Shawnee Smith (born July 3, 1970) is an American film and television actress and singer. Smith is best known for her roles as Amanda Young in the Saw films and Linda in the CBS sitcom Becker. Smith once fronted the metal band Fydolla Ho, with which she toured the United States and the United Kingdom, and is half of Smith & Pyle, a desert country-rock band, with actress Missi Pyle.
Shawnee Smith was born in Orangeburg, South Carolina, the second child of Patricia, an oncology nurse, and Jim Smith, a financial planner and former US Air Force pilot. The family relocated from South Carolina to Van Nuys, California, when she was a year old; the parents divorced when she was two; and her mother remarried when she was eight. She attended Ranchito Avenue Elementary School in Panorama City, California. She also attended North Hollywood High School in North Hollywood, California and graduated in 1987.
Smith began acting as a child appearing on stage in A Christmas Carol repertory from ages 8 to 11 and starred in a stage play with Richard Dreyfuss at age 15. She also performed in the original stage production of To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday and won the Dramalogue Critics Award for her performance. She was the youngest actor up to that time to receive such an honor. She made her television debut in a McDonald’s commercial titled “Best Friends” in 1978. She joined the Screen Actors Guild at age nine and made her feature film debut in John Huston’s 1982 adaptation of the Broadway musical Annie, as one of Aileen Quinn’s fellow orphans. In 1985, Smith co-starred in two troubled-teen melodramas, Not My Kid and Crime of Innocence. In 1987, Smith co-starred in the hit comedy film Summer School as pregnant student Rhonda Altobello. The following year, she starred with Kevin Dillon and the late Joe Seneca in a 1988 remake of the Steve McQueenclassic The Blob as Meg Penny.
Smith played a rich teen who helps John Candy locate her kidnapped sister in 1989’s Who’s Harry Crumb?. That same year, she co-starred with Jennie Garth and Barbara Eden in the short-lived TV series Brand New Life. The following year, Smith co-starred as the daughter of Anthony Hopkins and Mimi Rogers in the remake of Michael Cimino’s thriller The Desperate Hours. Smith took a three-year break from acting in the early 1990s primarily because she had outgrown teenage roles and had a hard time finding work. During that time she climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and competed in a triathlon. Near the end of the hiatus she decided to sell all her belongings and relocate to North Carolina to visit family and go back to school. When she was about to start attending classes she landed a small role in Leaving Las Vegas and has had steady work ever since.
Smith’s best-known television role was Linda, an air-headed nurse’s aide, in the CBS hit comedy series Becker with Ted Danson. She served as a regular cast member in all 129 episodes from 1998–2004. Another well-known television role was that of Julie Lawry in the 1994 miniseries The Stand, based on the novel by Stephen King. She also appeared as a waitress in The Shiningminiseries, which King adapted from his own novel. Besides her regular role on Becker and the cameos in the Stephen King miniseries, Smith made several guest appearances on television shows, such as Cagney & Lacey; Married With Children; Murder, She Wrote; The X-Files; Players; and Law & Order: Los Angeles. In 2003, she lent her voice to an episode of the Disney cartoonKim Possible as Vivian Porter.
Smith has become well known in recent years for her role as Amanda Young in the Saw films. She has also been acknowledged as a “scream queen” due to the number of horror films she has appeared in. In the DVD commentary of Saw, the producers revealed that her scenes were filmed while she was battling a terrible case of the flu. It is also revealed in the DVD commentary of Saw II that she was four months pregnant with her second child, Jakson, during filming. Her pregnancy was kept a secret from everyone except director Darren Lynn Bousman. He mentioned in the commentary that Smith’s daughter Verve accidentally told him about the pregnancy during filming. She also wore a man’s watch while filming Saw III, which she kept. She has also said that although she is briefly shown in Saw IV and Saw V, she was never on set. Any scenes featuring her were dubbed from file footage. On March 20, 2009, producer Mark Burg released a statement confirming that Smith would be in Saw VI. She arrived in Toronto on March 31, 2009 to begin filming brand new flashback sequences.
Smith has repeatedly admitted that she hates being scared and has a hard time watching the Saw films, or any horror movie. She originally turned the role ofAmanda Young down because it was very upsetting to her. After turning the role down, she was shown the eight-minute short film by Leigh Whannell and James Wan and changed her mind after the role was offered to her a second time. Smith in the jaw trap became the image on the film poster. She also revealed at SawMania 2008 that her name was initially brought up for the role of Amanda because Saw director James Wan was a big fan of her films in the 1980s and had a longtime crush on her. Director Darren Bousman and Leigh Whannell have also talked about their crushes on Smith in the Saw DVD commentaries.
