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Rachel Shenton – from Hollyoaks to Hollywood Oscar Winner

Rachel Shenton – from Hollyoaks to Hollywood Oscar Winner

In 2013, The PHA Group started working with actress Rachel Shenton.

When Rachel joined the agency, she had recently stepped down from playing the character of wannabe glamour model Mitzee Minniver in Hollyoaks for three years, in which she quickly established herself as the scene-stealing fan favourite.

At the time, British talent was proving to be hugely successful on the American small screen, with actors like Andy Lincoln, Hugh Laurie, Damian Lewis and Charlie Hunnam winning rave reviews and industry plaudits, and pulling in massive audiences for their work on an American network and cable television. Game of Thrones was establishing itself as a runaway success, but there still wasn’t a huge proliferation of British actresses landing such prominent and regularly recurring roles.

Furthermore, the transition from UK soap star to Hollywood Heavyweight? Not exactly the typical career trajectory one sees very often. Teetering on the melodramatic, soap operas aren’t always renowned for their high quality of acting and I would definitely say that casting directors are – or perhaps, were – a little apprehensive and cynical about hiring talent from that world. If your background is in theatre or arthouse / independent cinema, there’s greater credibility there. But avoiding typecast and establishing yourself as a serious player after inhabiting a soap character for years doesn’t come without its challenges.

Hopefully, however, these attitudes will now become a thing of the past because Rachel Shenton has come along and completely re-written the playbook.

When we first met Rachel in 2013, she was immediately likeable: charming, humble, graceful and classy. But the character trait that struck us the most was just how seriously she took her craft. Her work ethic was second to none. She wanted to challenge and push herself, to grow as an actress and to work with some of the best writers, directors and producers in the business. She had big dreams and she wasn’t afraid to work hard and put in the time and the graft.

More relevantly, Rachel was involved in a great deal of charity work as the patron for the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS). After going through her backstory, we learned that her dad became deaf when she was just 12 years old, following the chemotherapy treatment he underwent for cancer. The need to communicate with her father encouraged her to learn sign language and it was clear at that moment that acting was never about the fame or the celebrity for Rachel – she had big dreams of shining a light on the lives of other people who don’t have the voice that we do. To empower them by giving them that voice. To bring to life the struggles of others that are massively under-represented in mainstream film and TV.

Essentially, Rachel wanted to keep her media profile alive whilst she concentrated on landing her next television role and our job was to raise and maintain that profile and keep her on the radar of casting agents, directors, producers and writers during her temporary absence from TV.

Her fluency in sign language clearly separated her from the competition and gave her a unique edge, a remarkable skill set and a compelling origin story. Many of the interviews we set up for Rachel touched upon this element of her story and there was a great deal of media interest in her personal campaigns and charity work.

The PHA Group prides itself on going the extra mile. First-class publicists, we are, but commercial agents by trade, we are not. But from day one, we saw and recognised the promise and the potential in Rachel and absolutely believed in her. So, further to raising and maintaining her profile in the media, we wanted to go one step further and bring Rachel directly to the attention of the people in the television industry who had real power to change her career. So, we got proactive.

The Media Management department at The PHA Group has promoted and protected a wealth of TV talent over the years. We’re therefore constantly attuned to the international entertainment landscape – the talent and the programming that are capturing the zeitgeist of the moment, what’s hot and what’s not.

We had been avidly following the success of a relatively new TV show at the time called Switched At Birth – an American scripted drama that broke new ground as the first mainstream television series to feature numerous deaf and hard-of-hearing characters appearing in a series regular capacity, filming some scenes shot entirely in sign language.

We introduced Rachel to the show and insisted she check out the previous two series that had aired to familiarise herself with the storylines and the tone of the programme. We then encouraged her to commission a show-reel of her work. Once this was ready, we strategically identified and targeted the creators of Switched At Birth and established an ongoing dialogue with them. The differences between American and British sign language aren’t vast and we made a strong, persuasive case – we handled the PR for an extremely talented British actress who emotionally connects with the material of the show on a profound level because of her own life experience. Moreover, she quite literally speaks the very language of the programme and could master the sign language scenes with ease. We knew Rachel would be an asset to the show and we deliberately timed our approach to coincide with the pilot season in America.

We didn’t expect to get such positive feedback so quickly. The show’s creators invited Rachel to audition during pilot season and as we suspected, they immediately saw what we saw. They loved her so much that they ended up creating the role of Lily Summers especially for her, a role that she immortalised until the show’s Season 5 finale.

The very last episode was broadcast in April 2017. During her time filming Switched At Birth, Rachel, with her filmmaker fiancé Chris Overton directing, somehow managed to find the time to write and star in a short film entitled The Silent Child. The 20-minute long film was largely based on Rachel’s personal experience as the child of a parent who became deaf.

Come awards season, The Silent Child well and truly swept the board, winning Best Short Film at the Rhode Island International Film Festival. This allowed the film to qualify for entry to the 90th Academy Awards. On 23rd January 2018, it was announced that The Silent Child had received an Academy Award nomination in the Best Live Action Short Film category, and on Sunday 4th March 2018, Rachel’s film won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film. On collecting the award, Rachel upheld the promise that she had made to The Silent Child’s deaf lead actress, six-year-old Maisie Sly, and accepted her trophy in sign language. It was a momentous, inspiring, electrifying moment to watch and we could not be prouder.

