Highly acclaimed for its powerful subject material, Any Day Now approached topics that many shows struggle to speak on to this very day. Generational racism, homophobia, and sexism are just a few of the subjects that the series wasn't afraid to confront.
The series tells the story of two women, Mary Elizabeth and Rene Jackson, who reunite for the first time in decades. Having grown up together in the 60's during the height of the segregationist movement in Birmingham, Alabama, the two recall stories of their early childhood. Showing the perspective of both their past and present in each episode, the two friends reflect on the many changes in their lives.
We recently had the privilege to speak with Any Day Now actress, teaching artist, and singer, Shari Dyon Perry who played young Rene Jackson. Happy to see the series airing on Start TV, we asked Shari to talk to us more about the show and what she's been up to.
What initially got you into acting?
20 plus years ago, I was actually doing regional theater. I was working on a production when I learned that they were casting for Any Day Now. I heard that they wanted to cast actors from the Southeast so I went in for an audition.
It was actually one of the actors working with me on the regional show at the time, who was a professional actor, that encouraged me to audition. I went in with no reel, a headshot that my mother and I picked up from a local CVS and three auditions and a screen test in L.A later., I booked it. We shot the pilot shortly after in Louisiana and the pilot was picked up. Next was the move to L.A.
How was the transition going from Georgia and the Southeast to L.A.?
It all moved pretty quickly, but it was exciting for me. I really enjoyed the experience, just the opportunity to meet new people. The group from the Southeast, we bonded really well and we really became family.
When you say group from the Southeast who did that include amongst the other actors?
Olivia from Louisiana, Mae from Statesboro, Georgia and Dan Byrd from Marietta, Georgia. I was actually the only cast member from Alabama where the show was set in Birmingham. I am just three hours south of where the show was set.
Did already having that background being from Alabama help you out with the role of Rene Jackson?
I often say that, you know, we tackled some tough topics and shot some scenes that were tough to watch. But even though I am originally from Phenix City, Alabama, I hadn't experienced that. To the extent that it was displayed on the show, I always say it was a learning experience for me at age 12.
We shot a lot of reenactments, the marches, the scenes where I was hosed. Those are things that stick out for me for sure, but not because I experienced them. On a lighter note, I had an opportunity to sing and dance on the show, which are also passions of mine. If you listen to the soundtrack, I am actually doing some of the singing.
I see you went back to Georgia to continue your acting career. Georgia is such a huge entertainment industry with so many TV shows and movies being made there nowadays. But at the time what made you choose going back to Georgia over L.A.?
I stayed shortly after my work on the show ended, before I returned home. I missed home, I really missed my family. My mom had relocated with me and my dad visited monthly. We went home on the holidays and it was hard. When I returned home, it was never with the intention that I would get out of the business. I knew that acting was something that I wanted to continue to do.
There is a lot of work in Atlanta. And although there is a lot of work, I find that they are still hiring talent from L.A. and bringing them to Georgia to shoot.
I've been involved in several projects; film and tv projects, and commercial work. Nothing as meaningful as Any Day Now and that's something that I really hope to be able to do again, soon. I often hear ‘why did you give up acting?’ but I didn't give up! I'm still here. I'm still acting. It's still something that I'm pursuing.
Have you kept up with anyone from the cast?
Olivia is actually the one who reached out to me about the airing of the show on Start TV. I hear it often, 'when is there going to be a reboot or where can I find the show?' So, I'm really excited that Start TV has decided to air it. Olivia and I stay in contact through social media and we’re in touch with some other cast members, too.
I’ve talked with my father from the show, John Lafayette. He was actually traveling a few years back and said, 'Hey, I'm coming through Georgia and making a stop in Alabama.” We got to get together and we definitely try to keep in touch.
Are there any thoughts about a reboot?
I remember a producer saying before we left, ‘We're going to bring you guys back.” When I think about it, it doesn't really seem like it's been 20 plus years.
But yes, the material is still relevant, it's something that audiences can embrace again. It was very well received. So, absolutely I'd be up for it.
So what have you been up to recently?
I am back home on the East Coast. I am still an actor. I am still auditioning. The pandemic really slowed things down but I think things are really gearing up again in Georgia. Since moving back home, I've also worked with the University System of Georgia as a teaching artist, teaching theater and dance at various sites in the community. I'm currently teaching dance at a performing arts academy in Georgia.
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