March is National Women’s History Month, and we continue to see extraordinary women using their gifts to make a positive impact on this world. Actress Shelly Skandrani is one of those great women you should know. Working on her craft since she was young, Shelly continues to use her love for acting and work in the film and theater industry to teach, inspire and uplift others!
Born in Tel Aviv, Israel and later raised in London, Shelly got her start in acting at the tender age of nine in theaters in London. The actress noted that getting into the craft at such an early age truly helped to develop her into the woman she is today. “I was a very expressive child and had a lot of energy and needed to channel that into something,” Shelly admitted. “I loved connecting with the audience, I loved the adrenaline and I loved the feeling of family that I had with the cast and crew.” During her time in London, the actress performed in dozens of plays, and went on to act in film and TV at just 16 years old.
Shelly eventually moved back to Israel at 18 to attend Beit Zvi School for the Performing Arts, delving deeper into honing her skills as an actress for three years. Though it took her some time to break out of her British inhibitions and feel at home with her more liberated and outspoken Israeli classmates, Shelly found her way and flourished in Israel, but still she struggled to play roles that were out of her comfort zone. In later coming to America, she found strength and courage on stage in weekly comedy improv classes. “Now that there was no script or director, it liberated me to try a plethora of new and strange characters which ultimately set the stage for the many films, and especially comedies I have acted in since,” Shelly shared.
And she’s certainly had her share of diverse roles, which have also helped to teach and motivate others on world issues, particularly women empowerment. A standout film on Shelly’s resume is her critically-acclaimed role in 1999 Holocaust film, The Devil’s Arithmetic, where she starred alongside Kirsten Dunst and Brittany Murphy. Shelly’s character, Leah, is a young bride whose wedding ceremony is destroyed after Nazi soldiers invade her Polish village and force her and her entire community into concentration camps. “It’s an important piece because it tells of the horrors that a whole nation had to face, and deals with the terrible truth that hate is a destructive force, which can be based on someone’s religion or the color of their skin,” the actress revealed. “On top of that, it is all told from the perspective of a young WOMAN, [and] often times stories are not seen from the female perspective and so much is lost.”
Over the span of her career, Shelly has also gone on to star in anti-war short film The C-Gate, along with many other projects like Marriage Agreement, Coffee and Cabbage, and, recently, a recurring co-star role on the Amazon hit show Transparent. So this woman has seriously been on her grind, but has also realized the true importance of what it is that she does. “For me it’s vital to be a part of an industry that shapes people’s perceptions, that inspires, that creates change, that gives hope and strength, and allows people to process their own feelings and life through what they see on the screen or stage,” Shelly stated. “When I was younger I used [acting] to heal myself, Today I want to use it to heal others!”