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One on One with Adrienne Wilkinson
Interviewed by: Rosa Lambros
In this month's AUSXIP Interview we take the time to catch up with Adrienne Wilkinson. Adrienne is no stranger to us here at AUSXIP. We host the Official Adrienne Wilkinson Fan Site and we have interviewed Adrienne on a number of occasions (see below the interview for the links to previous interviews). Adrienne has graciously agreed to update us on what she has been up to since our last interview in 2008. A lot has happened since then in Adrienne's very busy life in front and behind the camera.
When did you first know you wanted to be an actor? Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in acting?
I grew up as a dancer and had been on stage since I was a child...but it never occurred to me to pursue performing as a career. I always viewed it as a passion, but a hobby. It wasn't until my final year of high school, in Missouri, where that changed. I was asked to join a weekend acting class, on a whim. I joined, and not only did I love the class, but much to my surprise found that it was being taught by casting directors from Los Angeles. They liked me and amazingly, I was offered a job within a week. I didn't move forward with that job, as I was only 17 and leaving school was not an option, but it truly lit a fire in me and made me realize that not only did I love performing, but the power of acting felt so sacred to me, the way you could bring an audience to laughter or tears...and realizing I could potentially make a living this way, changed everything. I immediately decided it was what I wanted to do. I spent the rest of my senior year studying acting and moved to Los Angeles soon after graduation.
In your opinion, what makes a good actor? What are your best qualities as an actor?
Acting is telling the truth. A good actor is someone who listens and responds honestly moment by moment. Someone who is willing to be brave enough to find and reveal parts of themselves in a scene. You also hope to work with people that are generous and kind, supportive and always pushing to make the work as good as it can be. Someone who brings a strong point of view, but is flexible and open to trying different interpretations of material. I strive for these things, but I suppose you would need to ask others, to see if I'm succeeding. I'm certainly trying.
What’s the hardest, most challenging role you’ve ever played? And the most fun?
I think Livia & Eve in Xena may still be the answer to both of these questions. I say challenging because I was thrown into the fire with this role. Meaning, my flight landed in Auckland and within hours I was on set being fitted for costumes and designing the look and rehearsing fight scenes. Not only was that first week dealing with learning lines and combating jet lag and trying to find my way on set, but my first week also included horseback riding (on multiple horses), fight choreography (on and off horseback), fire, wind machines, rain machines, a costume that was constantly falling apart, scenes that ranged from romantic, to tantrums, to death matches, challenging locations, weather that wasn't cooperating, etc, etc, etc... I would have been entirely overwhelmed...if I had even a second to think about it. Instead, I was just putting one foot in front of the other as we tried to get through each intense day and all that was required to create an episode of Xena and to bring Livia/Eve to life.
It was also one of the most brilliant adventures I've ever
had. Working in New Zealand with this extraordinary cast and
expert crew that was so mischievous and delightful to
collaborate with and so eager to play and find all of the
nuances of the material. I was wearing beautiful costumes,
playing this delicious character that I loved, shooting in the
most exquisite locations and exploring the country on my days
off. It was magnificent!
I really fell into voice work through my on screen work. One just led to the other. I enjoy it and am always looking to push that envelope. I would love to be a series regular in a cartoon or working in an animated film. I've come close to some adorable and sweet roles and I hope one lands in my lap soon. Voice work is especially interesting because you are able to try out characters that you would not be able to play on screen. The recording of it is also so much faster that on screen work, although animation can take longer in terms of the project moving from script to screen. I've been lucky to play such a wide range of characters. One of my favorite projects is SUSPENSE, a radio drama that I'm part of. We can be heard on various stations around the world as well as on audible.com. It is a retro radio drama with a horror twist - A revival of the popular show of the same name from the 1960's. Similar in style to The Twilight Zone - with new plots and characters each week. I've played a wide variety of roles... housewives and burlesque dancers, soap opera stars, royalty, jealous daughters and a psychotic murderess or two. We have a great cast and the episodes are such a joy to do.
You play Lieutenant Ara Eris in the new webseries Nobility. Can you tell us a little about the series and about your character?
Nobility is a new series focusing on the crew of misfits who have been sent on an impossible mission in deep space. The series focuses both on their overall mission and its danger and importance, but also focuses on the daily lives of this group of very 'human' crew who not only have to deal with the mission, but have to find a way to work together while being trapped in this very small space with each other for a very long time. That brings out the best and the very worst in everyone, as they irritate, annoy and frustrate one another and as relationships ebb and flow between the excitement and monotony of space. We see them shine and triumph, but we also see the moments where they are just trying to hold it all together. It has been called 'The Office' set in space.
