Starburst (UK): “To Live and Thrive in LA” – 2001
Author: Ian Spelling
Magazine: Starburst (UK), issue December 2001 (#280; Vol. 26, No. 3)
She’s been stuck in a demon dimension for years, but now she’s back in the real world — if Los Angeles counts! Meet Angel‘s new assistant, Fred, aka Amy Acker…
When the team from Angel Investigations headed over the rainbow to Pylea in search of the kidnapped Cordelia, they weren’t to know they were about to get a new recruit to the team. In Season Three Amy Acker becomes a regular character, as Fred, a woman returning to reality after five years away…
At what point did you learn you were going to be a regular on Angel?
Actually, I knew pretty early that I was going to be a regular during the third season. I knew before I did my first four, at the end of season two, that I’d be sticking around. David [Greenwalt] and Joss [Whedon] called me, together, to tell me what was going to happen. Joss had written a little screen test for me to play with J August Richards and Alexis Denisof. J and Alexis were so nice — they came in early one morning and filmed the screen test with me and that was sent to the WB, and I guess everyone liked it enough to cast me as a regular.
What’s your understanding of Fred? Who do you think Winifred Burkle really is?
Well, Fred has been in the demon dimension [Pylea] for the the past five years. Now she’s come back and she’s trying to readjust to life, to normal life, if you can call being around Angel, Cordelia, Gunn and Wesley a normal life. This will really be about her learning to cope with all of these new experiences and trying to ease back into the real world. You’ll also see her kind of come out of her shell. Fred is smart. She knows a lot about math and books. Hopefully she’ll help Angel and the other guys figure things out as they go, kind of in the way that Wesley does, by finding something in a book or solving an equation that will help in the group. And as I said, Fred’s been in Pylea and that could be helpful, too, but I don’t know what they’re going to do with that. A lot of it, right now, will be a mix of comedy and sadness, of what it’s like readjusting to living with people without all of the fear of being in the demon world.
And what about romance? Fred could use some loving, right? And she seems to have a crush on Angel…
I think there’s going to be a lot of romance on the show this season, but I don’t know how much of it Fred will be involved in. Right now, she’s still just getting back to the idea of being a normal person on Earth. But I don’t know what they’ve got planned for her [down the road].
What’s it like working with your co-stars?
They’re all awesome. It’s been a lot of fun, but it’s strange, because they’ve been doing it for a long time. But everybody’s been so welcoming to me. They like the idea of having new people on the show, to share the load. They’ve been so helpful and they’re all encouraging about everything. Everyone’s gone out of his or her way to make me feel comfortable.
But it’s still got to be a little disorientating joining an existing series.
I’d watched the show a lot. My roommates had watched the show. Everyone, as soon as I got cast on Angel had a million things to tell me. “Oh, do you know this and this and this?” I was like, “Oh yeah? Really?” That was a little overwhelming. I was suddenly given a lot of information, and I’m still learning so much. I’m learning about things that happened to Angel more than 100 years ago that affect how he and Fred deal with each other now. I’m getting information from the writers and the producers about things that happened to my character when she was in the demon dimension. So it’s been interesting. I like having these things to learn about the show, about the history of the characters. More so than being on a show that’s been on for a while, I’ve been dealing with being on a TV show. I’d mainly done theatre, so TV is a big switch for me. So, I’m not only learning about Angel and all the characters, but I’m also learning about all the technical aspects of making TV and how fast it goes. You get a few takes of a scene, but it’s not like you can try it a bunch of different ways. You have to do it before the camera starts rolling or you’ll be holding a lot of people up and costing the production money.
What aspects of the character are you most eager to explore?
I think it will be really great when Fred regains her confidence. Fred gets these great ideas and she will go on about them, even if people aren’t exactly following her. That happens a lot. She’ll start to explain an idea and everyone will be like, “What?” She’ll keep explaining and even if they don’t really get it, it’ll be an idea that will end up helping them. So, the more she gains confidence in herself, the more the others will gain confidence in her and count on her. I’d also like to find out more about who she is. She’s been living in a potato sack with dirt on her face for five years. Now she can discover who she is as a person again. We’ve talked a bit about her history, her growing up in Texas and coming out to Los Angeles and working at the library and studying physics. Hopefully her past will come into play more.
