Grace, power in Shantae's performance

BATTLE HARDENED: Shantae Barnes-Cowan on set for Wyrmwood: Apocalypse in the role of Maxi. Credit - Wyrmwood.
BATTLE HARDENED: Shantae Barnes-Cowan on set for Wyrmwood: Apocalypse in the role of Maxi. Credit - Wyrmwood.

From learning to use a real gun to performing her own stunts, Shantae Barnes-Cowan had a thrill-packed journey while starring in post-apocalyptic movie Wyrmwood: Apocalypse.

The film is a sequel to 2014's Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead, which follows a talented mechanic battling his way through zombies to rescue his kidnapped sister.

The 2021 movie focuses on Rhys (Luke McKenzie), a soldier who embarks on an arc of redemption as he turns on his evil bosses and joins forces with a group of rebel survivors.

In the biggest role of her acting career yet, Shantae, from Whyalla in South Australia's Spencer Gulf, spent two months filming Wyrmwood in Sydney, where she played the part of Maxi - a member of the rebel group.

After several months of auditions Shantae found out she had got the part via a Zoom call with Director Kiah Roache-Turner, who gave her a glowing review after production had wrapped.

"We auditioned all over the country for this part but as soon as I clapped eyes on her I knew we had our girl," he said in a post on Facebook.

"Shantae is a 100 per cent natural. She has a quiet strength in her that registers beautifully on camera, and moves with coordinated elegance.

"She's never had any acting training but was able to weep big real tears in her audition. We were all pretty bloody blown away."


Shantae described her character as a "strong and powerful" girl who is tasked with rescuing her sister after she is kidnapped.

"On set and off set everyone was amazing ... the other actors were so comforting and supportive," she said.

"I got on really well with Luke McKenzie, I did a lot of scenes with him and connected with him on a special level ... he was my mentor basically."

Shantae Barnes-Cowan.

Shantae Barnes-Cowan.

Of course when battling zombies en masse, weapons are necessary. Shantae was quick to learn that she would be using guns in her scenes - something she had never done.

"That was fun, the main one I used was a shotgun and a speargun ... they had real guns there as well that they taught me how to use," she said.

Stunts were also part of the filming, and Shantae took on the challenge of doing a number of her own stunts.

"I had to ride a motorbike as well ... it was challenging sometimes, they had stunt doubles there if I wasn't comfortable doing something but I gave it a go myself," she said.

"This is probably my favourite movie that I've done out of all the rest, I really enjoyed myself."

In recognition of her acting achievements, Shantae has been nominated for the Channel 7 Young Achiever Award in the Aboriginal Achievement category.

This story Grace, power in Shantae's performance first appeared on Whyalla News.