Why Shelley Hennig Rebelled Against “Beauty” and Got ‘Obliterated’


The Big Picture

  • Welcome to a new episode of Collider Ladies Night with Obliterated star, Shelley Hennig.
  • What might happen if a group of highly trained operatives had to complete a mission drunk and/or high? Obliterated answers that question.
  • During her Ladies Night interview with Collider’s Perri Nemiroff, Hennig recaps her journey from becoming Miss Teen USA to headlining this wild Netflix action-comedy.

It’s not easy to steer clear of getting boxed in to one particular thing in Hollywood, but Shelley Hennig has done that especially well, amassing a body of work that ranges from a soap opera to horror to extreme action-comedy with her brand new Netflix series Obliterated.

The show comes from Cobra Kai creators Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, and stars Hennig as Ava Winters, a CIA operative in the midst of a very tense and dangerous mission to track down a nuclear threat in Las Vegas. When she finally manages to lead her team to victory, they encourage her to treat herself and enjoy some Las Vegas debauchery. She reluctantly agrees and out they go, indulging in a hefty dose of sex, drugs, and alcohol. With a wide variety of substances coursing through them, they get a call from their superior. The bomb they deactivated was a fake, and they have to get right back to work. And so they do — extremely drunk and/or high.

With Obliterated now available to stream on Netflix, Hennig joined me for a Collider Ladies Night chat to revisit her journey from becoming Miss Teen USA to headlining a hit Netflix show.


Obliterated tells the story of an elite special forces team who thwarts a deadly threat to Las Vegas. After their celebratory party, filled with booze, drugs and sex, the team discovers that the bomb they deactivated was a fake. The now intoxicated team has to fight through their impairments, overcome their personal issues, find the real bomb, and save the world.

Release Date
November 30, 2023

Main Genre


Streaming Service(s)

Hennig didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming an actor or doing pageants. She was actually a competitive dancer. “It was my dance teacher who suggested that I do Miss Teen Louisiana. There was a family tragedy and my dance teacher kind of stepped in for a minute, and she was like, ‘Go do this. It’ll get you out of Louisiana.’” Much to Hennig’s surprise, not only did she go on to win Miss Teen Louisiana, but Miss Teen USA as well, and with that win came a scholarship to study at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts.

“That came the acting scholarship and the reason I took it was because it was free, and it was like an opportunity on a silver platter. And you move to New York, so I was like, ‘We’ll see how this goes!’ And day one, I remember we were doing breathing exercises and I just remember being, like, ‘This is the weirdest shit I have ever heard of, but I’m obsessed.’ From that day forward, I was like, ‘I’m gonna get good at this.’”

Sure enough, she got good at it. So good, in fact, she booked a four-year run on Days of Our Lives, a performance that earned her two Daytime Emmy nominations. However, even with so much success right out the gate, that doesn’t guarantee variety in future opportunities, so Hennig took it upon herself to ensure she’d get the chance to show off maximum range.

I really have rebelled against ‘beauty,’ if you will. I felt like because of the Miss Teen USA title and then going on a soap opera which typically have very beautiful people, I was worried that I’d be put into that category. So it made me work extra hard to really feel good about my work and my craft. I just focus on that. I can’t really focus on or pay attention to what other people are gonna do, and I feel like I’ve been very lucky. I feel like I’ve not been put in a box.”

Image Via Universal

She certainly hasn’t, but I wouldn’t credit it to luck, rather natural talent and the willingness to swing big no matter the genre she’s working in. In fact, she did just that on the set of Unfriended.

That 2015 film marked one of the first wide release screen life horror movies. Hennig starred as Blaire, a high school student enjoying some downtime by Skyping with her friends until an unknown user pops up in their chat and things take a deadly turn. The production process for the movie was highly unique from day one. The movie was shot in one house with each actor filming their material in a different room while the writer and the director observed from a hub they created in the living room. But, that wasn’t enough for Hennig. She wanted to add one more juicy performance challenge to the mix. She explained:

“I just remember looking at my co-stars and being like, ‘I don’t know,’ and I raised my hand at lunch one day. I was like, ‘I have an idea. What if we shot this all in one take?’ The cast just looks at me like, ‘I’m gonna fucking kill you. Are you kidding me, Shelley? That is ridiculous.’ They’ve done independent projects where maybe it wasn’t a safe space to have wild ideas, and so they were just like, ‘Oh god.’ We did it, and I think every one of those actors would argue it’s one of the most special moments we had as actors.”

Shelley Hennig Initially Passed on Obliterated

The Obliterated cast
Image via Netflix

All you need to do is watch a single episode of Obliterated to know that Hennig’s drive to go big and try new things hasn’t cooled off in the least. But, she nearly missed out on the opportunity to go on a drug and alcohol-fueled Vegas adventure by initially passing on Obliterated. Here’s what happened:

“I was in Atlanta shooting the Teen Wolf movie on all night shoots. You know, you’re on a different sleep schedule, you’re filming 17 hours a day, I was doing action, and whatever. It’s not every week that you get five auditions for five straight-to-series or funded films, big names. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? This is the worst week to have to do these self tapes.’ And I decided, as I’m getting older, I’m like, ‘I can’t do it all.’ So it was a very tough decision, but I decided to only tape three out of the five. When I saw Obliterated — I tend to look at the role before I read who’s involved. I don’t care as much about that. I look at the role first — and I saw ‘CIA’ and I was just like, ‘Nah, I’m not ready for that,’ and I passed.

Thankfully Firefly Lane’s Ben Lawson swooped in. Hennig continued:

“Then I finished Teen Wolf: The Movie, I get back to LA, I got COVID, I was really down, I was exhausted, and I was like, ‘You know what? I’ve never taken a break. I think I’m gonna take a month off. No auditions.’ I was telling my buddy, Ben Lawson, phenomenal fellow actor, that I was gonna take a break and he was like, ‘Are you kidding me? How did you not test for this show called Obliterated? It’s you.’ I was like, ‘What?’ I opened my phone and I was like, ‘Oh, I passed on it. It’s a drama. I want to take a break and then do a comedy.’ And he’s like, ‘Shelley, they haven’t cast the role and it’s a freaking comedy!’ I was like, ‘What?’ Long story short, I taped two days later and the rest is history, but I almost missed this opportunity. It is so unlike me, but that just goes to show where I was at at the time, and I’m just so grateful that Ben Lawson took me to dinner after I had COVID and we had that conversation.”

It’s a good thing Lawson nudged Hennig toward Obliterated because she’s a pitch-perfect fit for the role of Ava Winters. She excels at bringing Ava’s know-how and experience to screen, has sky-high chemistry with all of her co-stars, especially Nick Zano as Chad McKnight, and she can also seamlessly slip into the show’s more heightened comedic beats.

But, even with loads of natural talent and years’ worth of experience in this business, Hennig still appreciates a pep talk from an icon, and she got one on the set of Obliterated from C. Thomas Howell.

“Tommy was very important to me. He’s been around a long time and he’s so phenomenal. Each day that he would work, he’d come up to me and just look me dead in the eyes — I’m getting emotional thinking about — and he’d just be like, ‘You’re killing it.’ He was really important to keeping me going. It was so nice that someone like him who’s been around, who’s worked with anyone you can imagine saw something in me, it felt like.”

Looking for even more from Hennig on her journey to Netflix’s Obliterated? Be sure to watch her full episode of Collider Ladies Night in the video at the top of this article or listen to the conversation in podcast form below.

Watch On Netflix


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