According to Liya Shay, acting is one of the most modest, humbling jobs a person can do. Actors don’t act for the money, they act because it is something that they cannot imagine living without. Each new role that they take on allows them to transform into new characters, exploring new worlds, personality traits, and relationships in a unique way. It is like a drug to them, and they are addicted to the rush. Actors often consider themselves some of the luckiest people on earth to be able to truly love what they do and to also call it work. However, it is an unstable, unpredictable source of income and above all, it is both physically and emotionally testing. That being said, Liya loves what she does, and this passion enables her to overcome any and all challenges that come in the way of doing what makes her happy.
Shay’s desire to act was sparked in a way that differentiates from most other actors. When she was a child, she moved from Russia to England and was forced to learn a new language, to adapt to new routines, and to learn how to live her life within an entirely new culture. Children are said to be more resilient than adults when undergoing such drastic life changes, and Liya has carried this resilience with her ever since. In fact, she credits performing in front of an audience at her first British school to be the reason she was able to withstand and overcome her language barrier. What she recalls fondly about the experience was the fact that she had to put on a mask in order to fit in, which has helped her ease in and out of character as an actress ever since. Without even realizing it, she began doing what actors and actresses do every day. She adjusted to the given circumstances and she learned how to adapt to her surroundings convincingly and realistically, a skill that one can only truly understand by witnessing her in action.
“Liya doesn’t just look like an astounding actress, but she also has the unique acting ability to portray powerful characters, while remaining feminine. She has this fullness about her and she always gives an authentic interpretation of her character. She devotes herself entirely to the role, taking her personal discoveries to the limit until she finds the perfect voice. To me, real acting is when an actress can transform herself from who she is in real life and create a persona that fits the storyline. As an actress off of the camera, Liya is heartfelt and easy to get along with. I enjoyed working with her during the rehearsal process because she never failed to bring ideas and suggestions for her unconventional character, which gave me as a director more space to improvise and play with,” said Shea Freeman who directed the film From Within, for which Shay played the lead role of Louise.
From Within tells the story of a musician who confronts his inner perfectionism, accepting his faults and embracing his inner creativity in order to enhance his performance beyond pure technique. Louise, played by Shay, embodies the musician’s inner voice and leads the protagonist along a path of self-discovery, pushing him beyond his boundaries and allowing him to achieve a greatness of his own, on his own accord. For the role, Liya plays a three-dimensional antagonist that allows the audience to challenge their own inner voices off screen. If not for her uncanny ability to truly become her character on screen, the film would not have been the psychological rollercoaster that it was. She played a pivotal role to the cast, but also a key role in the success of the film as a whole.
Her captivating portrayal of Louise was one of many emotionally driven roles for Shay. For instance, in 2016, Liya played the part of Sister, The 4th Person. The 4th Person, based on a true story, dramatizes the life of a man whose mother forced him to rape his sister in order to rid him of his homosexuality. Due to the fact that Shay was playing such an emotional role, she lent herself entirely to ensuring that the film did justice to the individuals who endured this devastating reality and to others who have faced similar realities. She vehemently researched stories of rape and abuse victims, trying to place herself in the headspace of the man’s sister and dedicated herself to playing the role of Sister exceptionally. Liya, along with her fellow cast members, told the story with the respect and emotion that it deserved, moving their audience to decide how they would’ve reacted to the circumstances. She felt that the story was far too important not to tell and focused on remaining true to her character and the millions of other girls on earth who experience similar situations. Playing a role like this reminds Liya why her job is so empowering.
“I was honored to play this character because she is so caring, yet vulnerable. She has to appear strong on the surface insofar that she sacrifices her own happiness and emotional stability in order to five her brother peace of mind. I also liked the fact that everyone was respectful to the topic we were bringing up. The director gave me so much support and freedom to experiment with these emotions and to trust my own instincts. He encouraged me to allow the emotions to come to me, rather than forcing myself to interpret them. It was unlike any job I’ve ever done,” stated Shay.
On top of From Within and The 4th Person, Shay has landed herself lead roles in several other film and television productions for films like Lost at Sea, A Few Things, and Forever. She has even extended her acting skills beyond film and television to commercials and web series. She is incredibly versatile.
Keep an eye out for Liya in her upcoming Indie Feature Film, Homeschool Graduation, where she plays an awkward homeschooled teenager embarking on the full high school experience. Beyond this film, she will undoubtedly continue to blow her audiences away throughout her career.
Photo by Alexandra Sinitsyna