IN CONVERSATION WITH SHAY MITCHELL
Shay Mitchell is an actress, multi-faceted entrepreneur and executive producer. Her acting credits span across film and television, with her breakout role coming in 2010 as Emily Fields in the hit Freeform mystery-thriller drama series ‘Pretty Little Liars’. Currently Shay stars as Stella Cole in Hulu’s ‘Dollface’, which premiered its second season in February 2022 and voices Alexandra Trese in the Netflix animated series ‘Trese’. Shay also serves as executive producer on FOX’s new crime series ‘The Cleaning Lady’, which saw FOX’s #1 drama series premiere in over two years.
You’re currently starring in ‘Dollface’, which is your first leading comedy role. The second season just premiered in February and it’s been almost 3 years since the premiere of the first season. How was it to come back to playing ‘Stella’ after such a long time?
It was about two years, which is crazy. I was pregnant when I was shooting it the last time and now my daughter is two. When I went back it was wild, but I think coming out of the pandemic in a way where it was safe enough to go back to work felt really good because I was able to see the cast and the crew and to be working around people again. We took every safety precaution while on set, so I felt great about that, but it was just nice to be on set again. Especially after that long, going from being inside the house all the time to then being around so many people and being able to shoot and rebring Stella to life, was so much fun.
And it’s just such an easy, fun, light role, different from other things I’ve played. Me playing Stella, she’s basically me when I was single. So she’s not really that difficult for me to tap into. I’ve been myself for so long, it was nice to be able to play a character again.
What is your favorite Stella’s storyline in ‘Dollface’?
There are so many, honestly. With this last season, it was fun because you got to see her pretending still to be the party animal, but then she was lying about that and she’s really trying to be mature in this season and step up because she could potentially be a stepmom. It was interesting because it’s so fun and easy to play the party Stella vibe, down for anything, but having to then change it a little bit to have her play the one that’s actually taking responsibility, making smarter decisions. That was an interesting twist. I definitely loved the relationship I had with Liv and working with Lilly Singh was great. But the most fun that we have is when it’s all of us girls together in a scene, those are always the best scenes.
Where would you like to see the future take Stella, if the show is renewed for Season 3?
I always joke around with the writer and producer. I’m like “I think Stella should be in a throtle, maybe she has a girlfriend, maybe she has a boyfriend or maybe both”. I just think Stella is such a free spirit and she really does what she feels like doing, she just moves to her own rhythm and that’s what I’ve always loved about her. So I never want that to change. And now with the bar opening up, she’s found something that she loves and is good at. And I think maybe she continues to open more of those and just lives her life how she wants.
You’re taking on the role of an executive producer in Fox’s crime series ‘The Cleaning Lady’. The series centers on Thony De La Rosa, formerly a Filipina medical doctor who is currently working and living in Las Vegas and is in the US on an expired visa. What is your personal view on the issue that this series focuses on?
I wanted to take storylines that were happening and were so real in the world and showcase them from a different perspective. So much of the time we only get certain views from people, but having it come from this strong woman who was a doctor in the Philippines, is so powerful. So many of my family members and people that I know that have come from the Philippines or other countries are doctors, lawyers and have these crazy school degrees. But then when they come to the States they are taking on rules that they wouldn’t have back home and I think just having that perspective from her was so important for me to show. This show was an adapted show from Argentina, that’s when I first saw it and I loved it. I thought the lead character was so strong, so badass and unexpected for the majority of people. And so I think for me putting my spin on it, having the character be from the Philippines, was important because that’s my heritage. That’s where my family’s from and I can speak on it. I have aunts that are doctors and come out here and are nannies. They love their jobs, but I think how we view them here sometimes is like you don’t recognize what they are sacrificing to be able to provide for their family. And that’s what I wanted to show.
Our lead character, Thony, she’s not a bad person. She probably never thought she would get involved with this. You will do anything for your children. And it’s just a roller coaster of emotions that you have with this show. Like, how far will you go? When is it not morally okay? When is it enough? That’s what drew me into it.
