Exclusive Interview with Sarah Shahi for ‘Road to Paloma’

– by Gig Patta

It’s a motorcycle journey towards Paloma.

Latino-Review caught up with actress Sarah Shahi in Jason Momoa’s “Road to Paloma.” She plays the sister to Wolf, a Native American who is on the run from FBI agents after brutally murdering a man who raped his mother.

In this exclusive phone interview, Shahi discussed the attraction to Momoa’s directorial debut. She also came on board as an executive producer and explained on how she slightly expanded her character from the original script. As a bonus, she slightly talked about her future projects including “Person of Interest.”

“Road to Paloma” has a limited release in theaters today.

Read the interview below.

Latino-Review: What attracted to you this story written by Jason Momoa?

Sarah Shahi: We were doing a movie together called, “Bullet to the Head.” He asked me if I would take a look at the script and if I would play the little sister. I read it and said, “Fuck that. I don’t want to play the little sister. I want to play Robert Wolf.” And he said, “That’s impossible, because that’s me.” [Laughter] Well, I said, “I could make a better Wolf than you.” [Laughter]

I wanted to work on Eva and punch her up a bit. She didn’t have much to do, so I wanted to make her short time on to make her very impacted [to the story]. So we worked on it and I asked to help him produce it to find funding for it. He said yes.

So he and Brian Mendoza, who is this incredible visionary, created a trailer and sent it to my contacts. The next thing you know we got a little bit of money to work together. And we made a movie.

Latino-Review: Since this is your first time being a producer, how was this experience like? Did you actually enjoy it?

Sarah Shahi: I did. It was a little complicated in the beginning. I was filming a TV show called, “Barely Legal” at the time. I was up in Canada while the boys are down in [the U.S.]. I was doing a lot of work via phone. I was also filming sixteen hours a day while doing all this stuff.

It was definitely challenging to say in the beginning. I did like it. At the end of the day, I’m proud to put my name on the project.

Latino-Review: You mentioned that you fleshed out your character a little bit more. Could you elaborate more about that?

Sarah Shahi: When they first wrote the character about Eva, they initially wrote it for somebody else who dropped out. For me, it doesn’t necessarily matter on how many scenes I’m in. She just needed to serve a purpose. She needed to serve the story in some kind of way. We just wanted to make her time on screen with Jason [Momoa] more important. They were brother and sister so we had to find a way to establish their intimacy, their relationship and on how close they are. She had to be a reason for one of his stops on his journey.

So the ashes were going to be at her house and with a baby named Wolf. It was a way to tie everything together. There aren’t many females in the movie. It’s just me and Lisa Bonet. Being the only two girls in the project, you have to be strong, powerful, short and sweet at the same time.

Latino-Review: Yeah, it was pretty good. And you’re right, maybe you should’ve played Wolf. Maybe you could’ve come up with a project on where you ride a motorcycle through the desert.

Sarah Shahi: [Laughter] I was on that and I do a little of that myself. It’ll be great. I always wanted to play the boys and sometimes girls can be a little boring.

Latino-Review: You don’t do a lot of films, but mainly do a lot of television. Do you enjoy performing on television a lot more?

Sarah Shahi: No actually. I just did another film. Knock on wood. In part of the reason that I haven’t been able to film as I would like to because I could literally go from project to project without having more than a couple months off. It wasn’t intentional for it to be like that. I just happened.

I just finished a movie called, “Divine Access,” which shot in Austin. It was a religious satire and really fun to do. At the end of the day, you just want to go where the good roles are. As an actor, I’m always looking to stretch myself and put me a little bit out of my comfort zone. I’m really attracted to characters that are flawed. They have something big that needed to overcome.

This is how I am so far. I definitely want to see my schedule open up at some point in my career to do more things in film. In films, you have more time so you can be more creative and explore me. As in TV, you don’t have so much time. You have to shoot so many pages a day and appease the network, the studio, the producer and the writer. I feel like the creative discovery could be lost in all that.

Latino-Review: You always choose these challenging roles. How do you know which roles are the ones for you?

Sarah Shahi: Sometimes it intimidates me and I just go for it. I didn’t do that when I took the role of Renee [Royce] in “Chicago Fire,” because all I have to do is make out with Taylor Kinney. What girl would say no to that—you have to be blind go away from that. That definitely didn’t fall into that criterion.

Funny thing is that [if the role] intimidates me a little bit, then I want to do it. Like my role in “Person of Interest,” she’s very physical. I’ve never done anything so physical before. I took it based on that. I was able going to do a lot of action. That’s pretty much on what I look for. For “Barely Legal,” I just had a baby eight weeks before I took the job and carrying my own show at the time. It was a pretty big deal.

With this [project], we were friends and buddies on the production. You can come to work and talk on how you want the scene to go. There were lines and you can change the lines. The challenge in this, also made it so fun, is nothing but being creative from start to finish. There’s nothing set in stone. You could move whichever you wanted.

Latino-Review: After watching Jason directing and writing this project, does this inspire you to perhaps follow the same road?

Sarah Shahi: No, not necessarily. I really enjoy the producing side of it. I enjoy putting people together. I like that and that’s something I definitely would do again. I optioned this book not too long ago and I plan to star in and produce. But I don’t plan on directing and writing. That’s not something I have a passion for.

Jason is a great actor and for the first time directing—I think he fucking made an amazing movie. Directing is something he would definitely do more of. But, it’s not anything that would interest me.

Latino-Review: Just out of curiosity, what was the book you just optioned?

Sarah Shahi: It’s called “Fourplay.”

Latino-Review: What are you other upcoming projects besides the option on the book? You are returning to “Person of Interest,” am I correct?

Sarah Shahi: Yeah, I did finish doing this movie called “Divine Access.” It is starring me with Gary Cole, Patrick Warburton, Joel David Moore and Billy Burke. That will come out sometime next year.

In a few weeks, I’m back to filming on “Person of Interest.”

Latino-Review: Your character, Sameen Shaw, is obviously going to get more complicated on the show.

Sarah Shahi: Yes, I think so. Especially after the way we ended last season. We have yet to see the darkness and I think it’s going to be pretty dark and really fucked up. It’ll be fantastic.

Latino-Review: Yeah, I saw a few episodes. Your character is such a badass. Thank you for this conversation.

Sarah Shahi: Thank you and have a good day.

“Road to Paloma” has a limited release in theaters today.

Interviews, Film, LRM Exclusives Sarah Shahi, Road to Paloma