So, whether you’re an aspiring actor, a breakthrough performer or a well-established name: work with creative teams that believe in you, that recognise your potential, that encourage you to test the limits of what you believe to be achievable. We believe that it doesn’t ultimately matter whether you’re a RADA bred performer or if you started off in a teen soap. Talent is talent, so dream big and work with the best! Because anything is possible!

Speak to a member of our award-winning team today or visit our Personal PR page to find out how we can help you.

The Oscars 2015: Who wore it best?

The 2015 Oscars took place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Sunday night and, as usual, on Monday morning PHA HQ was buzzing over who wore what – from sequined goddess Emma Stone in Elie Saab, to Margot Robbie looking elegant as ever in Saint Laurent (accompanied by a $1.5 million necklace, may I add).

After an extremely tough morning admiring all the incredible dresses (not to mention a couple of Hollywood heart-throbs in exceptionally dapper suits thrown in for good measure), I have finally managed to whittle it down to a few of my favourite looks…


Emma Stone Oscars 2015

Image Courtesy of gem_106,

First and foremost we have Jennifer Anniston. How exactly does she do it?! Now a red carpet veteran, Jennifer always looks incredible. Her neutral Versace gown complimented her skin tone perfectly, and it was this paired with her minimal jewellery and effortless caramel locks that once again proved why Jennifer is Hollywood royalty.

Best Supporting Actress nominee Emma Stone also scored highly in a lime green custom Elie Saab gown, paired with a pair of custom-dyed Louboutins. Emma is arguably one of my favourite actresses at the moment, so I was eager to see what she was wearing, and she certainly did not disappoint!

The last look that really caught my eye was Sienna Miller in Oscar De La Renta. Compared to many of the show-stopping looks from the night, it may not seem an obvious choice however, I found her classic and elegant gown hard to ignore. Teamed with smouldering eyeshadow and a pout to die for, in my opinion, Sienna was hands down one of the best-dressed stars on the red carpet.

The only actress I felt a little let down by was Felicity Jones, who has been a firm favourite of mine ever since she appeared in Chalet Girl (my not so guilty pleasure). Accompanying Eddie Redmayne who won ‘Best Actor’, her silver Alexander McQueen gown wouldn’t have been my first choice for the ‘Best Actress’ nominee. Jones did, however, pull it out of the bag at the post-Oscars Vanity Fair party, where she oozed elegance in a floor-length black gown.

The sheer excitement that the Oscars fashion evokes amongst fashion lovers year after year highlights just how important the night is for designer brands and the PR teams that they are supported by. Picking the right person to dress, and the right outfit will guarantee you coverage on a global scale, and ensure that your designs are beamed around the world for days following the event. However, get it wrong and it can be a potentially damaging move for you and your brand.

Now, I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that every man looks GREAT in a suit. However, after much deliberation, I have managed to narrow down a shortlist of three Actors who I thought really stood out from the crowd. Chris Pine, Eddie Redmayne and rising star Miles Teller each walked the red carpet looking extremely handsome in Giorgio Armani, Alexander McQueen and Prada, and demonstrated exactly why the men should never be overlooked when it comes to the international best-dressed lists.

Image Courtesy of pulchramore,

Image Courtesy of pulchramore,

Chris Pine, The PHA GroupMiles Teller, The PHA Group

Hello Cannes

It’s that time of the year again where we are visually transported to the French Riveria and invited to experience the Festival de Cannes celebration of film and cinema. With the Festival’s 66th birthday this year, we are sure not to be disappointed with this year’s line-up. Scheduled to preview fresh films of all genres from around the globe the Festival kicked off on the 14th May. From emerging directors, to regular Hollywood superstar attendees, Cannes is one of the most anticipated and international events of the year.

Since its birth in 1946, the Festival’s founder Thierry Fremaux has traditionally showcased some of the most important European films in cinema history, making it one of the most sought-after public platforms for raising the profiles of film-makers and actors. English director and writer Mike Leigh explains, ‘If you’re a film-maker, it’s the centre of the universe’. With British talent attending the event including Robert Pattinson, Matt Smith, Dominic West and Imelda Staunton we hope to make an impact on the Festival.

Image Courtesy of gem_106,

Eva Longoria Cannes Film Festival

Cannes, would not be Cannes if it wasn’t for its media metropolis manifesto, and glamour under the sun fashion. Public relations and Cannes go hand in hand together. With a number of journalists flying out to capture the booming festival (which has multiplied by 5 in the last 40 years), publicity has never been so vital for the Festival’s success.

From a PR perspective, this is the perfect opportunity for filmmakers all over the world to promote their masterpieces, of all genres, to the public and get the recognition it deserves, particularly independently produced films. Without Cannes, or the media coverage that comes with it, it’s likely these films would go unwatched.

As with any major event involving celebrities, fashion choices are fundamental to boost personal status. With the red carpet dress code at Cannes, black tie, designers are given the ultimate opportunity for press coverage and recognition. Who will you be routing for this year?