My first exposure to my next interview subject came when I purchased a VHS copy of The Naked Cage in the mid-00s after having read about it in several books about 80s movies. An excellent contribution to the genre of women-in-prison movies, the film starred Shari Shattuck as a woman named Michelle, who is framed for a bank robbery and has to survive a maximum security prison. I loved that movie, and a decade or so later, I befriended Shari Shattuck on Facebook. There’s more to her than acting, though. She’s also had experience as a model and an author, and I talked to her on Tuesday, April 25th about all that and more. I hope you enjoy getting to know this talent.
Say hello to Shari Shattuck!
Johnny: Before you were an actress, you were a model. Who were your favorite designers to work for, and what is the most outrageous fashion you can recall wearing?
Shari: My favorite designer was Patrick Kelly. I had started with him in Atlanta, and then he moved to New York and became a big deal. Unfortunately, he passed away from AIDS after he had become fairly successful, which was very sad. Other than that, I love Valentino. Valentino’s stuff is amazing. He’s a fun guy and I spent some time with him. Outrageous stuff? I think, at one point, I wore an evening gown made out of burlap by a new designer. I think it was a play on “she’d look good even in a burlap sack”, you know? There was some weird stuff, but I can’t really think of much. Patrick’s stuff was wonderful. I also did an Yves St. Lauren collection. He was wonderful, too.
Johnny: Alright. You posed for Playboy in 1980. Were you nervous about doing that shoot, and what was your favorite memory of it?
Shari: Well, you know, there’s a confusion that if you’re on the cover, you’re in the magazine. I’m not a Playmate. I was never a Playmate. I was hired as a model to do a cover, and I actually did 4 different covers for Playboy over a couple of years. They would just fly me out to Chicago to shoot for the day. I used to do that a lot, fly back and forth from either New York or Atlanta to Chicago or Baltimore or different places to work. The Playboy shoots? I don’t really know what my favorite memory is. It was just great fun. Everything at the Playboy photo studios is designed to make the girls feel comfortable, obviously. Everybody’s really laid back and great. I can’t say I was nervous because that’s what I did every time. When you walk into a shoot, you see the art director has a layout designed, so you basically know what the shot is that you’re going to be doing or trying for. There’s not a lot of mystery to it, but it was a good experience. I became friends with Tom Staebler, who shot my covers and was the senior art director for Playboy at the time. Some of my best memories were going out to dinner afterwards. Chicago is a great town for restaurants (laughing).
Johnny: Alright. You appeared in several .38 Special videos. Were you a fan of the band before working with them?
Shari: You know, I did like their music, and I did like the songs that we did. I was never someone who is a big pop-culture person. I mean, I like different things at different times, but I don’t have that sort of fan mentality to like specific things. I was much more into jazz and blues and that kind of thing. The people that I idolized were more like Chick Corea and Al Jarreau and Johnny “Guitar” Watson. I was a little unusual, possibly because of my ice-skating. I loved music you could interpret, that you could move to, and I loved live music like that, raw jazz and blues, but yes, I did like .38 Special’s music. They were a fun bunch of guys and I got to see them in concert after we did the video. Backstage was a blast.
Johnny: Alright. According to the IMDB, your first credit was the 1983 drama Portfolio. How accurate was that movie to your modeling experiences?
Shari: Oh, not at all. It was touted as a documentary, but it wasn’t. Basically, what happened was they were shooting it for a while, and it wasn’t coming together well because none of the girls could act. It wasn’t really all that interesting, so they brought me in just to do a scene to add a little comedy. I had a put-on Southern accent. It was definitely not an authentic situation. I mean, I was already there modeling. In the movie, they reject me, but in reality, I was already one of their models.
Johnny: Alright. In 1986, you starred in The Naked Cage. You’re the second cast member from that movie that I’ve interviewed, the first being Lisa London.
Shari: Oh, I love Lisa. I hope she’s doing great.
