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The Name Game
By Ashton Pike | Photo: PORTRAIT BY VALHERIA ROCHA; ASSISTANT: BRANDON HAYDEN; STYLING BY BRANDON JOHNSON; HAIR BY TARA NOELLE; MAKEUP BY MCKENZIE MANN | August 27, 2018
Atlanta’s own Shannon Purser hits pause to talk her newfound celebrity status.
Barb, June, Ethel, Sierra… the world may know Shannon Purser by the monikers she takes when the cameras start rolling, but we know the Emmy-nominated actress as one of us by way of her Roswell roots. In just three years, the 21-year-old went from landing her breakout role on Netflix’s Stranger Things to starring in five more films and TV series—and she’s only warming up.
What did your childhood here in Georgia look like?
I really love it here. I love watching the leaves turn and when it gets cold in the winter. I think I would miss that anywhere else. But I had a pretty normal childhood. I have three sisters—we all played with each other and hung out.
How did you segue into a career in acting?
I always say I got into acting because I loved books so much when I was a kid; I was a big reader. I always wanted to be a character in a book, so I think as I got older and I got into movies, I was like, ‘Oh, this is kind of the same thing; I can be a part of the story and be somebody else,’ which I thought was supercool.
Can you recall when you first experienced that celebrity-level recognition?
I remember I went to L.A. pretty recently after Stranger Things had come out, and I was on a bus getting out of the airport and somebody was like, ‘Has anyone ever told you that you look like Shannon Purser?’ And I was like, ‘Yes, that’s me.’ [Laughs] I didn’t think anybody would know my name, so that was really wild.
What’s it been like working on Riverdale?
It’s cool having a group of cast mates around my age because we’re all going through kind of similar things in our professional and personal lives. I think Ethel definitely has more anger than a lot of my other characters have. There’s a lot of depth to her, and it’s been fun getting to play around with that.
How did it feel when you landed your first leading role in Netflix’s Sierra Burgess Is a Loser premiering Sept. 7?
It’s really an honor to know that they put their faith in me to carry this story. I find Sierra really relatable because she doesn’t fit into a particular trope, and that’s what I try to do with all my characters—not make them just a stereotype. I feel like a stronger actor having gone through it.
What excites you most about your future in acting?
All of it really excites me—that’s what I love about this industry. You never know what’s going to happen next; you never know what kind of script you’re going to get. So the possibilities are really endless. @shannonpurser