Shane West (June 10, 1978) is an American actor and musician. He is best known for his television roles in ABC’s Once and Again, NBC’s ER, The CW’s Nikita, and currently WGN America’s Salem. West has also put up a solid movie resume with roles in A Walk to Remember, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and What We Do is Secret. West is also a punk rock musician, performing with Jonny Was and Germs, the latter of which after portraying original frontman Darby Crash in What We Do is Secret.
Shane West Early Life
Shane West was born Shannon Bruce Snaith on June 10, 1978 in Baton Rouge, La. He’s the son of Leah Catherine, a lawyer, and Don Snaith, a drugstore owner, who were both musicians and played in punk bands. Shane is the oldest of three children, with a young sister (Simone) and a younger half-sister (Marli Ann). His parents divorced in 1982 when Shane was four.
Even though his parents were divorced, Shane not only got to still spend plenty of time with them, he was also influenced heavily by the both of them – especially in punk rock. He grew up listening to punk bands and thought his future was going to lie in music. “Music’s in my blood, in my family, and in my soul,” West told uInterview in an exclusive interview. “I did that while trying to get an acting gig. It just happened that acting took off quicker.”
After moving to Compton, Calif., and later Norwalk, Calif., with his mother and sister (“for better job opportunities for themselves, so I went along for the ride obviously,” he said), however, West changed his ambitions around. He began to get into acting in high school when he started to notice his friends appearing in commercials, he told uInterview. “I was a huge movie buff,” he continued, “and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but I did know I wanted to be part of the entertainment industry at some point.” At the age of 15, West moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. “It took me two an a half years to get representation,” West said of his early struggles, where his parents even told him to give up on his dreams. But West said, “I kept at it, kept up my dream,” and eventually he was able to land his first gig in 1995 in a season four episode of the CBS drama Picket Fences. From there, West focused on his acting while keeping his music as a side occupation as things, in his words, “spun out of control in a good way.”
Shane West Acting Career
Shane West continued his early career with minor roles in television episodes. In 1996 and 1997, he played characters in episodes of Boy Meets World and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, among other shows. He also had his first stage appearance in a production of The Cider House Rules. In 1999, West got his first big break by landing a role in ABC’s drama Once and Again. On the show, West plays Eli Sammler, a high school basketball player with a learning disability whose father (played by Billy Campbell) falls in love with the main character Lily, who’s played by Sela Ward. The show lasted three seasons on ABC and gave West his first steady and stable role. Once and Again was also a hit with critics, with the show earning Emmy and Golden Globe awards amongst its cast.
That same year, West made his full length film debut in Barry Levinson’s Liberty Heights. While working on Once and Again, West landed two co-starring roles in teen comedies. He played Ryan Woodman in Whatever It Takes in 2000 and Bentley Scrumfield in 2001’s Get Over It!.
In 2002 West teamed up with Mandy Moore in the film adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks‘ novel A Walk to Remember. Shane plays Landon Carter, a rebellious teenager that falls in love with Moore’s character, the daughter of a minister named Jamie Sullivan. The film was a hit with teenage audiences and put up over $40 million in the box office. West and Moore even won the Teen Choice Award that year for “Choice Chemistry” and was nominated for a second for “Choice Liplock.” West would also appear in the music video for Moore’s song “Cry,” which was released on the film’s soundtrack.
West would have a role in another box office hit in 2003, as he played a grown up version of Tom Sawyer of Mark Twain’s novels in the superhero film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The film had West alongside star Sean Connery, who was in his final leading role before retirement. In addition to Tom Sawyer, many other literary heroes were adapted into the film to take on the role of superheroes. The film was nothing short of a blockbuster success, earning over $179 million worldwide.
In 2004, West joined the cast of the long running NBC medical drama ER. West played Dr. Ray Barnett for 67 episodes, with the majority coming in seasons 11-13. After leaving the full-time cast for a role in a Fox show that didn’t make it to air, West rejoined ER for a handful of episodes in the show’s fifteenth and final season.
While ER was on hiatus between seasons, West took the opportunity to take on a role in the 2007 independent film What We Do is Secret, which looks back at 1970s Los Angeles punk band Germs. West portrays former Germs lead singer Darby Crash as the film dives into Darby’s chaotic life, which ultimately leads to his suicide in 1980. The film left many critics impressed with West’s acting abilities, as they felt he nailed many of Darby’s real-life behaviors and mannerisms. The surviving members of the band also came away impressed– so much so that they reformed the band and had West perform vocals just as Crash did in their heyday.