Johnny: Yeah. As that movie was a Cannon release, what was it like to work for Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus?
Shari: You know, they were very nice. I’ve heard this story before, and I’m not sure if it’s true. Apparently, we had done all the auditioning, and he had all the audition tapes. The director, Paul, was going through the tapes with Menahem, showing him who he wanted. The way the story goes, he was fast-forwarding through mine and Menahem said “stop. Go back. Let me see her. That’s her. I want you to hire her”. I didn’t really know them. I met them at a couple of release parties and things, but I didn’t have any personal experience with them other than that.
Johnny: Alright. The Naked Cage was unusual for women-in-prison movies because it showed a relatively more realistic variety of prisoners than a project like, say, Chained Heat, although I loved that movie, too. Was that intentional?
Shari: I think the art department was really trying to do that. I mean, it’s kind of a classic B-movie in the sense that they did so many things that weren’t classic, like using pink tear gas. A reporter said, “one assumes that in men’s prisons, they use blue tear gas”. The art department was very much into trying to do it right, and we shot at the old jail down on Lincoln Heights, so there was a certain amount of authenticity to our locations and the research that the art department and wardrobe and make-up did. They did their best, and everyone took it seriously, which was a good experience for me.
Johnny: Alright. In 1991, you played Kit Marlowe on several episodes of the final season of Dallas. What was your favorite part of working on that show?
Shari: Gosh. Well, first of all, it was shot in Malibu, which was a blast since it was easy to go to work. I would say being directed by Larry Hagman, who was just one of the funniest people and a wild guy. I loved it and loved him. That was really fun, being directed by him. Interestingly enough, years later, I ran into him at a restaurant and went to say hello. He looked at me with absolutely no recognition, and he said, “I’m so sorry. I had long blackouts and I can’t remember”. He was drinking so heavily that he couldn’t remember huge portions of things he’d done. That was a little sad, but I got to see him again before he passed away.
Johnny: As it’s still discussed today, what do you think has given Dallas such staying power?
Shari: Story. Absolutely the story. I mean, people love a good drama, and even though it’s melodrama, it’s not as extreme a melodrama as a daytime soap where they do things that are ridiculously unbelievable. Dallas stuck more to business and real family drama, and people love a good story. That’s what it boils down to.
Johnny: Alright. In 1994, you played Lyles in On Deadly Ground. Many have said that the environmental message of On Deadly Ground is negated by the tremendous explosion of Alaskan land at the end. As you’re active in environmental matters, did you find yourself recoiling when reading that part of the script?
Shari: Not when I was reading the script because you’re talking about Hollywood magic. You never really know what they’re going to do or how they’re going to do it. I think the message outweighed it to a certain degree. I remember there were other films and other sets where I found things that horrified me much more. I remember I was doing a series called Fortune Hunter in Florida, and they blew up this incredibly beautiful old tree that was filled with birds. I was just horrified, and that was just for the sake of the explosion. I think they had a message and an idea, and this was something Steven felt strongly about. I don’t like to see all the destruction. I’m not a big lover of huge explosions on screen myself. I find it gets sometimes very indulgent, but I kind of understood it for that. That was what you’re thinking. You’re talking about a business that can do some serious damage to the world, and IS doing some serious damage to the world. That was the point that I think Steven was brave enough to make.
Johnny: Alright. You spent a period of time in the 90s playing Ashley Abbott Howard on The Young And The Restless. How did you get involved in that project?
Shari: (Laughing) Oh, my gosh. My ex-husband had played Rich Forrester on The Bold And The Beautiful, so I knew the Bells for years socially. They were wonderful, and so Bill had known about me. He actually asked me to come on the show when the character of Caroline had left The Bold And The Beautiful. I had made a deal with him to do that, and then the original actress had decided to stay. When they were replacing Ashley the first time, they actually hired me. I went in and auditioned and they offered me the job, but I was still wanting to do movies and other projects, so I turned it down then and Brenda Epperson took it. Seven years later, when she wanted to leave, they just came back to me. At that time I wanted to have a kid, so it was the perfect time for me, and they could work around the pregnancy.
