Shelley Hennig can currently be seen in the new thriller Cult Killer, also starring Alice Eve and Antonio Banderas, as the powerhouse female lead in Netflix’s global hit Obliterated, an action-packed dramedy series from the creators of Cobra Kai and in the Paramount + film Teenwolf: The Movie. Previously, Shelley recurred on the Netflix mini-series WOMAN IN THE HOUSE starring Kristen Bell, and on both Mystic Quest, created by Rob McElhenney, and Hulu’s Kat Dennings comedy Dollface. She also starred in Netflix comedies When We First Met and Afterparty as well as the Denzel Washington movie Roman J. Israel, Esq. and the horror films Unfriended and Ouija. She played fan favorite Malia Tate for four seasons on MTV’s Teen Wolf, winning a 2016 Teen Choice Award for her role. A New Orleans native, Shelley is passionate about charitable causes, working often with special needs organizations, specifically Best Buddies.
Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the current release in theaters of Cult Killer, the new thriller starring Alice Eve, Shelley Hennig and Antonio Banderas, award-winning actress Hennig shared some of the simple pleasures in her life. — N.D.
I love line dancing. I grew up in the South, so I learned all the routines at weddings and fairs, and then rediscovered line dancing years later, when I could draw on those memorized moves from when I was younger. When I was filming Teen Wolf for four years in Chatsworth, California, which is pretty far out from Los Angeles, we found this country bar in town and I started going. Now I know everyone there! One day, I hope to own the place, but it’s more expensive than I thought it would be. Shout out to Bonnie, who runs the show! I was just there for my birthday and I brought all of my friends. At first they said, “Shelley, what are you making us do?!” because it’s so far, but when they got there, they just said, “I’ve never seen anything like this – it’s organized dancing!” The bar has lessons before the night begins, and then you can get up and show your routines. I have an 80-year-old Italian stallion boyfriend there, Gino, who takes you around the dancefloor and spins you around, so I paired him up with each one of my friends.
As an actor, I’m constantly challenged outside of myself. So, at the end of the day, I bring a lot of myself, but I’m also exploring and connecting to new ideas or people I never knew existed. For me, line dancing is just routine, it’s something I’m familiar with, and I need that to make me feel safe in an industry that feels so spontaneous. I like to just let it all go and do something I already know how to do. And then, of course, I’ll add my own little spin to it. But it’s funny, one of my friends noticed that the faces of everyone on the dance floor were a little zombie-like! People have had a hard week, maybe, and they just want to go on autopilot. But as the night goes on you can also get more animated, like I do in the line dancing videos I’ve made.
I want to live near that bar, I want to know everyone who comes in and out. I have some notes about the classes, like the “beginner” class is not for beginners. It’s freaking advanced! And, as a perfectionist, that makes me really upset, so I’ve talked to Bonnie about it. She heard me, but I haven’t seen the changes yet. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. But yeah, I think I’m going to have to buy the place!
7-Eleven’s “Triangle” Sandwiches
I’m really disgusting, but I love what I call “triangle” sandwiches. They come in a plastic container (I know plastic’s terrible – I’m trying to be better!) with the little tab you can’t always rip open, so sometimes I’ve had to use my car key, which is probably really dirty. I’ll just go to a 7-Eleven and get one of these sandwiches. I have a few favorites, like tuna salad, ham and cheese, chicken salad, and turkey and cheese. I don’t mess with the roast beef; I draw the line there. But that’s really the only line I have when it comes to 7-Eleven! (I also love to get the lime-flavored Flaming Hot Cheetos and if I don’t get a sandwich, I’ll get some beef jerky, sometimes with the cheese attached to it.)
I like to look at the triangle sandwiches, because I can tell which ones I’m going to like and which ones I’m not going to. I like when the bread’s a bit soggier and there’s more filling than bread. Those are some of the requirements. They’re probably really bad for you and live in your digestive system for a decade, but loving these sandwiches makes me really easy to take out or go on a road trip with.
I danced as a kid, and I was always at the gas station getting food for myself in between school and dance practice, so I kinda grew up on the 7-Eleven style of eating. Now I don’t just eat these sandwiches when I’m in a rush and don’t have time for a proper meal, I also just randomly crave them and will get in my car and go find one. When I eat what I want, when I eat what I crave, I don’t eat a lot. I’m satisfied.
New Orleans Culture and Porch Life
I’ve been Airbnb-ing for the past two or three years, which is obviously a choice that stems from some kind of commitment issues! But home for me is New Orleans, as I grew up there, and I really love New Orleans culture. The city is called the Big Easy and I just love that relaxed vibe you feel when you’re there. I’m proud to bring people to New Orleans, to show them the people and the food. They’ve gotten the local experience and told me, “This really is another country. It’s so unique.” Obviously for me, I just thought it all was normal, but over the years I’ve talked about aspects of the city and its culture and people have said, “What?!” For example, my dad recently sent me a king cake, which we eat at Mardi Gras. It’s a fun piece of our culture, but I couldn’t even tell you what it means. Often when I bring someone to New Orleans and they ask all these questions, I have to say, “I don’t know. We just do that.”
The other thing with New Orleans is that there are subcultures; I call myself a porch sitter. I don’t necessarily need to be engaged in a game, a movie or a book, I just like sitting on the porch having a tea or wine (depending on what drink is appropriate for that time of day!) and just chilling. If I have a friend with me, we’ll just talk a lot of shit. I’m pretty simple, at the end of the day. I really push myself at work, whether it’s auditions or being on set or doing interviews, and after all that I always have my porch to come back to. So every Airbnb I stay in has to have a porch. When I think of people I’ve met over the past three years, I think about which porch I was sitting on when we hung out.
If I have a friend over, I connect with my friend and I don’t really pay attention to what’s happening on the street. We’ll braid each other’s hair, eat some snacks and drink a kombucha; the weather in California is really special, so I like to take that in. If it’s just me, I’ll make up stories about my neighbors. I’m always moving, so I don’t really know who my neighbors are beyond the superficial. The house across the street from me right now still has their Christmas lights up, so I’ve created an entire story about who they are. Their Christmas lights remind me of the ones my mom had in the ’90s, the ones with the really thick bulbs. I don’t love Christmas music, and they had this mechanism where if people passed outside their door, a Christmas song would come on. I moved here very recently and I was sitting on the porch, thinking, “Man, this place is great!” And then I heard Christmas songs for the next hour, because this stupid automated music kept on being triggered by people passing by!