My sister, recently passed and she was passionate about the inhumane treatment of refugees, we had many conversations about this. Traveling through Spain, with a friend a couple of years ago, we came across a beautiful little town that was basically crumbling and almost deserted. I would set up all over the world, in towns like this, a refugee centre, a place for displaced people, where they can live and learn trades, basically create a whole community. Teachers, painters, plumbers, language teachers carpenters, bakers, organic farming. People with these skills would teach these trades to displaced people and help rebuild these towns. They could end up creating a community and bringing deserted towns back to life. Then if, at some stage, it was safe to return to their country they could decide to stay in their new community or bring back a trade that would be useful to help rebuild their respective towns. This would help local unemployment, empower people, relieve housing shortages and treat people with respect.
As a part of my interview series with popular culture stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing Wendy Wilkins. Wendy studied theater at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London working on classical technique and Shakespeare. She guest starred on Australia’s longest running and most beloved series, “Neighbors”, where Margot Robbie was a series regular. After arriving in the United States, Ms. Wilkin’s career took off as she studied with the highly respected Ivana Chubbuck, and Katt Shea appearing in numerous films winning awards in festivals from Ojai to Sundance. She currently is the author of a successful memoir, Sex,Love & Cops and is represented by Aqua Talent Agency and 3G Management
Thank you so much for joining us Wendy! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
It’s a pleasure, thank you for having me. Someone told me that what you “play at” regularly when you are a child is a good sign of what your ideal career path would be. When I was a young girl I put shows on for my grandfather in our garage. We had a little stage and I made my sister and brother play parts, which they were not that happy about! My grandfather loved being entertained and the joy on his face still resonates with me today. The impetus for my acting is I love to help make people laugh, cry, feel not alone etc. Watching someone else go through what you may be feeling may help in some way.
The funny thing was at seven years old I also charged my grandfather an entry fee! So I must have had some inkling it was ‘show business’.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
Mmm wow that’s hard because what I love about this career is that it is never boring. So many interesting experiences. One that comes to mind, was I had a tiny walk on part in the first “Ironman movie”. I was the “Lady in Red” and I had to go in for a special wardrobe fitting and it was the most beautiful gown. I was in a scene with Gwyneth Paltrow , she even borrowed my make up compact mirror and was very gracious. Mostly you see the back of my dress. A few of us were asked to improv a few lines and I said “Hey Tony Stark, remember me?” When he arrives at “The fireman’s ball” And he replied “No!” Ha ha. They actually used my voice and the line and they didn’t credit me for it because I didn’t know you are supposed to notify SAG at the time, within six months. The best part was I got to see early on in my career a huge block buster production in action and how much goes into making a movie of this stature.
I met a beautiful friend, who incidentally, I just stayed with in Rome, Italy. She is one of the most interesting ladies I have met, originally from Jamaica, her ex husband started the huge festival “Burning Man” , which is still on my list to attend. I recommend if you have never been on a major film set do a little bit of background work when you first start acting. Observe and be respectful. Watch how the crew work and the set ups. Brad Pitt and many major actors have done this when they first started out. So when you do book on a major set you are not overwhelmed.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?
I worked in London, before coming to Los Angeles and I had a commercial audition for a German butter commercial, a “Goldie Hawn type” I was supposed to dive off rocks clumsily into a rock pool and then come out of the water suddenly all glamorous and sophisticated. My agent asked me if I could dive? If I booked the commercial I would be flown to Malta to film and actually dive off real rocks. I said “Sure, I grew up swimming in Australia at the surf beaches and jumping off rocks etc into the rock pools.” This was all true and when I got to the audition at an Olympic swimming pool there was an Olympian dive instructor and five girls waiting to audition. One was an ex olympic diver. Two girls left immediately when the casting assistant pointed to the diving ledge we were to dive off. Somewhere in the communication with my agent I thought she meant “could I dive off a 15 ft rock?” and I said “sure, no problem”. She meant, 15 meters which was about 45 feet.
