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Shantol Jackson is sprinting on to the big screen

ON YOUR MARKS: Shantol Jackson says she had to change many aspects of her personality for her role in Sprinter

SHANTOL JACKSON may deliver a stellar performance in Sprinter where she plays the role of aspiring runner Kerry Hall – but the Jamaican star admits it was a difficult one to get her handle on as she doesn’t have an athletic bone in her body.

Produced by Overbrook Entertainment with Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith as executive producers, the film is a coming-of-age story about Akeem Sharp (Dale Elliott), nicknamed ‘The Rasta Rocket’ thanks to his dreadlocks and amazing running speed.

Talking to Life & Style about landing a part in her first ever big screen production, working alongside fresh new talent Elliott and relating to the barrel pickney narrative around which the film is set, Jackson said it was a story that resonated with her.

Life & Style: We spoke earlier this year about your reaction to landing the role in Yardie – what was it like when you knew you got this role?

Shantol Jackson: Sprinter was my first film. I am a theatre actress first and was actually doing a lay at the time when Storm [Saulter, director] called me to do an audition for Sprinter.

Naturally I was excited be - cause it was film and I wasn’t accustomed to that, but secondly because when I was told by Storm what was expected of the character there were several elements that drew me to the film. Sprinting is a global phenomenon – we dominate sprint - ing and it’s an immigration story.

Add to that the barrel pickney theme, I am a barrel pickney, I have two barrels in my house now because my mother is still travelling and sending back barrels to help support my younger siblings.

L&S: Actors always want to give their best performance, but is there extra pressure given the Jada Pinkett Smith association with this movie?

SJ: I didn’t know they were a part of it, initially. I found out at the beginning of production.

What was exciting for me was the process, because I am not an athlete and not athletic in any way. I had to completely change my diet and do lots of training which I wasn’t used to.

That process was one I really enjoyed because I love the pro - cess of becoming, I don’t act I become these people.

L&S: Was it easy for you to connect with the character?

SJ: Not really. When people watch the film they will see that Kerry is way more focused than me [and] way more serious. I am more chilled and more sociable. I had to tone down my personality in order to give her personality what it needs.

L&S: Given the Usain Bolt narrative that has been the big story for Jamaica over the last decade, do you think this is a movie that had to be made?

SJ: Usain was a part of this and he was amazing. For me this is just a different narrative. Jamaican stories are usually stereotypical, so we expect to see a certain type of movie coming out of the country with it being portrayed in a specific way. This film is refreshing. We are normal, regular people who en - counter these things.

L&S: Was it easy to form a chemistry with Dale Elliott?

SJ: Dale isn’t an actor, he is an Instagram comedian – so he needed guidance when it came to settling down and focusing on his character, and Storm knew that. People like Leonie Forbes, who is a veteran actress, helped with a very supportive cast around Dale and carried him a long the way to get to the finished product.

L&S: Talk a bit about working with Storm Saulter?

SJ: Storm knew exactly what he wanted. He was able to guide me and say that this is what Kerry is supposed to be doing in this moment and I would internalise it. After every cut I would ask if [what I had done was] OK, and he was very good at giving a lot of feedback.

L&S: What are your future ambitions?

SJ: I definitely need to be a superhero in Marvel or DC – any one I would love to do that! I would also love to do some time pieces, period pieces set way back in the day.

The costumes, the atmosphere and language – I’d love to be a part of something like that.

I want to work with as much people in the business as I can who have done great things that I have seen their growth throughout and I can learn from.

Ultimately I just want the opportunity to tell great stories.

For the full Sprinter screening schedule visit sprinterthefilm.com

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