Eris is referred to as 'The Weapon', she is second in command of the Eujin force that is interacting with the crew. She is focused on her mission and eager to prove herself. She is a bit of a bulldog, eager for a fight when she feels threatened or when protecting her leader. (not to stereotype bulldogs, who can also be incredibly sweet!) She has little patience for the inept crew of the Nobility. Eujins are a sect of humans, bent on furthering the race by experimenting with technology, DNA and other modifications to reach their highest potential. They tolerate regular humans, but pity them. The pilot episode pits the Eujins against the crew and is a bit of a chess game as each tries to keep the upper hand, suss out the loyalties and motivations and outwit the other. You can see all of the juicy cast and find out more about the series here: http://www.nobilitytheseries.com
Star Trek: Renegades is set for a 2014 release. What does this film add to the Star Trek universe? How is it different?
Renegades is not your typical Star Trek. It is darker and the
lines of morality are more blurred. I play the captain of what
is essentially, a black ops team doing the missions that have to
be done, but that have to remain unacknowledged and occasionally
unsupported by Star Fleet. Renegades starts with an entirely
fresh perspective though the story line takes place just 10
years after Voyager. While staying true to everything that came
before it, our entire 'baseline' and point of view is different
that what you have seen onscreen in the Star Trek universe
previously. These are stories that must have always been
happening....but they haven't been told until now.
It also looks like we will be releasing a prologue - a short film approximately 10-15 minutes long before the full project is released. This new footage will set up the story of the film and give background on Lexxa's genetic and personal history and how she came to be in power.
You are Captain Lexxa Singh, granddaughter of Khan and leader
of the Renegades. What can you tell us about your character and
will Khan’s bloodline influence the storyline?
I can tell you very little about this particular plot point, aside from the fact that it does give Lexxa a bit of a genetic advantage. She is stronger and smarter than a 'regular human'. She is fierce and fearless and that comes across in her fighting style, her bravado, her decision making and probably in her ego. Lexxa's genetic history is also a sore point for her. She has a fierce hatred of her background and how she was created and the life she has been forced to lead - being a tool for others to manipulate. She has struggled with the confines of being born with such power, but being shown no mercy...essentially being kept on a leash to keep her under control.
Lexxa kicks ass...both literally and figuratively. She is multi-layered. She has a complicated background...and like most of her crew, she enters the story in a messy way and being pulled in more than one direction. She is smart, calculating, sexy, strong and doesn't suffer fools. I picture Lexxa like a cat with a mouse - enjoying the chase but entirely confident that she is in control and always has the upper hand despite the chaos around her.
These two projects belong in the science-fiction genre. What are the similarities and the differences between the roles you play in each of them?
The main difference is Renegades is a strict drama, where Nobility is more of a 'dramedy', swinging back and forth between tense moments of drama and ridiculous moments of pure comedy.
And of course Renegades is jumping into the established Star Trek Universe where Nobility is a brand new creation where the audience will be entering this world for the first time.
They both deal with living and working in space and with epic themes of survival and good versus evil etc, but the look and feel of the shows is very different.
Do you feel like there are more empowered female characters in fantastical genres than in more traditional genres?
It is cringe-worthy that women are still having to fight for equality in the workplace, politically and on screen. I think unequivocally we all hope and assume it would be different in future generations, hence it only makes sense that roles are portrayed as being more fairly distributed amongst races, ages and between men and women when plots are set in the future or in realities beyond our own.
You have a wonderful blog, franklymydearstarlet.com . Some of your posts are hilarious, others are thought-provoking, and all of them are enlightening and a delight to read. You started it in 2012 and you discuss anything and everything about your Hollywood experiences. In your own words: “So check back if you want to hear about the casting calls gone wrong, epic wardrobe malfunctions, on set antics ….or that time I walked in on a porno.” Care to elaborate on that last bit?
Haha...you'll have to check back with the blog for all of the juiciest stories, which will all come out eventually, I'm sure. And to that last point, living in LA, with so many productions happening - both mainstream and 'adult', I'm sure almost everyone working in the industry has some sort of 'porn story' where they have accidentally and inadvertently stumbled across a shoot or into something associated with that industry. It is just as awkward and bazaar as you might imagine.
And I am woefully behind on my posts! But thank you for the great feedback. I find that I have incredible things happen to me - good and bad- being part of this circus and it only helps to share the madness with other. I am currently in the middle of working on several news posts (I promise!) including one which will tackle "weight" and another discussing the underbelly of fame. I hope everyone will take a look. You can find my list of favorite entries here: http://franklymydearstarlet.com/about/
Auditioning, or how to survive the Seventh Circle of Hell… Shouldn’t you write this book? What is the scariest part of an audition?