I actually dived off the 45 feet diving board that day!
Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Yes… If you don’t know how to dive correctly from that height water can feel like concrete. I think I got a mild concussion. I learnt to understand clearly what is being asked of you. It’s okay to use some artistic license with your skills but be careful because if you arrive on set and cannot do what you say you can you may be costing production a lot of money and be remembered in the wrong kind of way. Even though I didn’t book the commercial I was happy that I had dived that day. I also learnt I would not want to do it again!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am excited about a tv project that is being developed where I am up for one of the main ensemble cast but can’t talk too much about it except that it’s a Dramedy, which I love. (Dark comedy). I am excited the movie I did a while ago will be coming out soon after it’s festival circuit successful run. It was such a great script written by a fabulous female writer and actress, she plays the lead, and I got to play one of my favorite roles, to date, in the movie, “Deany Bean is Dead”.
I have had some great network auditions recently too. There are so many fabulous tv shows out there and I have been cast several times in The professional development play reading series which is this new concept. It’s like a table read and it’s live streamed across America. You can watch it on your computer. I just played “Belle” from the contemporary American classic play “Rocket to the moon” by Clifford Odets.
Such great writing and characters.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I met Quentin Tarantino when I first arrived in Hollywood at Chateau Marmont and we bonded over his first film “Reservoir Dogs” and me being an ex cop from Australia. Many cop depictions on film/ tv I told him we would call “BS” but “Reservoir Dogs” was unanimously a favorite at our station. After 20 minutes of back and forth I suddenly thought, “Wow I am standing here talking to the Quentin Tarantino” and I began to get star struck and told him. He laughed and gave me a friendly hug. I forgot to tell him I was an actress!
I was fortunate to do a master class dream workshop with the beautiful, Elizabeth Kemp, Bradley Cooper’s acting coach and worked with Hugh Jackman and Lady Gaga on “A star is Born”, just to name a few mega stars, yet she was personable and humble but with a strength that did not overpower you. Some people of this stature tend to suck the energy out of a room but not Elizabeth, she made space for you to shine. Not only was her workshop transformative, she was one of the most interesting ladies I had the fortune to meet and begin to become friends with before her untimely death, shockingly, a few weeks later. She had a strength and ageless beauty and made you feel like you were capable of anything. It was a magical experience. Elizabeth helped me embrace my “See You Next Tuesday”.
I have been fortunate to work with Master acting coach and Director, Larry Moss. He worked as an actor on Broadway with legendary playwrights such as Neil Simon. He has a fascinating knowledge and depth of the plays we worked on.
I also met and got to watch John Patrick Shanley workshop one of his new plays. He wrote the screenplay for Moonstruck and Doubt and directed Meryl Streep etc in the Academy award nominated movie. So interesting and fascinating to be able to watch and discuss his process.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Yes, remember to enjoy the journey. The Director on my film “Big Bully Bank” had a wonderful conversation with me when I was struggling with the fact that I had to split my time with my day job to pay the bills. She said to me “you can act all your life but you also need to eat and put a roof over your head”.
I started acting a little later in life and knew that worrying about paying my bills was not conducive to my creative side. I did not want to make decisions in my acting career based on money or fame. Having other outlets, travel, working in other jobs, other passions makes you a full person. Drawing on life experience is necessary to bring a character to life. This will help you to thrive, be a more interesting person, not one note and living in a sheltered existence. Life is the point, not acting, it is one component and yes you must commit fully to the craft to succeed, but if you are not enjoying your life doing this chosen path then take time out , try something else for a while. Make sure this is the journey you want to be on. Be present and in the moment, which is necessary in a scene as an actor also. I have asked myself many times , is this the career path I want to pursue? And so far I keep answering “yes”. Go on a vacation, go spend time in nature, and with family and friends. It will help you decide and it’s okay if you decide it’s not for you too.
