Shania Twain had to overcome 'anxieties and pressures' from her
singing career before she could embrace her second calling as an actress
By Jessica Wedemeyer
March 10, 2020
A year after making her feature film debut in 2019's "Trading Paint," Shania Twain is back on the big screen in the Jeremy Camp biopic "I Still Believe," which chronicles the Christian rocker's romance with his first wife, Melissa Lynn Henning -- who died of ovarian cancer just months after they tied the knot -- and their unwavering faith as she neared the end.
"I was so moved by the story -- and being approached to play a role in this movie just instantly felt like a privilege, so I really wanted to be part of sharing this story with the world and showing a beautiful courage that you rarely see," the Queen of Country Pop told Wonderwall.com while promoting the musical drama, which opens in theaters on March 13.
In the faith-based film, Shania portrays Terry Camp, Jeremy's supportive mother, while KJ Apa and Britt Robertson star as the Grammy-nominated musician and his young bride. It's a huge leap for the iconic country star, who doesn't sing a single note in the film.
"I thought it was quite interesting -- ironic -- that I would be in a music film and then not play anything," Shania told us. "But I like the idea of acting. I'm not playing myself here. ... I would always be happy to do music in a film, but I was very happy to step out of myself and just really focus on being somebody else. That was the joy of it."
Like her on-screen alter ego, the Canadian singer-songwriter is the mother of a college-aged musician (more on that later!) finding his way in the world. But that's where the similarities between Shania and Terry end: "As a mother, I [would've been much different] in the same situation. I think I would've been much more outwardly stressed than Terry. She maintained such a steady calm throughout."
It wasn't Terry who occupied the bulk of Shania's thoughts on set, though -- it was Jeremy's late wife, Melissa, and her family, whom the singer briefly met during production. (Shania and Jeremy never crossed paths in the music world before.)
"That was just a remarkable experience -- listening to their courage," said the "From This Moment On" singer. "Living it must've been difficult, but then they're watching all this unravel again with the dialogue and the emotions coming up over [Melissa's death]. That would've been difficult, reliving it to some degree. But they were just so positive and brave. I was very surprised at how strong they were. They were inspired by Melissa's courage, and I think that they just took that with them and had so much faith. And there was a lot of strength in that -- it was very obvious."
Shania also bonded with the Hennings over the fact that Melissa was a fan of her music: "I met her sister on set, and she was telling me that they would enjoy some girl time in the car just signing my songs out loud," she said, calling the ability to share those personal connections "very special."
Shania's role in "I Still Believe" is just the second time she's had the opportunity to play someone other than herself on screen.
"I just love the growth. I love the new learning curve," she said of taking on acting later in life. "It's a whole renewal -- a renewed energy through this performance platform."
It was a brief stint playing a version of herself on a 2017 episode of "Broad City" that inspired her new interest in acting: "That was just really, really interesting -- my first real insight into how things were done behind the scenes," she said.
After that, her longtime pal John Travolta came calling about a role in the racing drama "Trading Paint."
"We're friends. We've stayed in touch over many years now, and he said, 'I have this little role -- I would love for you to come and do it and play my girlfriend,'" she recalled. "I thought, 'OK, well, this is a leap because I've never played an actual role. But I'll take the dive. I'll just do it! And I had such a wonderful time. I was so comfortable behind the scenes and I just went, 'Wow, this is something I want to explore.' It was a discovery for me, to be honest."
"So when I was asked to play Terry in 'I Still Believe,' I didn't hesitate," she continued, "First of all, I thought the story was just incredible and I was so moved by it and privileged to be asked to be in it. Second, I just wanted to grow in this realm of acting. And once again, I enjoyed it immensely. So I look forward to more of it. I didn't realize that it would be something that I would love and that would come so naturally to me."
Her surprise second calling as an actress comes amid a period of change for the 54-year-old superstar, who underwent multiple open-throat surgeries to deal with vocal cord issues -- and risked losing her voice -- as part of her treatment for Lyme disease.
"I don't feel the same pressure as a performer anymore, for some reason," she said. "I've been through so much with my voice that there's a lot of anxieties and pressures that I've had to let go of in order to get back on stage again. So that exercise has really freed me up to just have more fun and explore other things. I think that's why I'm even considering acting now and why I'm open to it now -- and the same with doing other things outside of being on the stage."
Her new attitude extends to fashion too: "I think I've just discovered a new appreciation for having fun with fashion -- enjoying more of being the creator behind things and putting less pressure on myself as a performer," she said. "The fashion years ago -- in my fashion-statement music videos -- felt more like work. I was developing and creating as an art director, but now I just feel the fun in it. I've rediscovered the joy of fashion. And even meeting other celebrities, I just have more of an appreciation. I think things went by quickly for me early on and I didn't get to stop and smell the roses, so I'm doing that now and I'm taking it all in."
Shania's newfound appreciation for fun is on full display at her Las Vegas residency show, "Let's Go!" Coincidentally, the second leg of the two-year residency kicks off on the same day that "I Still Believe" debuts.
"I'm geared up and ready to go," she promised. "The show is my baby right now, so when I get there and get back up on that stage, it's time to have fun and enjoy it in the moment because it doesn't last forever. This residency is two years -- which seems like a long time -- but it's gonna go by so fast that before I know it, it's over and it's time to create the next production. So I'm just going to indulge in this production while I have it. I've worked very hard putting it together. It's all about celebrating and having fun -- it's colorful, it's dynamic, it's informal and it's all about reminiscing over the hits and songs that everybody loves to sing along with."
The residency coincides with the 25th anniversary of Shania's breakthrough album, "The Woman in Me," which debuted in February 1995. The wildest part of the show, she said, is seeing how her fans have changed over the years.
"It is crazy," she reflected. "I sure have lived a lot over these last 25 years. It's a real flashback. It's interesting because a lot of the people who listen to my music -- like Melissa in the film -- were kids when that album first came out, and 25 years later, now they're full-grown adults. I look at them and I think, 'OK, how do you know that music?' But, you know, they were 3, 5, 6 or 8. Looking at the fans is the biggest reflection and shocker for me. It's like, 'Wow, you were actually alive when that album came out!' So it's fun. The show is like a real reunion. There are so many different ages in there -- moms and daughters, for example, celebrating their 25 years of singing music together. I think it's really fun that this music has bridged their generation gap, and 25 years later, we're all reminiscing to it."
Shania's fans aren't the only ones who've miraculously grown up before her very eyes. Her son, Eja Lange, is now 18 and a musician in his own right: He's a record producer and songwriter -- and he's really good, according to his mom.
"He's on his own journey," Shania said of her son, who's kept an extremely low profile online over the years. "If I could sum it up, it seems he's a little bit of a genuine mix between myself and his father [record producer Mutt Lange] in the sense that he is maybe a bit more extroverted. It's hard to explain, but he's just got his own musical thing."
Gushed the proud mama, "He's extremely talented. He's way more focused on production detail on a technical level than I am because he's so savvy with the technology and is very obsessive and committed to learning. I just want to write songs, so he's more devoted than I am in that sense. He does way more than I do -- he composes it, he sings it, he produces it, arranges it. He's incredible with arranging, whereas for me, I would need to pull in a band to do what he does. So it's incredible. He's having a lot of fun. He's enjoying it. He's very passionate and he's got this bug, so that's all he does."
If he's even half as talented as his mom -- who's now officially a multi-hyphenate thanks to her growing list of film credits -- he's in for quite the career.
In the meantime, check out "I Still Believe" starting March 13 or catch Shania live at the Zappos Theater at the Planet Hollywood Las Vegas hotel and casino through December.