Yes, I should write that book! Oooph, there are so many scary things about auditioning, but one of the worst is that auditions are almost always recorded on film. Meaning, if you screw up....or if it is just a silly situation you are having to navigate, making yourself look utterly ridiculous, you are doing it all on film...archiving your humiliation potentially forever and leaving it behind where you have no idea where it could end up or who could see it. It is daunting!
Auditions are also tricky, because despite your talent, and despite how prepared you are, you never know what will greet you in the room. You usually do not know who will be there, or how the room will be set or what mood everyone will be in. Every actor has had the experience of showing up with high hopes, great confidence and calm....only to find that everything goes wrong, and it all falls apart once you walk into the room. It is unfortunate that it is not as predictable as say...math. The results, no matter how rehearsed you are, are entirely fluid and will change each time. You have to constantly remind yourself that you are more valuable than anything that happens, good or bad, in an audition room.
I’ve heard you say that The Philadelphia Story is one of your favorite movies, and Katherine Hepburn and Glenn Close are two actors you admire. Are there any other actors, dead or alive, that you would love to work with? What project would you do with them if you could?
The list is endless for me....truly, endless. There are so many artists past and present that I wish I could have worked with, or hope to one day work with. Mainstream and more indie focused, stars and character actors, comedians and thespians. I have such a love of talent and am mesmerized by brilliant performances. I'm always eager to work with artists who will challenge me and make me better.
And if you are not someone who is familiar with early films - there are so many you should check out. The Philidelphia Story is delightful. Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant are mesmerizing in their banter....and Jimmy Stewart plays my favorite 'drunk' scene of all time. Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant are also sensational in Bringing Up Baby and Holiday. Other early film suggestions: Breathless, Sullivan's Travels, M, The Apartment, Some Like It Hot, His Girl Friday, Roman Holiday, The Third Man, Raisin in the Sun...there are so many more, but that's a good start!
What’s the most important lesson you have learned from the directors and actors that you have worked with throughout your career?
Ease. Loyalty. Generosity. Leadership. Mainly the wonderful people I've been lucky enough to work with have simply proven what I had always hoped would be true...that you can do good work without ever being a pain or creating unnecessary drama.
The few bad experiences I've had on sets, have been through people that have issues with self esteem, they doubt themselves and take that out on the others around them by being demanding or cruel or needing constant attention. The best artists are easy to work with because they are also respectful of everyone else, confident in their own work and in collaborating and generally they are just fantastic people.
The stories of actors throwing tantrums and being demanding, are juicy and get a lot of focus, but those are rare. Working on a set is too hard, too complicated and too time consuming to put up with bad behavior, so it is limited.
Being specific, I was lucky to work with people who respected my input and suggestions, so it was a collaborative experience and it taught me to trust my instincts and not be afraid to speak up or voice an opinion.
You are also part of the cast in season four of Pretty the Series, which has just premiered this month. What can you tell us about your experience working in this series?
Yes, we had our premier just last weekend and the season will debut online in September. http://prettytheseries.com This series is intense, hilarious, and it is 'take-no-prisoners' meaning that it crosses every boundary, nothing is sacred - it is entirely un-politically correct and revels in it. It is bad behavior on steroids. That said, it works because it also has heart, and delivers it all with a wink and a smile. The cast is sensational. Full of comedic geniuses. For those new to the show, it is set in the hilarious and peculiar world of toddler beauty pageants....though this season we have a surprise twist....
Who is Lily, the character you play in Pretty?
She is extremely competitive and isn't afraid to exploit a weakness, psych someone out, or outright steal from them. She is the Tanya Harding of the pageant world. And she is always head to toe in pink.
So lovely! I couldn't adore Renee more. And it was exciting to get to work with her again. I play 'Annie', a homocide detective. The story is dark and dangerous, Annie is involved in the crimes not only as a detective but personally on multiple levels. It is a psychological thriller that is chilling. It is also a very intimate story of personal history, family politics and understanding the part you play. Renee is such a beautiful director. She is gentle and supportive and always has feedback and suggestions that help you to find new layers within a performance. She is a dream to work with. And our entire cast and crew was a delight. We shot in Griffith Park which was challenging, and it took quite the team to get everything done in the limited time that we had. I am so pleased with what we created and I hope it will become a series that everyone is able to see.