Johnny: Alright. As Eileen Davidson is currently playing the character of Ashley, and it’s not uncommon for soap opera actors to play different characters on the same show, have you ever been asked back to The Young And The Restless?
Shari: Well, no. Because I had played the other character, I don’t think that would be appropriate, really. Also, there’s been some bad blood with my ex and the Bells at this point. I don’t see that happening, even though he’s my ex. I enjoyed doing the show for three years, that’s how long my contract was, but I’m not someone who really wanted to stay in a job like that. I like to do different things and I love comedy. I missed comedy so much. I missed theater, so by the time I had my second daughter, it was time to go do other projects. I’ve been asked this before, and they’ve talked to me about it, but really the only kind of role I’d want to go back to on a soap is something truly evil (laughing), though not as a full-time character. I think that would be a lot of fun.
Johnny: Alright. What inspired you towards your work as a novelist?
Shari: I’ve always liked writing best. That’s what I wanted to be since I was a kid, an author or being able to write. It’s something I’ve always done, and something I worked on a good bit, and then finally I wrote a book that I thought would be saleable. I found an agent and he said, “I can sell this book”, and so he did. I’ve been writing since I was 12, little stories. I had written several books that were horrible just as practice when I was much younger, but that’s what you do. It’s something you love, and for the most part, you’ll find authors are people who love to read. I love reading and I love literature. Therefore, it was a natural step for me.
Johnny: Alright. The first character you created as a novelist was Callaway “Cally” Wilde. Who was your inspiration for that character?
Shari: You know, I don’t really do specific people. What I like to do is take people I know and kind of combine traits, so that it frees me up. There’s a couple of people that I knew personally that reminded me of her. Virginia, her best friend, was a combination of two of my friends. I don’t write a specific person. I can’t do that because it limits me, if you know what I mean. You might say, “Sarah wouldn’t do that”. I don’t want to be limited like that, so I sort of start with an outline of a character, and then they sort of define themselves as I write it. They become their own person.
Johnny: Alright. The Cally Wilde stories take place in California. As a lot of your career has been there, and you live there, is this a case of “write what you know?
Shari: Oh, absolutely, and I believe in “write what you know”. I don’t know what you’ve read of them, but I’m always very careful when I write locations to make up the locations as well for the same reason. Even though I refer to the fish market downtown, I still create my own fish market to suit what I need, and also to stay away from the physical legalities involved. You have to be careful bringing up anything by name. It’s definitely “write what you know”, but I also needed a major city, a city where shootings and carjackings were fairly common. I needed a major city, so I went with Brentwood and LA.
Johnny: Alright. Another character you created is Greer Sands, a psychic who uses those powers to solve crimes. Do you think that there is such a thing as psychic powers?
Shari: I believe that there are people who are more attuned to things that are already out there. I believe that just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Look at television. Nobody knew about those for years. Some people are better singers. Some people have a better ear for music. Some people are more creative. Some people can have a little more connection to those unseen things. I believe there’s a lot of abuse in that area as well, and a lot of people who are taking advantage of other people, but I have met some very genuine people in my life.In fact, my newest book that’s out now is called My Best Dead Friend, and it’s about a woman who has a death experience, and then meets her spirit guide and comes back. It’s based on the real experience of someone that I know. I’ve had people tell me some pretty amazing things in my life, and I wouldn’t say psychic, but I would say there’s something there. It’s just too precise.
Johnny: Alright. If there were a movie made based on one of your Cally Wilde novels, who would you choose to play Cally?