Being able to play a different role and actually not be on camera at all for this show was really exciting for me. I’d never been an executive producer on a show and I wanted to try on a new hat. And I think that’s really how I live my life. I don’t ever wanna feel like I’m capped at anything. If I wanna write a book, I’ll write a book. If I wanna put out an album next year, I’m gonna put out an album. Who is to tell you no to things, that’s just something that’s not in my vocabulary or anybody’s on my team. When this opportunity came up, it was such an incredible story and I wanted to make it my own. And I’m so happy that it’s done really well and people really like it.
In 2021 you made your voice acting debut in Netflix’s animated series ‘Trese’. How would you describe the experience, where you’re only lending the character your voice? Would you describe voice acting as harder than acting, where viewers get to see you and your expressions as well?
It’s interesting. I loved it so much and I don’t know if it was because I basically had to show up in pyjamas, no one cared, no one saw me. That was a great benefit of it, but I just love being able to have to bring out the emotions through my voice and nothing else. You are physical while you are recording, I was moving and working up quite a sweat, but of course it isn’t the same cause you’re not opposite of the other actors.
I have so much fun with voice work and I hope to do more. One of my goals is to do a big animated film. Of course now having kids, that’s gonna be so fun for them to watch. So selfishly for my ego, I would love to do more for my kids. I think you can come up with the craziest ideas in your mind cause you have to be very imaginative when you’re recording and I absolutely love it. I hope that this is just the beginning for that.
You are also a successful businesswoman and entrepreneur. In 2018 you founded your own travel and lifestyle brand BÉIS, which offers stylish, functional, durable and eco-friendly luggage, baby bags, pet travel and accessories, cosmetics cases and more. What made you decide to start your own business and why particularly you decided to focus on travel and lifestyle products?
For me, with everything that I do, from choosing roles to voice work to businesses that I align myself with to endorsements, it has to be real and it has to feel authentic. I wanted to share my travels with people. I’ve loved traveling ever since I was a little girl, it’s my first love. It crushed me not being able to travel in the last two years with everything going on, because it’s my favorite thing in the world. From the past years of being on the road, I’ve always paid attention to how people travel and what they travel with. I’ve had my fair share of crappy suitcases and decent ones. But in the back of my mind I always knew I wanted to come out with bags that made it easier and functional to travel and that were also affordable.
Traveling, as we all know, is so crazy expensive. Your bags shouldn’t be and they can still be cute. They don’t have to be ugly colors and they don’t have to have crazy patterns. They can be chic and yet have all the same function that the expensive ones do, and even more so not break the bank. And that’s where I noticed there was a white space. Everybody else is doing makeup and clothes and I think that’s incredible. But that’s not my passion. I love makeup and I love clothes. However, my love was in travel and helping people get an easier experience, a more enjoyable experience when they travel. So right away I felt this is what I have to do.
I’ve always been the biggest fan of bags. All different types, makeup bags, toiletry bags, designer bags. I love bags and so it just felt so right. That’s why BÉIS is like my first child, I’m so proud of it. Every single Instagram post, every single model that we use, every zipper, every single thing that is a part of that bag in the company, I have viewed. I’ve seen every single thing that comes out and I’m extremely passionate about that. This isn’t an endorsement for me, it’s not a collaboration. This is my company and that’s when I think it does the best. When you’re not focused on the money, you’re not focused on anything else, you just love what you do so much. I could talk about BÉIS forever, it’s my absolute favorite thing. It started because I didn’t feel like I had to be just an actor. I think you can be multi hyphenate. It’s just like I’m a daughter and a sister and a mother now and a girlfriend. I can have the same thing with jobs. I’m an actor and then I’m also an executive producer and then I have this company. Why not? We have one life. So I’m gonna make the most of it.
I think when you get too comfortable, that’s when you stop growing. I always kind of check in with myself. If I ever feel like things are too easy or too comfortable, I have to switch it up. There’s a certain amount of comfort that I think is good, but you also wanna be a little bit challenged with some things, because that’s when you really stretch yourself out mentally, physically, spiritually and that’s when you grow.
Recently the brand launched its first pet collection. What are your plans for the future collections?