You have written about the importance of “surrounding yourself with likeminded artists to coordinate, explore and experiment with” in order to “provide each other with support, enthusiasm and honesty…and remind each other to be brave, creative and to enjoy the journey.” Have you got your very own “team of misfits”?
Absolutely. This is one thing I've done very well. I have a wide network of actors and other artists that are determined to work together, to create together, to push each other to explore new material and find success. It means theater projects, short films, web series, photo shoots, table reads, art installations, fashion shows, fundraisers and charity events, brainstorming sessions, writing workshops, feedback and support and the thrill of seeing your friends succeed.
So many people believe that if you share your success you diminish it, but I don't believe that at all. I think it just grows, it multiplies by sharing it with others and that philosophy is shared by so many of the wonderful people in my life. You hear about actors being back-stabbing...but that hasn't been my experience. I am eager to share opportunities and to connect people to each other, it all comes back around!
What is your dream project? What role would you love to play that you haven't yet?
I have many. I adore beautiful writing and am always eager to see what a screenwriter creates, but there are also novels I want to see turned into films with fantastic female characters (for instance, A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick and Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff ), and I have a list of real women whose stories I would like to see told on screen: Edna St Vincent Millay, Margreet Zelle Macleod, Georgia Tann, Zelda Fitzgerald, Hedy Lamarr, Nancy Randolph, Norma Wallace...
You have said that “this business is like a platypus – it’s super cool, but you don’t really understand it.” What is something that you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting out as an actor? How has the industry changed since you first started as an actor?
Honestly, the advice I would give my younger self, is the same advice I would try to give myself today. It is all about being brave. We talk ourselves out of opportunities because the industry is always looking for reasons why you are NOT 'the one'. There is no room to listen to the naysayers....you have to be confident in who you are and what you have to offer through your perspective, your gifts, your unique talent and know it is enough and that you are perfect in your own way and should always fight for the chance to show that, to prove it, instead of trying to become what you are told is wanted. The business seems to think it knows exactly what it wants....but it doesn't actually know until you show them. It's like that Judy Garland quote "Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of somebody else".
And the industry has changed greatly. Digital filmmaking and online streaming have changed everything. On one hand, it is easier and cheaper than ever to get a project made. On the other hand, getting it seen is more difficult than ever, as the market is flooded with projects looking for an audience...and the audience is trickier to find. While they now have easy access on any device, it used to be that you knew you could find people during prime-time TV each night or at a movie theater, but that is no longer the case. And you are dealing not only with film and television content, but online programing, gaming, the proliferation of news sites etc. It is harder and harder to find and keep the attention of an audience. So all of the rules are changing as the industry tries to figure out how to continue generating income and interest.
Thank you so much! I'm very proud of it, and so happy to hear that you enjoy it. Yes, I've interviewed hundreds of people, including about 200 celebrities so far. The answers are wide and varied...enlightening, humorous, thought provoking, entertaining...it has been a great project to be part of. I hope everyone will check it out.
Hundreds of people have already given their answers to the three questions the project is based on, but what are your answers?
Oooof, my answers change moment to moment (as would the answers of most people I've interviewed), but for now they are:
- What’s your favorite thing about you? That I look for, and often find the magic in a situation. In people, in places, in circumstances. I find what is beautiful and focus on the good. It makes joy so much easier to find and life so much more of a fun adventure. It means I see the humor and absurdity in situations that might infuriate someone else, or that I can see the light beyond the darkness or find wonder in situations that are tricky.
- What advice would you pass on to others? Be ruthless with the truth. Be very honest with yourself about the truth of situations. Don't get stuck in a situation because you think it can turn into something else or you imagine its potential. It doesn't mean you can't be optimistic, it means you aren't kidding yourself about what is truly possible in a job, or relationship or situation of any kind.
- What advice would you give about love? Trust what lights up for you (this applies beyond love to almost everything, but certainly to love). And once you find love, be brave and love ferociously. Give it everything you have, everything in you.
For those who haven't seen it here is the MOB trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-_WOilsniw
And a full episode - Xena actors on Love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6JHkveVqz8&list=UUSjefeO5ptvaFh5uIB4zfHQ
Tell us one thing in your Bucket List that has yet to be accomplished?
Again...so many things! One would be visiting the David Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary in Kenya. http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org
What advice would you give to an aspiring actor?
The practical advice is if you are moving to LA or NYC, save as much money as you can, before moving. Everything will be exponentially more expensive than what you are used to.
