DOWNTOWN — Shelby Ronea’s mother realized her daughter’s talent after performances in middle school plays.
Now, two years later, the 15-year-old Harbour Island resident has had her first supporting film role in “Sex (Ed)” and has just returned from two weeks of intensive training at Chicago’s Second City.
Shelby, a sophomore studying drama at Blake High School of the Arts, said, “My mom took me seriously after seeing the plays” at Wilson Middle School.
Her mother, Renea Elmore, started looking for theater training and found the Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. At the conservancy, the young actress has studied for two years under Eugenie Bondurant, who portrays “Tigris” in the November 2015 release “Hunger Games/Mockingjay, Part 2.”
“My favorite actress is Meryl Streep,” said Shelby, an only child. “I saw many of her movies and thought, ‘Maybe I should try doing that.’”
It was Bondurant who recommended Shelby for the workshop at the famed improv theater, where Shelby received a scholarship to attend.
“Second City is a lot of fun,” she said by phone during her second week at the program. “It is teaching me tricks to make my acting stronger.”
After only a year of classes, Shelby was chosen to portray a student in “Sex (Ed),” set for release this fall.
The movie is about a teacher who lands his first teaching gig at an inner city middle school and finds his highly pubescent pupils are receiving no form of sexual education. It stars Haley Joel Osment, who was featured as the young boy in “The Sixth Sense” and also was in “Forest Gump.”
She says of Osment: “He kind of scared me at first but he was a really nice guy. He was happy to talk with you and give you advice and support.”
Shelby praises Bondurant for her guidance and encouragement.
“She’s a great coach. Words cannot describe how she changed my life,” Shelby said of Bondurant. “She reassured me that I could act.”
Bondurant has nothing but praise, too, for Shelby, who she calls “a little rising star” and a “positive influence on the other students and on me.”
“She has a memory like a hawk, doesn’t forget anything and does her homework,” she added.
Shelby said her immediate plans are to graduate from high school and go to college, but she is unsure where. She has hopes of being on Broadway or having starring roles in movies within 10 years.
“I’m sure that in 10 years that I will be acting — whether it’s to a small audience or a big audience,” Shelby said.
Bondurant said she agrees, as the young actress auditions often and makes a great presentation.
“She’s got a spark,” her teacher said. “There’s something magical about that girl.”