Sussex Central grad shines in 'Oz the Great and Powerful'

March 17, 2013

While “Oz” might be far away from Kansas, it was home for one Sussex County native, actress Shannon Murray, who was featured in one of the pivotal opening scenes of the new James Franco flick, “Oz the Great and Powerful.” Murray, who has been working in the industry since graduating from Sussex Central, was excited to be a part of such an epic production, one that opened up at the top of the box office this week.

Murray first ventured to New York City, where she worked as an actress in commercials and several off-Broadway productions before making her big move in 2008 to Los Angeles, where she has served as an assistant director for both television and film.

In front of the camera, Murray has starred in a number of short and independent films, but perhaps one of the more notorious titles is “Titanic II,” a tongue-in-cheek “mockbuster” created by a famously fast production studio called The Asylum for the SyFy network.

“A friend called me the morning they were to start shooting and asked me if I wanted to work on a film that called for a sexy redhead,” she said with a smile. A reluctant Murray agreed, and the result has garnered her quite a large following among the Asian community. “I’m really big in Japan,” she laughed.

But it was a short film from fellow Delawarean Jody Fedele's Wopbopper Productions where Murray made the connection that led to her role in “Oz.” Serving as assistant director, Murray’s charm, talent and personality led Fedele to suggest her to audition for a role in “Oz” directed by the legendary Sam Raimi. Fedele had worked as a visual effects artist with the director since 1990’s “Darkman.”

After landing the part, Murray said, she struck up a good rapport with the director. “My first time meeting him, I was so nervous,” she recalled.

“On the first day, he pulls up an apple box and said ‘Here, let’s talk.’ He really cared about what I thought and what my process was. It was refreshing that he really wanted to collaborate ideas.”

On the last day of Murray’s shoot, she said Raimi called out to her, “I’m going to miss you most, scarecrow.”

“I was speechless, and I went back to my dressing room and started crying like a child,” she said.

Murray is keeping her sights on that next big project while basking in the glow of having the No. 1 film in the country at the moment.

“It’s just such an amazing feeling to have been a part of it,” she said graciously.

Despite the glamor of Hollywood, Murray said she still keeps close to her friends and family in lower Delaware. Just like Dorothy, Murray also realizes there’s no place like home.

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