|Famous For: Once and Again, A Walk to Remember and ER||Currently Known For: As Michael in Nikita and as John Alden in Salem|
Currently Known For As Michael in Nikita and as John Alden in Salem
“I’ve never had a day job. I’ve been very fortunate.” Forced to take a drama class in high school because he was one credit shy of graduating, Shane West wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of taking the stage in front of his classmates since he had already planned on following in his mother’s and father’s footsteps to launch his career as a musician. With his parents working by day in blue collar jobs as a drugstore owner and a lawyer while pursuing their interests as punk rockers by night, West was raised to appreciate all kinds of music and grew up listening to greats like The Clash, Blondie, The Kinks and Elvis Costello, which is exactly why he never imagined making a career out of acting—music was far more appealing, at least at the time. Fortunately, fate had other plans as the 39-year-old former teen heartthrob has managed to have the best of both worlds after building his career as an actor, musician, songwriter, producer and writer known for his work in A Walk to Remember, Once and Again, Nikita and Salem.
Although his parents divorced when he was four years old and his mother moved him and his siblings to Compton, California with the hopes of finding a better job, West wasn’t exactly charmed by the bright lights of Hollywood until his mother moved the family to Los Angeles where a high school acting class completely changed the trajectory of his career. “I always thought I would be doing music rather than acting,” West later admitted after seeing young actors appear in television ads and commercials. Knowing that he could do the same especially now that he was so close to Hollywood, West set out to try his hand at acting and spent two years struggling to find work before finally making his television debut in an episode of Picket Fences in 1995. “It took a really long time for me to find work,” he said, “and become even somewhat successful and make it a real career. It quickly became a passion of mine.”
With his first acting gig under his belt, West wanted more and spent the next few years learning the ropes with guest appearances on television series like California Dreams, Boy Meets World, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and To Have & To Hold before he was cast in his first major role in Once & Again. Joining Sela Word and Billy Campbell on the series from 1999 to 2002, West’s performance as Eli Sammier earned him his first nomination at the Teen Choice Awards as he cashed in on his growing fame with credits on the silver screen in The Cider House Rules, Liberty Heights and Ocean’s Eleven. Then, after wrapping up Once & Again in 2002, he auditioned for and won the part of Landon Carter opposite Mandy Moore in A Walk to Remember, which made him an overnight star and earned him a Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Chemistry.
“Adam Shankman, the director, pulled the cast aside and said, ‘Hey look, worst case scenario: if no one goes to see this movie, just know that all of you have put together some solid performances, some powerful performances, and we put together a great little love story,’” West recalled of finishing the film and not yet knowing that it would be a hit. “At that point, I had done a couple of teen films and I was already on a TV show called Once and Again; the two films hadn’t really performed but the TV show was really well-respected. When I went into A Walk to Remember, Mandy Moore was more of a face and a name than I was… but the movie happened to take off and we were really proud of it.”
A Walk to Remember was a huge success for West and even gave the young star a chance to pursue his interests in music when his band, known then as Average Joe, worked on the soundtrack for the film. After wrapping up the press tour for the movie, he jumped headfirst into his next project, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and accepted a recurring role as Dr. Ray Barnett in the NBC hit medical drama ER. Spending five years on the popular show from 2004 to 2009, West’s schedule was incredibly hectic as he also joined the Germs on tour as their lead singer and spent four years on the road traveling across America and Europe while juggling the demands of primetime television. Once the tour and ER were both over, West landed back on his feet in 2010 when he was cast as Michael in Nikita, yet another series that earned him both a win and a nomination for Choice TV Actor at the Teen Choice Awards.
With Nikita wrapping up in 2013, West was busy looking for work when another series landed in his lap—the supernatural horror series, Salem. Cast as John Alden, West was thrilled to prove his talents in the horror genre and spent the next three years doing exactly that before the show was cut from the WGN’s primetime lineup in 2017. Since then, West has returned to music full time with his band, the newly named Twilight Creeps, which has brought West back to the stage since wrapping up his tour with the Germs in 2009.
“Well, there’s nothing better than being live and uncut onstage and getting that immediate gratification, whether you did a good job or whether you didn’t—you’ll hear it immediately,” West said of his passion for music. “There’s something about that rush that you don’t get on film or television. But that being said, it’s hard. I try and do both. I used to say if I had a crystal ball and I was able to see my future and it said, ‘You can be happy, successful and comfortable at either, you can choose,’ then I might have to choose music. There’s a little bit more freedom with that…”
Still playing with the Twilight Creeps today and even hinting at an upcoming album release, the 39-year-old West has proven he can have the best of both worlds as a Hollywood heartthrob by day and a punk rocker by night. As long as they both keep him in the spotlight, his fans certainly don’t mind!