‘Found’ Star Shanola Hampton Talks Role And The Missing Persons Issue Affecting Black Women

Found – Season 1
Source: Matt Miller/NBC

Jan. 23 2024, Published 8:10 a.m. ET

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Since the end of the screenwriter’s strike last year, many of us have been letting out sighs of relief with the return of our favorite TV shows. Before the negotiations came to a resolution, some series were totally paused awkwardly in the middle of a juicy storyline and others were weeks (or even months) overdue for the launch of a new season, character, or spinoff.

“Found” is certainly one of those shows that, if it wasn’t on your watch list before the strike, you need to add it now. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see a show centered on a powerful Black woman who not only was a kidnapping victim herself but dedicated her life to solving missing persons’ cases?

Combine the bold presence, style, and smarts of a character like Annalise Keating (“How To Get Away With Murder”) with the vendetta-motivated fearless conviction (but minus the psycho-violence) of The Bride (“Kill Bill”) and you’ve got a protagonist who should at least raise an eyebrow of intrigue and promise for all TV lovers overcoming deprivation.

Source: Matt Miller/NBC
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The show was created by Greg Berlanti and Nkechi Okoro Carroll, and Shanola Hampton stars as Mosely. She brings the same fierce talent she used to slay the role of Veronica Fisher for a whopping 11 seasons of the award-winning drama “Shameless,” and her role in Netflix film “Deadly Illusions.”

I caught up with Hampton to talk about how she prepared for the “Found” role that has serious real-life leanings—a missing persons issue that disprortionately affects Black and Hispanic women and girls—along with what viewers can expect from the unfolding of revelations and secrets on “Found” in its next season.

Her Agenda: You’re the star and a producer on ‘Found.’ What was the inspiration for the premise of the show, from your perspective?

Shanola Hampton: Showrunner Nkechi [Okoro] Carroll [read about] seven missing Brown girls and there was no media coverage. She knew that her tool was pen to paper and she wrote the story. How do you get someone to really listen? You add a twist, and that’s where Sir came in the basement. And that’s really how it all began. After meeting with her, seeing her spirit and energy, and reading the script, I knew this was a role I had to play. 

Not only is it a procedural–it’s a procedural that [is] looking for people that don’t get the same media coverage. So the relevance, it all spoke to me, it meant something to me and it was a super super great twist.

Her Agenda: What went into preparing for the role?

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Shanola Hampton: When I read Gabi Mosely, I got her, so it wasn’t a lot of preparation. I knew that mentally I need to be in a great head space. So the preparation was really making sure that my personal life with my kids and my husband was all set up in a way that I was comfortable, so that I could give everything I needed to give on the set every day. And that’s really how I prepared. The familiarity of the issues that we were dealing with, I’m in a community that these discussions are already taking place, so that was easy for me to dive into why it was so important. And for her to have so [many] emotional layers to not just be the hero everybody comes to expect from a hero character was something I was just excited to do. 

Her Agenda: Is there a specific routine you do before you go in to shoot? What do you do beforehand?

Shanola Hampton: I wake up very early in the morning. I work out. I meditate, and I go to work. And I take a nap during lunch! [Laughs]

Her Agenda:This is good to hear because I don’t think people talk about this enough with the craft of acting—like, what it takes before you go in for this character, especially for a deep issue such as missing persons. It’s a heavy subject. And she’s holding a heavy secret, right?

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Source: Matt Miller/NBC

Shanola Hampton: Yes. I mean, she’s holding a very big secret. This is a woman who was kidnapped as a child. No one came to look for her. She had to save herself. And she vowed that that will never happen to anyone else. She turned her trauma into purpose and when you see her passion and how far she will go to look for people, you feel her pain. And then, you go down the steps, and she’s kidnapped her kidnapper!

Sorry! Spoiler! Go watch it on Peacock! Episode one! [Laughs]

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The man is in her basement! So you think through the pilot that this woman has it all together until you realize she is still in the healing process or not even the healing process. She has really [just] begun the healing process because she’s still harboring so much pain from what happened to her. It’s really beautiful to see a  human being human on television and really going through emotions. 

I’m not saying you make the same choices, but people expect that you’re going to get over stuff. ‘Oh it’s been 20 years. You’re fine.’ But you don’t know how long it’s going to take a person to heal, and I think that’s a beautiful thing to see on TV. 

Her Agenda: You mentioned something key as well for Black and Brown women: turning our trauma into purpose. Many of us do this. Would you agree?

Shanola Hampton: Oh, I think that’s what we’re noted for right? But I think what happens is, we’re so expected to be strong that they don’t realize what we had to do to get to the place where we can walk and be strong and how we had to heal. The expectation is for us to get over stuff quickly because ‘That’s what they do. They pick up and they go. They pick up and they go.’ 

That strength is there. We keep moving. However, we still are human and need to heal.

Her Agenda: That makes a lot of sense. Now, what can viewers expect from the second season?

Shanola Hampton: We’re going to pick up right where we left off and that rebuilding process and what it means. What happens to Gabi Mosely and Associates and Sir. It’s going to really be action packed for 22 episodes. You’re going to be on a ride. 

Her Agenda: There’s always some excitement when you see the fallout of revelations of secrets.

Shanola Hampton: It really is, and you don’t know. And because we were dealing with the secret being exposed to so many different characters, all the reactions are going to be different.

While the date for the start of season two has not yet been released, you can catch the first season of NBC”s ‘Found’ on Peacock.

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By: Janell Hazelwood, MAOL

Janell Hazelwood, MAOL, is an award-winning journalist, speaker, editor, and strategist who has worked for companies including The New York Times, Black Enterprise, and Conde Nast. She's also a proud HBCU journalism graduate who enjoys serving global audiences of women professionals and entrepreneurs. She holds a master's degree in organizational leadership (MAOL) with a concentration in coaching, allowing her to pursue her ultimate goal as a lifelong servant leader to women professionals, entrepreneurs, and nonprofit founders.

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