We actually have a really exciting collaboration. It’s my first collaboration that I’ve done. I can’t say who it is with yet, but it’s gonna be dropping in September and I’m excited because I think that’s what I’m gonna be seeing more of in our future, doing more collaborations with people. I wanna see how people that I’m inspired by view BÉIS and what they would do with it. I have a couple really exciting ideas for the years to come. And then in 2023, we’re gonna be doing something very big that we haven’t done before and it could involve kids potentially. For me, it’s always about elevating it and keeping things so that they’re not gonna break the bank. Especially now, travel is extremely expensive and I think we need to do more of it. It’s what brings us together, it’s what allows us to experience other people’s cultures, which then makes us see ourselves more similar, which helps everybody. I can’t wait for myself to be able to travel and be on the road again. We have a lot of exciting things coming up for BÉIS. I’m really excited for it.
On social media, specifically on Instagram you have a huge following of over 32 million followers. What is your main goal of portraying to people through your profile?
To be as real and as authentic. You could portray yourself as one way and keep your Instagram always as the highlight reel and just post pretty photos. That’s great and I love that for some people’s profiles, but for myself, I really have to be as real as I can because why not. We’re all going through this crazy game called life. No one knows the rules, no one knows exactly what they’re doing. So let’s just be honest about it and take off some of that pressure. I think especially now with social media and when I look at these young girls and boys, they’re working themselves up so much, always comparing, not thinking that they’re doing enough. I’ve had my fair share of that in the past, but honestly I think when I turned 30, it kind of stopped and I stopped comparing myself to other people.
I recognized that on social media, on all platforms, it was a heightened reality of everybody’s life. It was that shiny, glittery version. And I think when people are more honest about things that are actually happening, it really brings us all together in a way that’s a lot more calming and soothing because you don’t wanna feel like you’re the only one. That’s how it was for me documenting my entire pregnancy the last time around and how I dealt with pre-partum cause that wasn’t something that I’d ever heard about. When I started talking about it, I recognized how it was actually a common thing and other women felt the same way. Similarly with miscarriages and that kind of things. I think the more that we are open to talking about not just the happy parts of life, it will bring us all together and make people feel less alone.
That’s kind of my goal with things. I’m not glammed up every single time. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel pretty. I feel pretty without makeup, but I feel like I don’t want people to see me just in one light because that’s not true to who I am. And I feel like social media allows me that access to people that follow me, that view that maybe you won’t see from my character playing, from acting or on the red carpet. So the only way for them to really get to know me and see who I am is from what I put out on social media. That’s why it’s important that I keep that as real as I can.
Why do you believe Instagram is so important for businesses?
It’s important because it gets the word out about your business, much easier than a billboard. You can’t put billboards all around the world, but you can put pictures of your product or your business online and have it viewed by millions of people around the globe if it gets shared and I think that’s so important especially for small companies and small businesses. That’s why so many people have been able to thrive doing what they love, because of Instagram and other platforms that share content. It’s made me aware of so many small brands I would’ve had no idea about if I were to just go to the mall. So I love it for that. And of course the algorithms always go up and down and it’s frustrating for everybody, but if you’re doing something that you love and you feel very strongly about, there’s other people that are gonna feel the same way and will share it too. I think that’s the thing, you really wanna support as many people as you can. So when you like something, then share it and help that other business grow.
Soon you’ll be welcoming your second baby. Congratulations on that! How do you balance motherhood and work? What is the hardest thing about finding the perfect balance between the two?
To be honest, I think Atlas coming into this world was the silver lining of the pandemic. We were at home and I wasn’t traveling as much and my attention could really be focused on her. For that whole two years it was all of us at home with her and giving her undivided attention and that was so lovely. Then when things started opening up and work started getting busy again, it is about prioritizing. I think everybody on my team and myself and Matt, we know what we prioritize and what things are at the top of the list. I don’t say yes to everything, I don’t overextend myself. If I don’t feel like going to dinner then I’m gonna cancel it because what I need to do is be sure that I’m taking care of myself first and foremost so that I can take care of other people to the best of my ability. If I’m tired and exhausted, that’s gonna make me crappy the next day.