After ER’s long run had come to a close, Shane West moved onto a new television project in 2010 by taking the starring role of Michael Bishop in the CW spy drama Nikita. Bishop joins Nikita, a rouge spy played by Maggie Q, to try and take down a secret and corrupt government-funded organization known as “Division.” The series lasted for four seasons from 2010-2014, with West appearing in 73 episodes. The show was also a hit for both teenage audiences and science-fiction fans alike, as West won a Teen Choice Award for “Choice Actor” in an action show in 2011 and was nominated for the 2012 and 2013 awards in the same category for his work on Nikita.
When Nikita came to a close, West joined in on WGN America’s first original-scripted series, the historical supernatural fiction drama Salem. West plays John Alden, the voice of reason within Salem and a defender of innocent victims of Salem, MA’s witch panic in colonial times. John is in love with Mary, played by Janet Montgomery, but sees that the town has completely changed since he has returned from war with the witch hunt and the people who run the town.
West spoke to uInterview about his character’s progression in the second season, which premiered in April 2015. “This season Alden’s got a little bit of a different MO,” he told uInterview. “He’s pretty much hell-bent on revenge this year. He’s been left, again, by Mary Sibley and he now knows she’s a witch. He now knows that witches are taking over the town that he was born and raised in, that his father created and built from the bottom up, and he comes back from the dead to hunt down every witch that exists in Salem, in Massachusetts and beyond. So, because of that he is going to deal with a lot of creepier and gnarlier things this season than he even did in the first season, which was plenty in the first season. He goes through a very intricate Native American ritual that ironically kind of puts him into the world of the supernatural and he starts to develop some odd powers on his own that makes him become a tad witch-like in his search and quest to destroy all witches.”
“You’re going to see, which I have a little bit on, kind of left it on – first time I’ve talked about that today – he’s gotten these supernatural tattoos that kind of cover up his body, his chest, his stomach, his back, his neck, and they kind of, without spoiling too much, take on a life of their own over time.”
West feels that the show’s subject of the Salem Witch Trials still resonates in the audience’s minds, which is why it still holds such an interest more than 300 years later. “I personally think that America has such a rich history, but it’s not as old as most countries out there,” he said. “And I think that we don’t have as many wars, internal wars amongst ourselves, as most countries have around the world, and when it does it stands out. I feel like the Salem Witch Trials is just blatant killing of your own people; your own people killing your own people. The American Civil War is another great example. That’s had a fascination for people for many years as well, the Civil War. So, I think something like this coupled with the fact that there were witches or maybe this person was touched in the head or whatever it might be. Those things stand out more and if it was maybe in a country that was use to internal strife, and wars and battles and fighting each other all the time maybe it wouldn’t stand out as much, but I think for us it does.”
In addition to his television roles, West has had some appearances in movies between his time on ER, Nikita, and Salem. He has appeared in The Lodger, Red Sands (a film he co-produced), Echelon Conspiracy, The Presence, and Red Sky.
As for what the future holds, West told uInterview he’s “looking at movie scripts, looking at things for the summer and fall, because we have a lot of time off between seasons [of ‘Salem’].” Although he wouldn’t reveal too much about the details, he told us he’s involved in some indie productions and some possible television series down the road.
Shane West Music Career
Shane West has also had a career in music, living out his childhood punk rock dreams. For almost a decade, West was the lead singer of Jonny Was. The band contributed to the soundtrack of A Walk to Remember, which starred West, with the song “So What Does It All Mean?” appearing in the film.
West also joined Germs upon the completion of portraying the band’s story in What We Do Is Secret. He played with the band for five years, including an appearance at the Warped Tour. Although West loved touring with the band and the excitement of music, his busy television schedule would be too much to continue traveling and performing with Germs. West’s last performance as Germs frontman came in December of 2009.
“I’ve been blessed to be able to be successful in this [the television and film] industry as well as being able to enjoy some success with two separate bands in the underground world as well,” West told uInterview of his music career.
Shane West Personal Life
Shane West currently still resides in Los Angeles. He is not in any known relationship and does not have any children.