Shari: Gosh. You know, I’m not up on who’s hot right now. I’m not a big TV watcher at all. I would say someone like Scarlett Johannson, because she can do the edge part. Cally has to have a real edge, but she also has to have class because she’s very well-read and high society, but she’s a practical and intelligent woman. It would have to be someone who can come off as edgy and intelligent and very capable of running a multi-million dollar corporation.
Johnny: Okay. A bigger question about the writing in general: What has writing provided for you that acting hasn’t?
Shari: Control (laughing). I make up the story. I say what the characters do. I say what they say. There’s just so much bad dialogue and so many bad scripts, or scripts that started out good but were turned bad by the director because they didn’t know what they were doing. It’s really wonderful to be the one person who controls that. Now working on sets and creating something with a group of people is an entirely different art form, and I appreciate that as well, but I think the one thing that strengthens creativity is writing. I get to be the creative one. I get to set the mood, the timing, everything, and so that is what it does for me, I think, and I love language. I get to use language the way I want.
Johnny: Okay. You’ve been a model, an actress and an author, and you also did some singing in the 1989 movie Arena. What skills do you have that you haven’t had the opportunity to show off yet?
Shari: Well, cooking, I guess (laughing). I did get to do ice-skating for a while. I was a competitive ice-skater, and I got to do that in Freddy’s Nightmares, so that was fun. I’m trying to think. You know, I’ve done so many things in so many movies that I’ve really covered some good stuff there. I consider my biggest talent to be humor, as I’ve gotten to do some fantastic comedy, and I’ve done some wonderful stage work. That’s an interesting question. On stage, I’m allowed to do so many great things as well. I would say being a mom and cooking and just being a general all-around person.
Johnny: You mention theater. I did have a question about that. Of the roles you’ve played onstage, what’s been your absolute favorite out of all of them?
Shari: Probably Sally Bowles in Cabaret because it was an amazing production. I got to sing my guts out, which I didn’t even know that I could do. I really trained hard for that. It was funny, and it was tragic, and we danced and we sang. It was just wonderful. I loved that. Other than that, Shakespeare-wise, I loved Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. That was probably my favorite character there.
Shari: Once again, it’s the humor. There have been some great ones, and I’ve played some smaller roles that I’ve loved as well in theater. The thing I want to do that I haven’t had the chance to do yet? One of these days, I’m going to do The Lion In Winter. I want to play Eleanor.
Johnny: Okay. The production of Cabaret that you starred in? I’ve read that there have been several different versions of the ending. In one version, the Master Of Ceremonies rips off his tuxedo, reveals the Nazi marking for an LGBTQ member on his chest, and then throws himself onto an electric fence. I read that was an ending in one adaptation.
Shari: That’s interesting. It sounds like Bent, but what are you asking?
Johnny: I’m asking which ending was used in your production of Cabaret.
Shari: Well, we went with the grittier version. It was lots of fun, but it was grittier and much more realist. At the end, basically everyone’s affected. I’m a horrible heroin addict, the MC is taken away by the Nazis, and it’s much more of the reality of it, because things did not end well for those people. It was a horrible, horrible time.
Johnny: It was definitely horrible. Have you ever met Liza Minnelli, who played Sally Bowles on screen, of course?
Shari: I met her once at a charity event with Tippi Hedren for Hedren’s Shambala. A delightful lady, but we definitely didn’t go with her kind of version of it. Like I said, we went with a much grittier, almost more realistic, kind of version of it. I really appreciated Natasha Richardson’s performance in the newer one on Broadway, not newer now. It’s been years ago, but that’s the kind of performance I liked and the sort of direction we went.
Johnny: Alright. Well, that about does it for my questions. I again thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to speak to me.
Shari: It was a pleasure talking to you, and I’m glad we finally got together, Johnny.
Johnny: Thank you very much. I hope you have a good afternoon.
Shari: You, too. Bye bye.
Johnny: See you later.
For more on Shari’s life and career, you can visit her official website. Thanks as always for reading, and keep on the lookout for more Flashback Interviews in the future.