Using all her Southern style

Investigation Discovery photo by NIJME RINALDI NUN -- Gonzales native and actress Shanna Forrestall is the host of Investigation Discovery's new 'Southern Fried Homicide.'
Investigation Discovery photo by NIJME RINALDI NUN -- Gonzales native and actress Shanna Forrestall is the host of Investigation Discovery's new 'Southern Fried Homicide.'

Gonzales native to host new murder show

Shanna Forrestall’s Southern accent can come in handy.

When Crazy Legs Production was searching for a Southern host for its new series, “Southern Fried Homicide,” it sounded like something right up the Gonzales native’s alley.

“They were like, ‘Play it very Southern, almost like ‘Designing Women,’ kind of,’” the actress said recently. “They wanted to create that Southern woman, to tell us these stories, so I did that, and I ended up doing three rounds of auditions.”

For that final audition tape, Forrestall put it all out there.

“I said, ‘I’m pulling out all the stops,’ so I used my dog Gigi in my tape, so I did this little intro, and I have Gigi on my lap. It was so cute, because right on cue she yawns, and I said, ‘Oh, little Gigi is tired today.’”

She got word last fall that she had landed the hosting gig.

“And they said, ‘Oh, here’s the good news, we’re shooting in Louisiana,” Forrestall, who now lives in New Orleans, said.

Each episode delves into a salacious real-life case of cold-blooded murder, pure evil lurking behind the curtain of Southern hospitality, etiquette and traditional values. The re-enactment portions of the first 10-episode season were shot elsewhere, while the series used Madewood Plantation in Napoleonville as the backdrop for the “wraps,” introductory and concluding segments featuring Forrestall.

This shooting took place off and on from February to May. In these portions of the show, Forrestall, dressed to the nines in floral-print dresses, pearls and heels, slathers her Southern drawl on thick while leading viewers into each homicide case, and then adding comments at the end.

“I love Madewood because it’s beautiful without being pretentious, so you think someone might could live there,” Forrestall said. “We had a great time out there. My stylist and I go and we stay out there.”

The second phase of her work on the project was voice-overs.

“It takes four hours, believe it or not, for me to do one show. I’m like the voice-over of the whole show,” Forrestall explained. “I carry the story.”

This work was also done close to home, at a studio in New Orleans.

“I thought they really did a good job. I saw the first show and I thought it had a lot of energy. It pushes the story and it feels so visual and alive, and it’s beautifully shot,” she said.

The first episode involves the case of Southern belle Susie Newsom, who meets and marries her college sweetheart. When that marriage crumbles, she starts a frowned-upon relationship with her disturbed first cousin, who’s obsessed with firearms. Before it’s over, nine family members from Kentucky to North Carolina are dead.

Forrestall said viewers will likely recognize Louisiana stories unfolding further on in the season.

“So it’s been a fun ride. I’m excited that it’s finally coming out,” she said. “I’m curious to see where we go if we go for another season. There’s got to be more crazy stories. The South is such a colorful place. Leave it to us to do crazy well.”

Forrestall also enjoyed getting back to her roots.

“I’m excited about the character of it. It’s like me, but an amped-up Southern me, that’s been fun too.”

Meanwhile, Forrestall has also been seen recently on the big screen in the feature film “Olympus Has Fallen,” shot in Shreveport, released in March and starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart and Morgan Freeman. The action thriller about a terrorist attack on the White House has Forrestall in the role of Mary Jane Fuller, the president’s assistant.

“It’s still in theaters. It has actually held for quite a while,” she said. “I’m his assistant and when they get taken hostage, I get hysterical.

“I feel that I had a very important role in the story because the people that I get taken hostage with are all high level government executives. They can’t cry, they have to all play tough, so somebody had to bring the human element to that. I literally did cry for 21/2 weeks. It was exhausting, but fun. I got to work with Melissa Leo (“The Fighter,” “Treme”) who I have a lot of respect for. She’s an amazing woman. She kind of took me under her wing, and has become a friend/mentor since then. I’m very grateful for that.”

Forrestall also just worked on the remake of “Heat” with Jason Statham, also shooting in New Orleans. She plays Marie in the movie, due out in 2014.

“We’re so lucky to be where we are right now (with a thriving movie industry in the state). Every day I wake up and I’m so grateful that I’m home. I get to live in Louisiana, and I get to work here,” she said.