Do as much work as you can...in classes, in theater, learn monologues, do projects with friends. Truly explore what it means to be an actor and learn if you are willing to commit to the work, to learning the craft and committing to a career where success is not guaranteed. Many people think they want to be actors....and then discover they are looking for fame. These are two different paths that sometimes cross, but not necessarily....and they are entirely different motivations. Acting is challenging and difficult and the odds are against you, as there are far more people who want to work, than jobs that are available....only attempt this career if it is impossible for you to say no. And if you attempt it....give it everything you have.
And of course, read my blog! :)
What are your next projects?
I have been a busy bee....here is a quick rundown of projects to keep an eye out for:
--RAZE a horror/action film I am part of, was released in theater and on video-on-demand in January, starring Doug Jones, Zoe Bell, Tracie Thoms, Sherilyn Fenn... and this month it is debuting/airing on the SHOWTIME network. If you haven't seen it, I hope you'll check it out.
--STAR TREK RENEGADES - I am the lead (Captain Lexxa Singh - descendent of Khan) in this feature length pilot for a potential new Star Trek series also staring Walter Koenig, Tim Russ, Edward Furlong, Robert Picardo and Sean Young.
--PRETTY award winning web series set in the hilarious world of beauty pageants. I'm a series regular for season 4, which includes Stacey McQueen, Diane Delano, Dee Freeman, Joan Van Ark, and Melissa Peterman. http://prettytheseries.com and for a sneak peek check out a teaser trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBXAkqdMI44&list=UUZIcUgiycE-4SXA7cadjtgw
--PARTNERS this month I have a juicy guest spot on the new Kelsey Grammer/Martin Lawrence sitcom. Scheduled to air on August 25th.
--NOBILITY just wrapped this Sci-fi pilot with Christopher Judge, Doug Jones, James Kyson, Torri Higginson, Cas Anvar and Walter Koenig. http://www.nobilitytheseries.com
--BURNING DOG I'm Julie, the female lead in this edgy heist film staring Greg Grunberg, Salvator Xuereb, Johnny Dowers and Eddie Jemison. So many great and beloved character actors...plus, I'm dressed as a bear :)
--BUMP & GRIND - an Entourage style pilot about life in Hollywood from the perspective of women in the business. I play a journalist for Vanity Fair opposite Kristanna Loken, David Leisure and Kevin Farley.
-VENICE THE SERIES - I play a con-artist caught in a love triangle in this popular 2-time Emmy-winning web-soap that began as a spinoff of GUIDING LIGHT. Four seasons available online http://venicetheseries.com and we hope to film our 5th season in early 2015. Includes Crystal Chappell, Galen Gerring, Nadia Bjorlin, Jessica Leccia, Eric Martsolf and so many more.
--BLACK SIGNAL For the gamers out there, I play Sarah in this post-apocalyptic video game set in Tokyo.
--BROKEN THINGS - directed by Renee O'Connor and also starring Keston John, Randy Crowder, Shanna Henderson and Lara Star Rigores. Written and produced by Kat Grilli
--SUSPENSE a radio anthology show that can be heard worldwide and on more than 200 stations weekly. Visit http://www.suspenseradioshow.com for more info and listings. Cast includes Elizabeth Gracen, Daamen Krall, David Collins and Susan Eisenberg.
--THE AMERICAN FAILURE This short film debuted at the Canne film festival. I play double crossing femme fatale Missy Blue with Said Faraj and Hakeem Kae-Kazim.
--GOODNIGHT BURBANK I have a cameo as weather-girl Paisley Parker in this 1/2 hour sitcom about a local news station. It debuted 2 years ago and can be seen on HULU and HDNet and was recently made available worldwide on Spondo. Cast includes Miracle Laurie, Claire Kramer, Laura Silverman and Hayden Black.
Last year I filmed FREQUENCY a pilot presentation set in 1938 co-starring Kevin Daniels and Jeremy Ratchford where I play a Depression era mother struggling to feed her children, and CYRIL a short film co-starring Jamie McShane as my abusive ex-husband. I'm not sure when you'll be able to see these, but keep checking my website or IMDb for the latest.
I am currently shooting SIDETRACKED a contemporary new web series with E.D. Brown and Tracie Thoms about the moments in our lives when we realize we've gone off track....and how we find our way back.
It's a lot to keep track of, so I would just ask everyone to
check out my website and other online resources to keep up to
date with all I have going on. Lots of fun stuff to come!
Thank you, thank you, thank you all for your interest and the support. I am amazed every day by the outpouring of love and laughter I receive online. xoxo
Thank you to Adrienne Wilkinson for the wonderful interview!
Previous AUSXIP Interviews with Adrienne
▪ Short video interviews
at the 24 January 2008 Xena WGA March