a positive or negative way?
Judi: I don’t really feel it’s played a part in my career. I always knew I wanted to work in America because with America, anything is possible. I feel there’s more self belief in you, like any one can be president, whereas in England it tends to be certain people from certain families – it always seems to be the educated.
UKT: So have you any political aspirations?
Judi: I’m dealing with one thing at a time at the moment. I’m trying to be a Vampire (laughs)! It would be nice if someone like me who was brought up in a poor area could think they could be involved in politics. But you asked me if politics played a part in my career, well no, not really, which is why I came to America; I felt there was less of a class divide. Not to be negative about England because it’s great in a lot of ways. We are so mixed with races and nationalities, most countries would aspire to have that mix. I just think politics should be opened to a wider audience.
UKT: You seem to be very involved in this [Bite the Ballot], what are you going to be doing for them?
Judi: You know I’m not like involved on a daily basis. I’m just talking to sites like yours that is not only about Twilight but has a wide audience of youth, and when I get back to London I think we are going to the Houses of Parliament and I’ll sit down with Michael who’s the creator and come up with some other plans of action. I’m not in London on a daily basis but I’ll do what I can do.
UKT: There are a few Facebook groups dedicated to different areas involved with ‘Bite the Ballot‘…
Judi: Social media is amazing it’s where everyone has their voice more than anywhere else. I’m all Twittered up, Facebooked up, and it’s on my phone and on my computer . . .
UKT: What would you say to young people to aspire to their aims in life?
Judi: I would say that I think . . . that’s a really hard question! I just think that you have to somehow think that you can do anything, that anything is possible, and this isn’t something that a parent can give them or a school can give them . . . I’m sorry this just upsets me. . . I just think this is something that education is missing. They tell you how to do algebra and all these things, but it doesn’t tell you how to have faith in your abilities and I think the human spirit wants our kids to be the best that they can be. If all they’re shown is how to be the best drug dealer or to have 5 kids and get a council flat, that’s what they’ll aspire to. But if somewhere in education there was a class that showed them something more like politics and finance, I think that would help. So it all comes back to education but also I think if it comes naturally, I think it’s a persons’ responsibility to educate themselves.
UKT: Moving on from Biting the Ballot to biting Vampires, how did you hear about the role in Breaking Dawn?
Judi: Well what happened was, I had already read all the books, and I’d seen the other films so I had a good awareness of the characters involved. I was a complete fan and then I saw the breakdowns. The breakdowns come out that talk about the different and they [the film makers] saw my manager to get me an audition. I felt really blessed because I already knew so much about the saga. I was already ahead of the game and then I think about what Stephenie [Meyer] wrote years ago and that was my physical type. When you read it, it’s similar to me physically and even energetically so there’s a bit of synchronicity in there as well – I was in the right place, I was in LA, I was right physically and I was able as an actress to convey the right character.
UKT: So, you’ve read the books, which one is your favourite?
Judi: You know what? I think I like the first one because it was when we were introduced – it was just that love between Edward and Bella that was just like – OH!, I want that!! I say that books make you believe in love again. Bringing it back to what we were just discussing. It’s about having that belief that anything is possible. You read the book and you believe that love is possible and you demand that in your life and from your partner. You can bring that into your life and it’s very inspirational, so definitely the first book because it makes you believe in love!
UKT: How did it feel being on set with a cast that has been together through 3 films?
Judi: I had to go to a casting first so I got to meet a lot of the people there. I had already had the experience from Eastenders of going into something that was settled so it was like I’d already done it once so I wasn’t really nervous. My time in America has lead me to have a degree of confidence in what I do and the way I carry myself. It was more about the material things like being in the Cullen’s house was just a bit bizarre. You know because I’d just pictured the whole Cullen house in my head and then I’m there and I’m sat around on my break and I can’t believe I’m there!
UKT: Who did you hang around with between takes?
Judi: You got to hang around with everybody. All the new cast and the old cast got to hang around together and it was super friendly. There wasn’t a big divide between the old and new. They are used to new people coming and although they are younger than me it was like having an older brother or sister, they were showing us what’s where!
UKT: There are a lot of British actors in these movies. . .
Judi: There are I know . . .
UKT: With the exception of Robert Pattinson, they all play baddies!
Judi: I think they like us British playing baddies – except me!
UKT: Zafrina has quite a big role in the book; will we get to see as much in the movie?
Judi: It seemed like it when we were filming, but you never know what will happen in editing. You know, it’s Bella and Edwards’ story and I had some great scenes to shoot and it was really exciting. I’ve got my fingers crossed that when it comes out, it will all still be there. Bill Condon is such a great person. There was never a cross or harsh word. He creates such a great energy and a safe place to work. That was one of my highlights, working with Bill Condon because he is such an acclaimed director. It was one of those things that happened so quickly in my career, working with someone as successful as him so that was just fantastic. I’m so excited to be at the premiere and to see myself on screen.
