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Sarah Shahi: 'Person of Interest' star says being a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader trained her for Hollywood

sarah sahi reuters 660.jpg

Sarah Shahi.Reuters

Sarah Shahi plays Sameen Shaw in the CBS drama "Person of Interest" and has also appeared in shows like "Fairly Legal" and "The L Word." The 34 year old Texan native is descended from Persian royalty, an ex-Dallas cheerleader and a pretty good shot, too. The married mom of a three year old son spoke to FOX411 about the show, being a cheerleader and gun ownership.

FOX411: Your family tree is pretty impressive!

Sarah Shahi: (Laughs) On my Dad's side I'm descended from the first Shah of Iran. It was the early 1900's, late 1800's. That's great-great grandpa. I still have a lot of family there. I'm very close with my mother and I do keep in contact with some of her family that's still over there. I would love to go, I've never been but you know it's not very easy to get there.

FOX411: Tell me about your "Person of Interest" character Sameen Shaw.

Shahi: She's definitely a mix between Jason Bourne and the Catwoman with an appetite for violence. She's incredibly dark. She has a dark sense of humor. She's a loner. She's on the team but she's not really on the team if that makes sense.

I have a great time playing her. My favorite part of the job is doing all the action stuff. That's pretty much why I took it. I like to do things that scare me. One of my goals is to be the host of 'Shark Week' and I'm terrified of sharks. I would like to go cage diving with them but only if there's a film crew in front of me because for some reason I feel like if they're there I'm not going to get eaten.

I love to do things that kind of intimidate me, that I've never done before. The idea of having to do your own stunts and be very physical. This show almost has an adult comic book graphic book feel to it. It's very stylized and I've never been a part of anything like that before.

FOX411: What was it like being a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader?

Shahi: It was hmm... how to put this in the most PC way? It was very competitive I will say that, it was a great learning experience at the same time. Those cheerleaders make show business look like babies foreplay. They weigh you to the 100th of a pound. If you're above your goal weight you have to sit outside of that week's game. When it's time for water breaks the veterans go first. It's not a democracy. With all that being said, I'm not trying to paint them out to be villainous in any way. I learned a great deal about what it's like to be disciplined and rehearse. We rehearsed for eight hours a day every single day and I was a full time college student. To be able to have that kind of foundation going into Hollywood was fantastic.

FOX411: And isn't the pay really crappy?

Shahi: In Texas to be a Dallas Cheerleader is a very big deal. You're told not to fraternize with the players. That this is not where you're going to get your next husband. I think some of them, that's exactly what they're thinking. And yes you definitely do not do if for the pay. You know what you're getting into though, they're very upfront about it. 

FOX411: And you're pretty nifty with a gun.

Shahi: I am a marksman. I own a Glock 9mm. 

FOX411: Do you feel like gun ownership is viewed differently in Texas than say...

Shahi: California? Absolutely. Texas is a right to carry state. I was not raised with guns. My first introduction with guns came when I was cast in a show called "Life." My character was a detective so I took it upon myself to become familiar with a gun. There's a couple of ranges out in L.A. that I go to and it's really fun. I keep a gun at home and it's locked up in a place that my son is not aware of. It's a hobby that I've picked up.

It's hard to talk about guns and then not mention the mass shootings that have happened. I definitely feel like something needs to change one way or another. It's a terrible situation. You drop your kid off at school thinking they'll be safe, then the next thing you know, half the class is gone.

If you own a gun you need to educate yourself. It can't fall into the wrong hands. There should be mental checks. More background checks go into adopting a dog then someone walking into a store and being able to buy a gun. I think that's not right.

FOX411: It must be hard you working in New York and your husband and son being in L.A.

Shahi: It's kind of miserable. It's definitely a balancing act and it's a lot of going back and forth. A lot of sleep sacrificed on my part but I guess when you become a mother you make this unspoken promise that you are going to put your kid first no matter what price you have to pay, so that's what I'm doing, so I don't turn into "aunt mom."

FOX411: What do you like to do in your time off?

Shahi: Every hiatus I try to pick up a trade of some sort. Last hiatus I learned to ride a motorcycle and this year I'm thinking of harmonica lessons. I think it's important to keep learning a new skill. You never know Bob Dylan might need some backup.

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