In 2006, Smith made an appearance in the ten-minute short film trailer Repo! The Genetic Opera by director Darren Lynn Bousman. Smith’s character was Heather Sweet, the surgery addicted daughter of GeneCo president Rotti Largo. The trailer was filmed in Toronto, Canada and was an adaptation from the stage version. Bousman filmed the trailer after completing Saw III to try to pitch the idea to film producers. Smith did not reprise her role as Heather Sweet when Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures picked up the film in 2007 and was replaced by Paris Hilton. The character name was also changed from Heather to Amber.
In 2008, Smith played Detective Gina Harcourt in the FEARnet original series 30 Days of Night: Dust to Dust. The series premiered on July 17, 2008 on FEARnet.com in six 4–6 minute webisodes along with behind the scenes clips. This series is a continuation of the first webisode series 30 Days of Night: Blood Trails. It is still available on FEARnet.com and can also be seen in its entirety (about 30 minutes straight through) on FEARnet On Demand. She also made her producing debut with this series.
Smith was the host and one of three mentors on the VH1 reality program Scream Queens which aired from October 20, 2008 to December 8, 2008.In January 2010 it was announced that Smith would not be returning as host and mentor for Season 2 due to scheduling conflicts. She was replaced by Jaime King.
In 2009, Smith played the role of Dr. Ann Sullivan, a child psychiatrist, the third installment of The Grudge series, The Grudge 3. The film was a direct to DVD release in May 2009.
Smith appeared as a guest star in the ABC Family show The Secret Life of the American Teenager on August 30, 2010. It was her first television appearance since Scream Queens aired in 2008. Shortly after she appeared in the series premiere of Law & Order: Los Angeles on September 29, 2010.
Along with acting, she is also a musician; she plays the guitar, piano, drums, and sings. She contributed to the soundtrack of Saw III with vocals on Hydrovibe’s song “Killer Inside” and to the soundtrack for Catacombs as a solo vocalist with the song “Please Myself.” Her voice was also featured in the film Carnival of Souls where her character Sandra performed a jazz song titled “I Fear.”
Smith fronted the punk/metal band Fydolla Ho (pronounced like Five-Dollar Hoe) in the early 2000s. The group was originally formed by Smith, Metallicabassist Robert Trujillo, and Skindred vocalist Benji Webbe as a small recording project. The band released their debut full-length album Untied in December 2001. She balanced the band with being a regular cast member on the CBS sitcom Becker. The band officially ended in 2004.
Smith began working on a solo career/album in 2004 with producer Chris Goss, but the project was never completed. In an interview with Radio Free in October 2005 she stated, “between being a mom, and working, and growing another baby, I have not had time to give attention to music for a while.”
She was part of a country music group with actress Missi Pyle called Smith & Pyle. The two actresses met while filming an ABC comedy pilot titledTraveling in Packs. The band started after Smith invited Pyle to join her in attending the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. While stuck in traffic, Pyle talked about her dream to be a rock star and Smith agreed to form a band with her. Their first album, It’s OK to Be Happy, was released digitally through iTunes and Amazon.com in July 2008. The debut album was recorded in Joshua Tree, California at Rancho de la Luna and was produced byChris Goss. Smith and Pyle have also become business partners and formed their own record label called Urban Prairie Records, which It’s OK to be Happy was released under. Smith has talked about the possibility of a Smith & Pyle television or webisode series in the near future. She mentioned the idea of a series on Fangoria radio with Dee Snider and also on a radio appearance with bandmate Missi Pyle in April 2009.
Smith has three children: a daughter named Verve, born in 1999, from her marriage to photographer Jason Reposar (1998–2003), and a son named Jakson, born in 2005, from her brief marriage to musician Kai Mattoon (2005–2006), and a second son born in March 2010. Her daughter was named after Verve Records. Both Verve and Jakson were featured in the debut Smith & Pyle album, It’s OK to be Happy. The kids are listed in the album credits as having vocals and spoken narrative tracks for two songs. An article published October 28, 2009 highlighting Smith & Pyle’s small tour in West Virginia stated that Shawnee was pregnant with her third child. She gave birth to a boy in March 2010.
Smith and ex-husband Jason Reposar eloped in 1998 while on vacation in Scotland due to the inability to organize a wedding. The song “Sugar,” performed by her former country-rock band, Smith & Pyle, was written by Smith after her divorce from Reposar. She describes it as her break-up song that is quite different from Pyle’s break-up song, “I Wish You Were Dead.”
Smith was featured in Maxim magazine in June 2001.
Smith married fellow actress, and former bandmate, Missi Pyle in a faux ceremony at the All Love is Equal Launch Party in West Hollywood on November 18, 2009. The two actresses pretended to get married in support of repealing Prop 8 in California. Actor Hal Sparks dressed as a priest and performed the ceremony with them using rainbow-colored hula hoops as rings.