Shantel VanSanten for “The Final Destination”

Beautiful ex-model Shantel VanSanten began her acting career with a series of TV movie roles in 2005’s “Three Wise Guys”, 2006’s “Savage Spirit”, and 2007’s “Spellbound”.

After a few big-screen movie roles in “In My Pocket” and “The Open Door”, VanSantel was cast in a starring role in the latest member of the Destination franchise “The Final Destination”.

The actress also has a recurring role in the still popular TV series “One Tree Hill”. Paul Fischer caught up with her in this exclusive interview.

Question: It must have been exciting for you to be a part of this franchise.

Van Santen: It was quite the responsibility when I found out that I booked it, and I hadn’t seen any of the other three. And – you know, I did my research, and I did my studies. And I watched the other three. You know, there’s such a huge fan base, and such a big following, with this franchise. And it is, it’s really an honor to be a part of the final one – you know, and the one that they’ve hyped up the most. And then lastly, it’s in 3D, which is such an amazing technology.

Question: Now, when you signed up for this, did you – what did you think of the idea of this series?

Van Santen: See, for me, I don’t watch scary movies at all, which is why I hadn’t seen the other ones. But, you know, the idea that there isn’t, like, a slasher guy with a knife and a mask and all this kind of stuff chasing after you and trying to kill you, and that it’s death – you know, it’s like, this ominous – you can’t figure it out. There is no formula, there are no rules. It’s an intangible force that’s just after you throughout the whole movie – is something that I think plays on everybody’s biggest fear, which is death. You know? And then you take normal, everyday circumstances, and you make them turn for the worse, and you kind of have a formula for an amazing movie.

Question: What is your take on your character, on Lori?

Van Santen: You know, Lori is kind of the brains and the foundation behind it. Because – you know, as Nick, who’s played by Bobby Campo, goes through these premonitions, they’re really unclear. And they’re more like pieces to a puzzle. And he’ll tell them to me, and it’s like – we try to figure it out. Where it’s going to be, who is it. And as we try to figure it out, you know, the audience as well is kind of trying to put the puzzle pieces together.

Question: What is the audition process for a movie like this?

Van Santen: You know, the audition process wasn’t as strenuous as what I thought. I thought they would have us – you know, practice your best scream, and all that kind of fun stuff. But – you know, I originally went in and read for the role of Janet, and they brought me back in and told me that I was Lori, more, to them. So I’d auditioned for Lori. And the day that I actually found out that I got the movie, I was in a major car accident while I was on the phone call. So, I guess it didn’t really steer me away from it. I guess it made me jump in more, and that experience was probably somewhat of what helped me throughout.

Question: Did you have to scream during the audition?

Van Santen: No, I did not have to scream during the audition.

Question: So, I can’t ask you if you’re a good screamer, then.

Van Santen: I mean, if you see the movie, you’ll see. I’m a pretty good screamer.

Question: For somebody who’s not a fan of scary movies, you’re doing another one.

Van Santen: Are you talking about the Something Wicked?

Question: Yeah.

Van Santen: Yeah, Something Wicked. Well, Something Wicked is more of a psychological drama. There’s some thriller aspects to it, but it’s not a scary movie. It’s definitely more of, like, a mind – like, it messes with your mind a little bit more than anything else.

Question: It’s got a really interesting cast. You get to work with Brittany Murphy, and —

Van Santen: John Robinson, who played my love interest. And Brittany was great. And – you know, Darin Scott, the director, is the best director ever. You know, he was so great about giving us the tools that we needed, and then kind of like, letting us go there. Because it really was all about – you know, making the audience try to figure out mentally what’s going on.

Question: What are the challenges for you – you’ve been working steadily, I guess, for about the last three or four years.

Van Santen: You know, the challenges to me for work – first of all, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do, you know? And when I first started acting, I had no idea I could make a career out of it, you know? I thought, ” Wow, this is something I’m really passionate about, and now I’m making a career out of it.” And I’m so incredibly grateful. And, you know, when you work consistently – I guess for me, it’s going back home. It’s re-centering my life. And home, for me, is Texas. It’s where my family is. And that really grounds me, and makes me realize where I came from, and everything that I have now, and it makes me appreciate it, and not ever take one job or one day for granted.

Question: So, why does a girl from Texas want to be an actress?

