Shantel VanSanten: The Star in Waiting

Shantel VanSanten, star of the trippy new sci-fi show The Messengers, on lies, special powers, and rising from the dead.
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Shantel VanSanten, star of the trippy new sci-fi show The Messengers, on lies, special powers, and rising from the dead.

Shantel VanSanten is the sort of woman who, if she worked in any industry, would be told she should be in the movies. This is because she should be in the movies And she's well on her way thanks to recurring television roles and high-profile modeling gigs. She's an eyeful, sure, but what she really looks like is the future. She just needs the right vehicle to get there.

Your new show, The Messengers, is out this spring on the CW. The story seems a little complicated, so why don’t you give me the elevator pitch: It’s what meets what?

I play an astronomer who watches a mysterious object plummeting from the sky. When it hits, my heart stops briefly—I die!—and when I come back to life, I have this special power. It turns out there are five other people like me, also with gifts, and then we have to basically save the world from an impending apocalypse.

So, it’s Lost meets The Matrix meets The Walking Dead?

I would say The Leftovers meets The Matrix meets—who knows? It’s a Rapture story, loosely based on the Book of Revelation. There are the Four Horsemen: pestilence, death, famine—I always forget the last one.

You got me beat already. That’s two more than I could do. 

War! It’s war. Makes for really great bad guys. 



Can you tell me your gift?

Afraid I can’t. As of a month ago, I didn’t even know it myself. But I can tell you this: We’re not superheroes. We couldn’t just take over the world or anything. Our gifts always have either a physical or mental limitation. Each of us does very different things, so we need to find each other and work together in order to succeed or fail. That’s the coolest part.

I’ve heard you didn’t have a TV as a kid. Why not?

Growing up as a young girl on a farm in Minnesota, it’s just not something you have. I don’t even know if you could get cable there. You got, like, three channels—it was The Price Is Right, soap operas, and then the news. And later we moved to Texas, where being a kid was all about being outside and getting involved in sports, not watching TV. The other night I had a big dinner with friends and everyone talked about their favorite movie, and I just started to laugh because I haven’t seen The Godfather or any of the epic, classic movies that everyone was talking about.

Were you a jock?

No. I was good enough in softball or golf to hit the ball really, really far, but never in the right direction. I was a nerd: president of the glee club, president of the yearbook staff. I even started a book club! 

I came across another interesting story about you on the Internet—

Are you gonna say that I was “secretly married” and have two kids?

Yeah. Plus the best one: that you are the highest-paid actress in the world. 

Well, if that’s the case, then I feel sorry for everybody else! I got a text the other day from an ex-boyfriend and he was like, “Did you get married?” I’m thinking, I don’t even have a boyfriend; I don’t know what you’re talking about. He was like, “Oh, well, that’s not what the Web says.” And I thought, Oh, you’re gonna believe the Internet. I’m single, no kids, and I guess now I’m broke [laughs]. 

Speaking of boyfriends: your first. What’s he up to now?

My first real boyfriend was the bagger at a grocery store. He enlisted in the Army and has been there ever since, I think.

Do you have “a type”?

No. I feel like I’ve dated everything: every nationality, race, religion. Guys in a band, an actor, a chef, a financial adviser. I don’t discriminate when it comes to that.

Fair enough. Is there anything else we should know? 

Well, you didn’t ask me about my hidden talent. I can pick my nose with my tongue! Actually, I can make my tongue reach all the way down to my chin and then go all the way to my nose.

Photos by Rene & Radka