UKT: Zafrina has a very powerful ability – to create visual illusions. What illusion would you create for yourself if you had that power?
Judi: Right now – and this is going to sound completely self indulgent – but I’d probably create for the movie itself to be a real success and to be everything that all the fans want it to be, because I think the kind of dedication to be so involved and so enthusiastic about a saga for so long, means everyone deserves a wonderful ending. So I would definitely project that. For myself, just to be happy and healthy and maybe an Oscar! That would be nice and also going back to ‘Bite the Ballot’, I’d love to see how politics and education could be improved, to project a world, or at least an England where we are actually doing everything we can for our youth.
UKT: We touched on your time in Eastenders. How did you get from ‘Precious’ to ‘Zafrina’?
Judi: A lot of hard work! I really have to say I think I work really hard. I know a lot of people say ‘’I don’t know how it happened’’ but with me I know how it happened; I worked my ass off (laughs)!! I think having a belief in myself and believing in what I do as a craft. It’s like I think I had the audacity to think I could be in Eastenders and I could be a movie star and taking all the steps towards it. You have to have a belief in yourself, because if you don’t have that and you don’t start taking the steps forward and you are always going to have people telling you that what you want to do is not achievable. So it just comes down to how much you believe in yourself, so when people say that, you know you can do it anyway.
UKT: What’s on your iPod?
Judi: I just downloaded Beyonce’s new album but I haven’t really listened to it. I do like that song ‘Run the World (Girls)’ because I’m so ‘Girl Power’! I like powerful songs with a positive message. I think Beyonce has a positive message for women. She’s not into drugs, she’s married, she’s successful, she works really hard and she creates really great music. I love Damien Rice, I love Rhianna, I love Kanye West – I’m quite eclectic. It depends on what mood I want to create. I definitely listen to different music for different characters (I’m researching). When I was preparing for Zafrina I listened to a lot of rock-y kind of music. I don’t know if you have ever listened of Wicked Wisdom? It’s Jada Pinkett’s band and if you listen to the lyrics they’re all about blood and things and they just have a kind of vampiric quality even though she’s [Zafrina] not evil!
UKT: What’s your favourite holiday destination?
Judi: Bali! I’m really into quite spiritual and esoteric things. Bali is such a spiritual place. There are lots of lovely flowers and temples and great energy. It’s also a place you can have fun, there’s surfing and it’s beautiful. One of my friends is arranging to go and I’m hoping to go for Christmas and New Year. I love islands, there’s something about living on an island I just love. I definitely would like to spend a whole year living on an island.
UKT: What do you do in your down time?
Judi: I read, I just love it. I love getting knowledge and information. I have a Kindle which I’m obsessed with, yet I still carry two books around that you can’t get because I end up on this trail where I’m wanting books that were written in the 1800’s and you can only get them in this one book shop. I think Will Smith said ‘’the secret to success in life is reading and running’’. He says ‘’whatever is happening in your life, it’s already happened to someone else and they’ve already found the solution, all you have to do is find the right book and you’ll find the answer to anything you need to know!”
And he says running because when you push your body past what you think is possible, you start to feel you can do that with your mind. I have done running, but I do other sports as well and I do think doing some sort of exercise is something I enjoy doing as well. Check out Will Smith philosophy on YouTube!
My favourite book isOutliers: The Story of Success by Malcom Gladwell, and alsoTalent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin and another called Present. Twilight is probably the only fiction book I have read in the last 4 years. It’s brilliant that I ended up being in that film because everything I have read is spiritual or esoteric or educational or involved with a character I’m preparing for.
UKT: So what’s next for you?
Judi: I’ve got a couple of projects that I’m interested in so I’m just kind of working on them. I don’t have anything concrete I can talk about as things can change in this industry. I don’t want to talk about something and then they don’t happen. There are definitely projects I’m in talks for and I’m constantly training. I love getting better at my craft. I just went to New York and worked with an incredible coach who worked with Leonardo Di Caprio and Hilary Swank.
UKT: So your future projects are based in America?
Judi: Yes they are, but I’m also coming to England this month because I’m looking into possibly doing something. I just feel like it’s been so long, and I do love it, it’s my home country. I couldn’t think of anything better than 6 months working on a really exciting project. So hopefully you’ll see me on English TV again soon.
UKT: So one final question and it’s a toughie! Are you Team Edward or Team Jacob?
Judi: I’m Team Zafrina….No, really I’m Team Edward. When I first read it Bella and Edward’s love story got me on the first book!
So there you have it! UK Twilights first EXCLUSIVE interview with a Twilight cast member! We’d like to thank Judi for taking the time to chat with us, and tell her that she’s is welcome back anytime!
You can find more information on the ‘Bite the Ballot’ campaign at
Judi’s website is Judishekoni.com
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