Van Santen: You know, I actually didn’t know I wanted to be an actress. I was going to school, and I was modeling to pay my bills. And it was great. And I had started taking theatre class in high school, and then in college. And I started taking acting classes, and I was just like, ” Oh, I just love this. This is so much fun.” And they would send me out to commercial auditions, and I would book stuff, and I’m like, ” God, this is great.” And I just didn’t have any idea that – you know, you could make a full career and life out of it. I had never been exposed to Hollywood, or anything like that. I thought it was only for – you know, ten people in the whole world.

Question: How competitive are you?

Van Santen: You know, I’m not super competitive. I’m a competitive person, but when it comes to this industry, you know, you can’t be too hard on yourself. There are some roles that are just right. And if it’s not that, it’s going to be something else down the line, and you have to kind of let it go and realize that another opportunity will come up.

Question: Do you have a thick skin?

Van Santen: Probably not. I’m really sensitive.

Question: So, when you don’t get a job, do you get very depressed?

Van Santen: It depends. There are some jobs that, like, I’ll be out for, and it’ll be between, like, me and one other person. And I’ve been working on it, and thinking about it and mentally preparing for it for, like, a month, as I go through it. And sometimes it is. You know, sometimes you get a little discouraged, or a little upset about it. But you really do have to put it into perspective and realize that there’s so many opportunities in Hollywood. And if it’s not that one, that there’s going to be a better one that comes along.

Question: Are you still on One Tree Hill?

Van Santen: Yes, I am. I’m currently filming. I’m going to be in all of the seventh season. I’m a series regular.

Question: And that show’s been going on now for a long time. How much longer do you think there is for that?

Van Santen: I’m not sure. I know that they’re planning for sure through this season, and possibly another one. You know, we’ll see. I think that it has such a strong fan base, especially in Middle America. But really, everywhere, because the show’s not like – you know, a show about Hollywood, or New York, where people can’t always relate. It’s kind of about everyday issues and problems, and a lot of people can relate to that.

Question: Are you very much like Quinn James? Are you like your character in that show?

Van Santen: You know, I play Quinn, and Quinn’s a little bit older than I am in real life, but I’m kind of an old soul. You know, I’ve been through a lot in my life, and I’m very grateful for it, and I know that that’s why I’m able to play certain roles. You know, the creative side of my character – she’s a photographer. That’s definitely where my brain is at. I’m a very creative person. But I also don’t – it’s so weird, coming from a film background, to like – TV, when I don’t get to know where my character’s going, or what they’re doing. You know, every week, it’s like – ” Oh, so what’s happening to me this week?” Giving up that control’s definitely weird.

Question: So, if you couldn’t act, if the acting was to suddenly stop, what other aspect of you creatively would you like to explore?

Van Santen: I want to write. That’s what I was going to college for, was writing. And I still do write. Not anything that I want anybody to read yet. But – you know, that’s my only other –

Question: What kind of writing?

Van Santen: I actually wanted to do journalistic writing. I wanted to, like, travel, and find things I was really passionate about, and expose them to the world and educate people, as well as educating myself.

Question: That sounds great. Do you try to travel as much as you can?

Van Santen: Yeah. I have not been able to travel. I wish I did, but the last two years of my life have been pretty crazy, and I’ve been extremely grateful, and I know one day I’ll be able to travel some more. But I like to work while I’m young, so it’s okay.

Question: Do you have anything else planned beyond shooting One Tree Hill?

Van Santen: No. I mean, I know that during the hiatus – we’ll shoot until March, and then after March, I’d love to be on another film.

Question: So, when you see yourself in 3D – you’ve obviously seen the 3D print.

Van Santen: Yeah, I saw it.

Question: How intimidating is that for you as an actress and as a female, who – you know, obviously vanity must play a role somewhere.

Van Santen: You know, really, with how much stunts we were doing, we all had to be in incredible shape. You know what I mean? Like, we were constantly working out just to make sure that our bodies could handle all of the stunts. So, you know, when it came time to shoot the underwear scene – you know, there’s a part of you that’s always insecure. And I always strive to be a healthy girl, though, and I eat a lot. So, I was fine with it.

Question: I didn’t notice the underwear scene, actually.

Van Santen: Good! Awesome. That makes me feel great. [LAUGHTER]