Also be kind to everyone. People don’t want to work with people that are continually difficult.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
My sister, recently passed and she was passionate about the inhumane treatment of refugees, we had many conversations about this. Traveling through Spain, with a friend a couple of years ago, we came across a beautiful little town that was basically crumbling and almost deserted.
I would set up all over the world, in towns like this, a refugee centre, a place for displaced people, where they can live and learn trades, basically create a whole community. Teachers, painters, plumbers, language teachers carpenters, bakers, organic farming. People with these skills would teach these trades to displaced people and help rebuild these towns. They could end up creating a community and bringing deserted towns back to life. Then if, at some stage, it was safe to return to their country they could decide to stay in their new community or bring back a trade that would be useful to help rebuild their respective towns. This would help local unemployment, empower people, relieve housing shortages and treat people with respect.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- It is a long term commitment, “enjoy the journey”, as I mentioned above so as not to burn out.
- It’s a family business. It is full of nepotism, a large percentage of actors got into the “family business”. You are competing with people that have been doing this since they could basically walk and talk. Also it is a small business. There are less than six degrees of separation. When I first arrived in Hollywood I was naive. It’s not just being talented, people are interested in “are you going to be around in a few years?” People are wary of becoming too close because they know you are likely to only be in town for a short time. There is a great line in Quentin Tarantino’s new movie “Once Upon a time in Hollywood” where Leo Dicaprio’s characters says “as an actor in Hollywood you need to own real estate otherwise people won’t think you are a local!
- Be kind and grateful. My acting coach Ivana Chubbuck taught me a valuable lesson both for life and acting. “Listen more speak less, ask questions instead of telling people all about yourself”. I have lots of stories but the more I asked questions, instead of telling my stories, the more fascinating I found the people I was talking to. Everyone has a story. It’s about give and take. PS If you are not actively listening in a scene as an actor you will “jump on the other actors lines”, it’s hard to do that if you are actively listening and reacting.
- Give and take. Give more. I notice the more experienced you are as an actor the nicer you are, ha ha! When you are younger and insecure you have so many masks on. As an actor you must strip away those masks and expose your most vulnerable self. Learn to embrace your vulnerability. Also not all actors are extroverts. It’s a myth. And you don’t need to be crazy to be an actor. Ivana also taught me that it is being able to let go and really go there but also to not carry that into your day to day life. As actors we explore and work on some of our deepest childhood memories that may have affected us emotionally and even detrimentally and we work through those to overcome these events and through acting have catharsis. Acting is like therapy.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Repeating from above, “enjoy the journey don’t worry about the destination”. Before acting I achieved certain goals in my previous careers as a cop and Realtor. I used to set five year goals and at first this was quite exciting, reaching milestones but then I found a sense of “What now?” As I get older I realize it’s much more important as I mentioned above, be present, enjoy the moment, the people you are with, the experiences instead of always wishing you were somewhere further ahead or somewhere else. Recently losing my sister made me really focus on this aspect more.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There has been a number of people I am grateful for and continue to be. My close friends and family are very supportive. Not one of them thought I was crazy for leaving a lucrative real estate career to pursue acting. I can’t narrow down to one, recently Katt Shea, Director and acting coach for recommending me for a number of roles . In fact one that she was asked to do but he was busy directing the4 Nancy Drew movie! She focuses on Directing and put me up for a role that I was fortunate to win a couple of awards. Also Kim Krejus, my beautiful friend and Artistic Director at 16th Street Acting Studio, whom has consistently encouraged me with my acting and writing.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
I would love to have lunch with Darren Star, writer /producer of all the shows my girlfriends’ and I grew up watching, especially,”Sex and The City.” I also love “Younger” which is on now. Or if he’s too busy, Richard Branson. I have followed his career since I read his autobiography.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I am on Instagram
and I have my official actress page on facebook. https://www.facebook.com/WendyWilkinsactress/
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!