I think it’s figuring out how to say no and feeling confident and being without guilt about certain things. I’ve mastered that now. And also it’s just doing things that you feel passionate about because then they feel less like work and you’re not wanting to not do them. But if there are those things that you have to do that maybe you don’t enjoy, it’s doing them and it’s doing them well so that at least when you come home, you know you put in the work and that’s all you can do. And then you can relax.
Taking that time for yourself, whether it’s a bath or a workout or a walk or whatever it is that you need to do for yourself, is just as important as putting in the work, because you need that balance. Otherwise things go uneven and then that’s when it affects your mental health.
We’ve been able to see some daring pregnancy fashion in the recent months. How would you describe your pregnancy style and your style in general?
My style in general is always evolving and it’s not taken serious. I think that fashion is meant to be experimented with and played with. It’s not to be used to judge people. It’s just like have fun with it, there’s way more serious things going on in the world. If that’s how you wanna dress up, good for you. I may not wear it, but who cares. I’m not you and thank you for making me aware that this fashion existed and you make it look a certain way, it stood out in my mind.
I think with this pregnancy people are like “oh, you’re showing your bump”. I showed my bump last time too. But it wasn’t at the same time as Rihanna. She’s my icon for everything, she is the queen. I’m wearing outfits that I would’ve worn pre-pregnancy and the thing with being pregnant is I have a stomach, I’m growing life. Who doesn’t wanna show that off? If I wanna wear a crop top, I’m gonna wear a crop top. If wanna wear a belly chain to accentuate it, I’m gonna do that too. I don’t feel like as women we have to hide it, we’re giving birth. I’m not ashamed of it, so who cares if we’re showing it. It’s really interesting to see the mixed opinions that people have with that, but it just doesn’t make sense to me why I need to be covered up for that. If my mom tells me she’s okay with it, then you better believe that I’m all gonna be okay with it too. Well, if my mom is not okay with it, that’s a problem. Other than her, I don’t care what anybody says.
Where do you see your career both in acting and in business in 5 years?
Definitely more movies. I think there’s an action movie coming and that’s my biggest thing, I’ve always wanted to be in an action film. I love doing as many of my own stunts as I can safely. My dream role would be to train for something every single day to get ready for a role. I would love that, I love being active and I think there’s a way to do it where I could also be in heels while running. So maybe that’s like a Mission Impossible or a cool Marvel movie, who knows. That’s definitely something that I see for myself and I love to act. I love creating amazing movies and TV that people can enjoy. Even ‘Pretty Little Liars’ was such a special thing for me. Even though so long ago, it’s still amazing to me how much of an impact I had on so many people’s lives in their adolescence growing up. It’s so cool to know that I’ve had an impact and I think with acting, if I can take you out of your reality for a little bit and bring you to another world that you enjoy or you have a laugh at or cry, that’s awesome. I love acting for that reason. And I definitely see myself doing a lot more of that.
With businesses, continuing to grow BÉIS, expanding into different demographics and different product ranges, collections. And with Onda too, expanding more in that world. Onda is a ready to drink tequila brand that I have and it’s something I really wanted to get into because it was so male dominated. When I find myself seeing a little bit of hurdles ahead of me, that’s what gets me more excited and more ramped up. Like, why is it a male dominated space, women drink just as much. I understand the branding world, I understand what we wanna drink and I understand the health benefits of things that I want while I’m drinking. So that’s where Onda came about. I’m really proud of that too and hopefully we’ll be expanding it to Europe.
What can you share with us about your upcoming acting projects?
I just shot this really fun movie, called ‘Something from Tiffany’s’ and it is gonna be coming out in December. It was also great because I was pregnant and able to shoot. I don’t know if I hid it or not, but I wore a lot of big jackets, so you guys can be the judge. For me, Christmas is such a nostalgic time. One of the things that we do is watch movies as a family. So to now be in a Christmas holiday movie is super cute. I’m excited for my mom to see it and for us all to watch it this Christmas. And I’m actually shooting a really cool show again when I am not pregnant. It’s gonna combine both my loves of traveling and drinking.
Interview by JANA LETONJA
Talent: Shay Mitchell
Photographer: Max Montgomery
Stylist: Raz Martinez
Make-up: Ash K Holm
Hair: Jesus Guerrero
Casting & editor: Timi Letonja
Styling assistant: Celine Azena