English-Spanish actress Ana Mulvoy-Ten was relatively unknown to American audiences when she joined “American Crime’s” cast of otherwise recurring players for its third (and final) season. But it didn’t take long for fans of creator John Ridley’s ABC anthology series to take notice of her. With hopeful, doe eyes and a childlike wonder for the simple beauties of life, Mulvoy-Ten’s Shae Reese was a shockingly optimistic — if somewhat naïve — pregnant teenager stuck in the world of sex trafficking.
“John had said to me that he didn’t want her to be this angry teenage girl,” Mulvoy-Ten says. “I think that it just makes her so much more interesting. It’s so much easier to just play that girl who was abused and she’s angry and bitter about it. But actually, Shae is a little bit of a dreamer. I wanted there to be some innocence and a little bit of hope there.”
This sweetness endeared her to audiences who hoped that Shae would be one of the ones to make it out of the show’s plotlines. And that made her fate all the more tragic.
Mulvoy-Ten: “The way that John Ridley works is he does not give actors the scripts in advance and you don’t know what’s going to happen to your character. I didn’t know what was going to happen to Shae, but John did hint. He said to me early on, ‘don’t expect it to end well for her,’ which when John says that you know it’s probably not going to be good. But I didn’t know that it was going to end the way it did until we started shooting episode six.
At first, I was terrified of working this way because I didn’t ever know what was coming. But now I feel like it’s the best way to work. As John says, in life you don’t know what’s coming. You deal with it when it’s happening to you, but in two months you don’t know that you’re going to get stabbed in the neck.
“When Shae finds out she’s pregnant and she says she wants an abortion [earlier in the season], I didn’t know that she was going to decide that she wants to keep the baby. I fought for that [abortion] like my life depended on it. There was no doubt in my mind that Shae needed to have this abortion. At the time, I was thinking that the guy who had gotten me pregnant was one of those really sleazy guys in the motels that you see in the first episodes.
And, in my mind, I was worried that I was going to have a little boy and he was going to look like one of those guys. I wouldn’t be able to love the child if he looked like one of those really nasty Johns. Then I got the next script and it says she wants to keep the baby and my whole idea of having a baby changed.
“The death scene is so sad because you know I’m pregnant and you know I’m keeping the baby. And If I had known that Shae was going to get stabbed in the neck with a nail file, then I would have been aware of what’s going to happen and I would have fallen into the trap of anticipating it.
“What happens to Shae isn’t unusual. She’s a runaway and she’s not close with her family. Through my research and watching interviews with prostitutes, I learned that a lot of them are very aware that they could die and no one would know about it or do anything about it. I don’t know if you can call it inspiration, but I got a lot of my information and the way I wanted to play Shae from those interviews.”