Liya Shay

From the time she was just a child, Liya Shay was aware of her acute sensitivity, thinking and feeling everything more deeply than her peers. As an actress, she considers this empathy her greatest asset. 

“Growing up I always heard ‘you’re too sensitive.’ Up until I learned to channel it into my acting, I hated getting emotional all the time. Sensitivity can be very challenging with constant emotional overwhelm and overthinking, but it’s also almost essential to have as an actor. Acting was the only place where I felt like my sensitivity was a pro and not a con. However, as I approach so many difficult dramatic roles in my career, my biggest worry is that I will lose this emotional availability as it becomes mundane playing these types of characters,” says Shay.

Liya Shay - Lost at Sea

That connection with her emotions is what makes Shay such an in-demand actress in her home country of Russia and abroad, with millions of people around the world seeing her work.

Whether working on acclaimed films such as S’ids Lake, currently streaming on Amazon Prime, The 4th Person, an Official Selection at Pune Shorts Film Festival and Mumbai Shorts International Film Festival, and the Equality Festival Ukraine, as well as From Within, an Official Selections Mission Viejo Film Festival, Oasis Short Screening Series, and VOB Film Festival, or hit music videos, including famed EDM artist Marshmello’s hit “Imagine” which currently has almost 25 million views on YouTube alone, Shay knows how to captivate her audience. 

This is also evident in the 2018 film Lost at Sea, where Shay beautifully captures the essence of her leading character Vanessa. The film follows a beautiful woman who is entangled in an ugly relationship with an abusive partner. Vanessa and William, a couple in their mid-20s, are visiting Jamaica for vacation when they are robbed of all their belongings. As they are struggling to find their way home, they are introduced to a fisherman.

Fisher, a former American, offers to give the couple a ride to the nearest US Embassy on his boat, and offers them a free night’s stay in the meantime. Vanessa is intrigued by the fisherman’s stories and gains a liking towards him, fueling William’s jealous and abusive tendencies. When jealousy takes hold, a kind gesture quickly turns to a threat.

“We all hear of these stories, it’s so much easier to spot this type of abusive relationship from the outside but being in it feels like your world is collapsing on top of you and you can’t breathe. Above all, you feel there is something wrong with you and you are the only one to blame. Life outside of this relationship appears to be an even worse prospect than staying in it. This fear that you will never meet another person, that you will be more unhappy if you leave, is stronger than the want to be happy.

In our story Vanessa does not meet another guy who sweeps her off her feet, she meets a guy who shows her what real love is and that something beautiful awaits outside of the world she feels trapped in. I think this positive message on such a complicated issue is very encouraging. It is not a manual on how to get out of an abusive relationship, it’s a message to find inner strength to love yourself and remember that real love exists,” says Shay.

Taking on the role of Vanessa was an extremely rewarding experience for Shay, displaying the character’s journey of self-discovery and finding her inner strength. Her truthful portrayal of the character and this important arch was vital to the film’s success. When we first meet Vanessa, she is a hopeless pawn in her marriage life with an abusive partner, and Shay makes sure audiences are rooting for her from the beginning.

“Reading the script, I kept thinking to myself, ‘What is wrong with you Vanessa? Just leave.’ It’s so easy to judge someone in a position like that. But when I started preparing for the role, reading all the stories of women who try to get out of these relationships, only then I realized how difficult it really is,” says Shay.

It is evident to audiences that Shay was truly living through her character, channeling all of her feelings and emotions to the core, and that greatly impressed the rest of the cast and crew. Director Nicholos L. Barton describes Shay as professional, punctual, determined, experienced, likable, communicative, flexible, and creative, saying she was a pleasure to work with from the day she auditioned.

“Amongst the many things that made working with Liya a positive experience, her traits always painted a picture of an ideal actress. Her expertise and likable nature allowed for all members of the production to maintain a professional comfortability throughout the rigorous shoot days, many of which were aboard a large yacht docked in the Port of Los Angeles. Although the conditions of the shoot days varied, Liya maintained a positive attitude. Thanks to Liya, the entire production was able to maintain a high morale from the first day of production through the last,” says Barton.

Shay’s commitment to her character paid off, and Lost at Sea was an Official Selection Austin Spotlight Film Festival 2018. Such an accolade is of course rewarding for Shay, but the greatest reward of all came from sharing such an important story with audiences all over the world.

“I think the film resonated with the audience because everyone could get something out of it. It is not necessarily just about the abusive relationship with your partner, these can also be between parents and children, coworkers and bosses, schoolmates etc. They follow the same patterns, and our message applies to all. Most importantly, the film being recognized made me feel like the world really is changing, we are so much more open to speaking up and discussing these issues without judgement,” Shay concluded.

By Punit