Wonderland.

5 MINUTES WITH SHANNON PURSER

The viral Riverdale and Stranger Things star on #JusticeForBarb and working with Noah Centineo.

Shannon Purser stars

All clothing FOREVER 21, crown VALHERIA ROCHA

Shannon Purser stars
All clothing FOREVER 21, crown VALHERIA ROCHA

You might not instantly recognise her name (yet), but once you clock Shannon Purser’s face, you’ll feel an unexplained affinity to her. Why? The actress has unwittingly installed herself at the centre of most of your viral teen screen obsessions in the last few years.

We demanded #JusticeForBarb after her loyal character in Stranger Things was brutally, ahem, extinguished. Then earlier this year she starred opposite heartthrob Noah Centineo in Netflix mistaken identity rom-com, Sierra Burgess Is A Loser. And now, we’re currently following her troubled character Ethel in the latest season of Riverdale.

We caught up with the actress below…

Shannon Purser bush
Shannon Purser flowers

All clothing FOREVER 21

Shannon Purser bush
All clothing FOREVER 21
Shannon Purser flowers

You first shot to fame in Stranger Things – did you ever think it would be such a success?
I think I knew the show was going to be great in terms of quality, but I don’t think any of us could have anticipated that it would be so popular. I wasn’t sure if people would even watch it, so it was pretty amazing to see the whole world fall in love with our work.

What did you think of #JusticeForBarb? Halloween’s coming up – how many people have sent you pics of them dressed as her?
I was really overwhelmed by the response to Barb. Stranger Things was my first acting job and I was honestly just so thrilled to be there. I didn’t think people would care about my character, much less rally behind her, so it was amazing and difficult to process. Even now, people send me pictures of them as Barb for Halloween and it definitely blows my mind if I think about it for too long.

You went from playing smaller characters to the lead in Sierra Burgess is a Loser. How was that for you?
Playing the lead was a totally different experience from what I’d done before and one that I wasn’t sure I’d get to have. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well and there was certainly a heavy sense of responsibility. I was really thankful that the creators believed in me and trusted me to tell their story.

Sierra Burgess is a Loser has faced a bit of backlash – what does the movie mean you?
For me, the movie is an exploration of the pressures young people face to conform and compare themselves to each other. High school is a time when being different isn’t always nurtured or celebrated, but often shamed and discouraged. The character Sierra has gone through life ignoring her insecurities, but when they finally catch up to her, she becomes desperate and hopeless and makes some really bad choices. The story is exaggerated and an adaptation of the play Cyrano de Bergerac, but I think many of us have faced the temptation to be someone else or act differently in order to gain love or attention or popularity. I wanted the movie to be a reminder to the audience to be authentic and embrace themselves (and others) for who they are.

How was it working with Noah Centineo?
Working with Noah was great. He’s really sweet and a good scene partner. It’s really easy to have chemistry with him.

Shannon Purser mannequin
Shannon Purser statue

(LEFT) All clothing FOREVER 21, necklace KADINE FORBES
(RIGHT) Dress VINTAGE, necklace FREE PEOPLE, gloves VALHERIA ROCHA

Shannon Purser mannequin
All clothing FOREVER 21, necklace KADINE FORBES
Shannon Purser statue
Dress VINTAGE, necklace FREE PEOPLE, gloves VALHERIA ROCHA

You’ve become somewhat of a pop culture fixture with Stranger Things, Riverdale and Sierra Burgess is a Loser – what attracts you to these viral kind of films?
I think I’ve just gotten lucky that some of the projects I’ve been a part of have been popular. I don’t necessarily seek out material that I think will be a hit, I’m just always looking for interesting characters and stories that I care about.

Your character in Riverdale Ethel is undergoing a bit of a change and seeing more screen time in season 3 – are we going to see a new side to her?
Ethel has become a lot more unstable since season one. I can’t say much, but as the season progresses, she goes to some dark places and unleashes the anger that’s been building within her.

What’s the best feedback you’ve ever received on any of your roles?
I’d say getting an Emmy nomination for Barb was one of the best moments of my life thus far!

Describe your style IRL.
Being plus-size means there aren’t as many options for me in stores so I do a good bit of online shopping. I really enjoy fashion, but I also really like being comfortable, so I keep it pretty simple in real life.

What’s next for you? What kind of roles do you want to explore next?
There are some potential projects that are exciting, but nothing set in stone yet. I want to continue to branch out from the kinds of characters I’ve played before and try new things. I’m not sure what I’m looking for, but I hope I’ll know it when I see it.

Shannon Purser butterfly
Shannon Purser netting

All clothing FOREVER 21

Shannon Purser butterfly
All clothing FOREVER 21
Shannon Purser netting
Photography
Valheria Rocha
Styling
Brandon Johnson
Makeup
Mckenzie Mann
Hair
Tara Noelle
Words
Maybelle Morgan
Photography assistant
Brandon Hayden
5 MINUTES WITH SHANNON PURSER

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