’12 Mighty Orphans’ Interview: Vinessa Shaw On Underdog Football Drama, Fond Memories Of ‘Ladybugs’, & More

Chances are you’ve read or even heard me sing the praises of Vinessa Shaw more than once. Known primarily for her performances in Two Lovers, 3:10 to Yuma, and Hocus Pocus, Shaw turns her attention to uplifting sports drama with 12 Mighty Orphans, which is based on a remarkable true story practically tailor-made for the movies.

Shaw plays Juanita Russell, wife to Texas football coach Rusty Russell (Luke Wilson), who has taken a job teaching the Mighty Mites, a team of orphan boys at the Masonic Home and School of Texas. The Depression-era tale is one of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and becoming a man in the face of adversity, set in a time when America was desperate for a hopeful underdog story to pull them through the tough times. Juanita’s role in the team’s unlikely championship glory is crucial, helping to educate and prepare them for a tough future, while also keeping Rusty grounded in his cause.

I was fortunate enough to speak with Vinessa Shaw about 12 Mighty Orphans, the unexpected request that drew her to the role, and any parallels to her debut role in the 1992 sports comedy Ladybugs starring Rodney Dangerfield.

You can check out my interview with Shaw below, and my review of 12 Mighty Orphans here. The film is available in select theaters now and will expand further beginning June 18th.


Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.