Shane Paul McGhie is striking his own path

PHOTOS: Emily Sandifer
TALENT: Shane Paul McGhie
STYLING: Britt Theodora at The Only.Agency
GROOMING: Grace Phillips using Save Me From / TraceyMattingly.com
LOCATION: The Hollywood Hotel
WORDS: Jasmine Perrier
PRODUCTION: Studio J•T•P

For Shane Paul McGhie, 2020 remains above all a year of growth and reflection. With several projects released almost back-to-back and more in preparation, the up-and-coming actor made his dream come true. However, he takes nothing for granted and is ready to make his voice heard. By now, he has learned to embrace his gift to serve a higher purpose — use the power of art to lead to change and help people walk away with a new perspective.

I speak to Shane over Zoom about a month after our photoshoot at The Hollywood Hotel. The actor appears in his dog’s company from his Los Angeles home, down-to-earth and grateful. “I’ve had some projects come out during this time, which has been great — promoting that and seeing it all come to fruition,” he says in spite of a “very whirlwind end of a year.” Born to Jamaican parents, Shane first dived into theater during his sophomore year of high school, which made him get the bug. “I did my first musical — Ragtime — and I played Booker T. Washington. I was terrified,” he recalls. As he found his way to acting, he chose to pursue this path without considering that it wouldn’t work. “I never really had a plan B or plan C — I very much put my eggs in one basket. Maybe I was naive in that sense but I was very excited to do it.” Whereas his dream was to win an Oscar when he was younger, his vision shifted as he has fallen more in love with the craft. “I just want to keep making work that inspires people, that starts conversations and hopefully brings change. I want to keep doing what I’ve been doing.” 

When asked about his multicultural background, Shane proudly speaks about having “the most supportive family in the world” that keeps him grounded. “My Jamaican family supports me and loves me — I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish any of this without the support and love from my mom,” he mentions, before adding, “At the end of the day, I’m still Shaney, I’m still the nephew, I’m still the son. That’s really important to surround yourself with people who will tell you when you’re wrong. I’m very blessed in that regard.” Talking about how his roots have helped define him, he says, “Culturally, Jamaicans are very proud people who strive for excellence. There’s always more to be done and more to learn. But the balance has been finding happiness and being grateful for where you are.” On that note, Shane doesn’t forget one of his key encounters on the set of Criminal Minds when he started his career off. “The number one on the call sheet — his name is Joe — came to us at the table read and he said, ‘I just want to welcome you guys, congratulations.’ He actually joined us for lunch and I said to him, ‘It meant so much that you took the time to come over and talk to us.’ Something that really stuck with me from the beginning is that your attitude sets the tone when you’re on set. And I think some people in our industry — not a lot, because there are a lot of great people — lose that. So I never ever want to lose that.”

Interested in gravitating towards projects that can make a difference, Shane’s first lead role alongside Matthew Modine was a young prisoner victim of abuse in a corrupt foster care system in drama Foster Boy. Such an experience was “life-changing” for him and “woke something up.” In order to prepare for this film, Shane got the opportunity to work with kids in the foster care system. “Seeing [their] reactions to seeing the film and hearing them say, ‘You don’t understand how much this means to me,’ really made me understand this is why I’m meant for this.” In The Last Shift which explores the nature of privilege, inequality, and race, Shane plays opposite Richard Jenkins in a drive-thru fast-food restaurant. His character, Jevon, is an aspiring writer who just got out of jail — although the offenses were minor — and confronts a system that failed him. “I loved about the movie that it talked about race and class. It didn’t necessarily hit you over the head with it. That’s why I call that movie ‘a spoonful of medicine with the sugar to go with it,’ because it’s wrapped up in the stories of these two characters who are often overlooked by society.” For the actor, every experience and character he has played thus far opens his mind up in another way and teaches him something new about himself. “Part of the joy of being an actor is as much as you give to the craft and the process, it will give back to you,” he says. “I think I’ve evolved in my craft. When you do it over and over again, you get more of an understanding of the creative process, of how it requires you to collaborate with others, how it requires you to surrender to the work, and to be ok with some moments of saying, ‘I don’t have the answer. Let’s find it. I’m going to figure it out.’ I’m a sponge when I work with people, especially those who have been in the industry for a long time.” 

Where is he now in his career? “I hope just at the very beginning — I’d like to work until I’m very old,” he replies, laughing. By coincidence, it’s Cicely Tyson’s birthday when our conversation happens — one of the actors that Shane names as his inspirations, in addition to Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, and Nate Parker who he worked with on American Skin. “The caliber of work that [Nate Parker] associates himself with, that he creates for the advancement of black people in this country is super honorable and powerful.” Although Shane isn’t allowed to publicly announce any of his next possible projects since productions got pushed because of the current pandemic, you can still catch up on his latest films all available on VOD — Foster BoyThe Last Shift, and American Skin. As our call is coming to an end, Shane wants to close the interview with some advice for fellow actors. “Know why you do this, why you love to do this, and know that there’s no one way. Everybody’s journey looks different. Don’t give up and always believe in yourself.” 

WATCH THE TRAILER FOR AMERICAN SKIN, FOSTER BOY AND THE LAST SHIFT

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