After years of hard work and dedication, London-native Shanika Ocean has truly done it all — from her innumerable roles in film and television, to hosting television shows live from the red carpet, to a number of widely acclaimed performances as a singer in internationally broadcast competitions. A naturally gifted thespian, she’s a master of adapting to any and every role that comes her way. That talent has proven invaluable in an industry where many actors are often limited in the scope and range of their performing.
Ocean got her first taste of the spotlight as a child modelling and appearing on several children’s BBC shows. She then went on to take part in the British vocal competition series “The Choir.” The show saw her travel to China, where she performed for audiences watching around the world on international television. It gave her a chance to show off her vocal chops, but moreover it was that experience which set her on the path of a career in front of the camera.
“It was the first series I ever did and it was amazing to audition and then be picked along with 20 other people to be part of the choir,” Ocean recalled. “We flew to China to represent Great Britain in the World Choir Olympics and it was an experience I will never forget.”
In the film “Do Us Part,” Ocean delivers an unsettling performance as the lead character Shea, a woman driven to madness by her boyfriend’s incessant philandering.
“She was sweet and innocent and pretty much the perfect girlfriend,” Ocean said, describing Shea before her boyfriend’s constant cheating sends her past her breaking point. “Then the next minute she gets a gun and shoots her boyfriend. She can’t take it anymore.”
The film effectively makes audiences empathize with both Shea and her boyfriend, seeing each as both the villain and the victim. The morbid tragedy gives viewers a peek into the psyche of the serial cheater and the betrayed girlfriend who kills him.
Not all of Ocean’s roles are as dark as “Do Us Part” however, such as her role on “The T-Boy Show.” The British series stars Tolu Lope as the titular T-Boy, a wealthy Nigerian teen who travels to England to live with his working class aunt and awkward cousin.
“In the episode, T-Boy is upset with Abigail, the girl that he loves. She isn’t interested in him so he decides to go on a date with my character, Ella,” said Ocean. “Ella is not at all who he thought she was, and to make things worse Abigail catches him in the act.”
Ocean’s roles span from the light-hearted to the unhinged, from dramas to comedies to action-packed thrillers, and everything in between. But in addition to all of that, Ocean is perhaps best known for her countless appearances as a host and presenter on an array of series over the years. One such series was the enormously popular “Unplugged” on OH TV, which has given new or unsigned artists and bands the opportunity to become breakout sensations in the music industry. In addition to “Unplugged,” Ocean has hosted a myriad of other programs and events, notably the 2012 MOBO Awards, Capital Xtra Radio, and has covered London Fashion Week since 2015 as well as L.A. Fashion Week in 2016 for Fashion Thirst UK, which provides viewers with all the latest news and trends in the world of high fashion.
“When I did the red carpet at the MOBO Awards, that was a big moment for me,” she said. “I had always watched the MOBOs since I was a child and I had always wanted to go. And now here I was, interviewing celebrities from the likes of Rita Ora, Dionne Warwick, TLC and Emeli Sande.”
Ocean just finished shooting her latest project, the first episode of the upcoming series “Pursuit,” in which she gets to show off her skills as an action-star in the role of Officer Torres.
“I was running around with a gun, which I had never done before. I didn’t even know how to hold a gun properly when I started,” she said with a laugh. “But it was super fun and took me out of my comfort zone, and has made me really want to focus on doing action projects. I literally felt like I was in CSI.”
For someone whose skillset is as diverse as Ocean’s, it can often be more difficult to choose roles than to find them. After her roles in film, television, theater and her dozens of hosting and presenting credits, Ocean has developed a simple method of choosing her projects.
“Sometimes when I am given a script to read, I can feel the character and visualize myself playing them instantly,” Ocean said. “If I have that feeling, I know the role is for me.”