Netflix’s ‘Obliterated’ Shelley Hennig Is Not Your Typical Actress

Shelley Hennig looks supremely confident as she struts her sexy stuff in Netflix’s raunchy action-comedy-drama series “Obliterated” , but the former competitive dancer and beauty queen had to wrestle with grief, self-doubt, and imposter syndrome in order to shine on screen. In an exclusive interview with M&F, the stunning star talks about the process of looking, and more importantly, feeling good for the role at hand.

Growing up in Louisiana, Hennig’s journey to Hollywood stardom is a tale of great highs and tragic lows. As a youngster, she sadly her lost brother Brad, due to a car accident caused by a drunk driver. Mercifully, her love of dance, first taking classes in the River Parishes, would provide a welcome distraction from her grief, and would eventually be the catalyst for shaping her life as an actor. “I spent 5 to 6 hours after school, pretty much every day, with my dance family,” recalls Hennig. “It has helped me with so many things in my life. I love feeling good in my body and, in fact, I approach most of my characters by starting out physically. What is their physical world? Because of my dance background, it’s made it a fun way to get into these characters.” Many TV viewers will know Hennig for the character ‘Stephanie Johnson’ in Days of Our Lives, where she appeared in 470 episodes or in the Teen Wolf series and movie (2014-2023) among other projects, but as ‘Ava Winters’ in the Netflix hit, “Obliterated,” the beauty finally felt strong and confident enough to lay herself bare in some seriously steamy and revealing scenes.

As a dancer, Shelley Hennig competed in regional and national competitions on the Star Systems circuit in groups and as a solo performer doing tap, jazz, and ballet. “I think my style was more like the Broadway, (Bob) Fosse style,” she reflects, commenting that as she began to grow taller, she found herself having to adjust to her longer limbs. “… when I was eleven or twelve, my legs grew longer than my actual torso and it was an adjustment in that new body, and I just remember limbs being everywhere, and me having to learn how to control that.” At the suggestion of her dance teacher, Smantha Sidwell, Hennig entered the competition to be named ‘Miss Teen Louisiana’ as a means of finding a challenge that would keep her busy in the wake of her family tragedy. “My dance teacher just always saw something in me,” says the star. “She just thought I should do something larger than myself, and I kind of just went with it, and the next thing you know, I’m ‘Miss Teen Louisiana’ and then I won ‘Miss Teen USA.’” The prizes for winning Miss Teen USA back in 2004 included a modelling contract with Trump Modelling Management and an acting scholarship with the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. As ‘Miss Teen USA,’ Hennig travelled the world representing the Miss Universe Organization, but her new life away from home presented it’s own mental challenges around finding an identity.

Courtesy of Netflix

Shelley Hennig Banished Imposter Syndrome By Making An Impact

“It just was constant imposter syndrome,” says Hennig of getting to grips with her role as Miss Teen USA. “And, not that I didn’t believe that I should be there, I didn’t have an opinion on that one way or the other. You know, you’re young and you just kind of, or at least for me, I just went with it. I was malleable and just adapted.” Despite the obvious insecurities that being a teen pin-up might bring, Hennig is able to look back fondly on those formative years with pride. “I did a USO tour,” she recalls, beaming. “I got to visit with the troops.” Fast-forward to Obliterated, and Hennig plays a fictional CIA agent who is saving us from imminent disaster. “My friends back home from Louisiana are watching the show, and they are just kind of reminding me of so many things that I have gotten to experience, and it really all started with Miss Teen USA. Looking back, I don’t love the responsibility that I felt at such a young age, when you are just figuring (life) out. I felt imposter syndrome, like why are kids looking up to me? But I made some great friends, I do hope I made an impact.”

In acting, Shelley Hennig certainly made an impact on Days of Our Lives, and was nominated for an Emmy twice as Outstanding Younger Actress in a Drama Series. In 2016, she won a Teen Choice Award as best Female Choice Summer TV Star. In life, Hennig has also made a positive impact by working with nonprofit organizations, mentoring and speaking on the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse. And now she is making an impact on TV once again, as the kick ass, no nonsense agent out to save Las Vegas. For this role, her most physically challenging one yet, she would complement her love of dance by lifting weights, because this actor was eager to gain around ten pounds of muscle in order to look like she could handle herself on-screen.

Shelley Hennig and Nick Zano playing their roles in Netflix's Obliterated
Courtesy of Netflix

Shelley Hennig Felt ‘Jacked’ For Obliterated

“It was my third project in a row,” explains the actor of launching herself straight into Obliterated. “… and I’m like, wow, I’m playing a field agent, a CIA field agent. I have no time to prepare physically, but luckily I had a little more meat on my bones at the time, and then when I got to Albuquerque I got a trainer, his name is Simon (Otero), and we just added more intense weight training and, I’d never done that and, I don’t know, I felt jacked,” she says of the results. “And I felt probably the strongest I’ve ever felt in my life and it felt really good. It was different for me, and it certainly took a second to get used to that new body, but looking at the series, I’ve had the privilege of watching the whole thing at this point, and I’m just to glad that I was able to adapt, be malleable, and go with it, and not try and go ‘oh this is like, you know, a female lead of a Netflix series, I gotta be thin? I don’t know… Says who!? Like, what is the role? Who are you playing?” Undergoing tactical training and carrying heavy weaponry for long shoots, Hennig understood the role of Ava Winters, looking beyond the beyond beauty and getting to the heart of the character.

Performing many of her own stunts, the star also found that because of her strength and conditioning, she was able to make it through intense scenes that required her to wear a harness for hours at a time, or perform gymnastics in scenes that required agility and flexibility, such as climbing a specially constructed elevator shaft. “It was a dream come true, really,” she says, explaining that she didn’t want scenes to look phoney or like the actor wasn’t using her own force. Proud of what she achieved through her countless hours in the gym, Hennig is able to reflect on a job well done. “It was so cool to know that I a) could do that, and b) survive it,” she laughs.

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