Were you pleased with the four episodes you were in last year?
I really liked all of them. It was kind of like one big episode, what with them all being in the other dimension. I loved doing the scenes with David in the cave. That was probably the best part of doing those shows, and it was neat to work with him. I learned a lot just from watching him and from working with Tim Minear and David Greenwalt, who directed those scenes between them. They were awesome. Another thing I liked about those cave scenes was the dialogue — it was real intimate, and that was great to play in these strange circumstances.
Like Star Trek fans, Angel‘s followers are quick to jump online after an episode and critique the script, the acting and even the cast’s figures. Are you ready for that kind of intensive scrutiny?
I guess I’m ready. I don’t know how you become ready, how you make yourself ready. My mom called me the other day and said, “Oh, I found some web sites about you.” So my family’s very excited about it. I try not to get too concerned about what people say or will say because everyone has an opinion. And, unfortunately, if someone has a bad opinion of you or something you’ve done, that’s usually the one that will stick out in your mind. So I’m just trying to enjoy my job, and I’m hoping the fans like what I do. It’s great that the show has so many fans, such a strong following. Most people have such a great opinion of the show, and I just hope that I can add to that.
In what sort of way?
I’m hoping that Fred will bring another aspect to the show that it hasn’t had yet. Fred is another girl on the scene, so I think Cordelia and Fred will bond some this season. A few people told me that they didn’t think there had ever been a scene on Angel that was just between two girls. So it will be nice for Cordelia to have someone to talk to. I also think that Fred is a little younger and more naive than the other characters, so that’s another story angle that suddenly opened up.
What’s your own background? Where were you born? What got you into acting?
I’m from Dallas, Texas. I went to college for four years and my accent was pretty much pounded out of me. Then, of course, as soon as I auditioned for Fred, Joss said he wanted me to use my Southern accent again. And I was like, “Oh, OK. So I just spent all that money getting rid of it for nothing.” But I started acting in high school. I auditioned for Southern Methodist University (SMU) and ended up going to school in Dallas, where I majored in acting. While I was there I did a series for PBS called Wishbone, that was shot in Dallas, and I did a few other little things, like an NBC movie of the week. After I graduated from college I went and worked at a Shakespeare festival for about eight months in the middle of Wisconsin. That was amazing and wonderful and I learned so much. I really thought I wanted to do theatre, so I moved to New York City after that.
Then I started auditioning for TV shows and movies. I got an agent and all of that stuff. I ended up doing a pilot and two independent films and no theatre. I thought, “If I’m going to end up doing TV and film, then maybe I should try going to LA, where it’s nice and pretty and warm.” I came out here at the end of 2000. Pretty much right after I got out here I left for Arizona to do a movie that William Shatner wrote and directed. I came back to LA after we finished that and I’ve been doing Angel since then.
The pilot was Hell House, wasn’t it?
Yes. Hell House was for MTV, but it didn’t go anywhere. It was about seven college kids who lived in a haunted house, and I played a bitch in a wheelchair. That was the description for my character! So I was mean. I’m not sure what was going to happen because we never got beyond the pilot, but I think I was going to become a ghost. It was a neat idea. I don’t think you’d have heard of anyone else in the cast. It was a group of young, working actors who’ve all moved on to other stuff. It’s too bad that it didn’t work out. But I guess it’s not too bad because I got to do Angel instead.
And the Shatner movie was Groom Lake…
I play a girl who’s diagnosed with lupus and is about to die from it. She tells her boyfriend (played by Dan Gauthier, who played Ensign Lavelle in the Lower Decks episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation) that she wants to go out to Groom Lake, out in Area 51, as she thinks that if she sees a UFO or an alien then she’ll know there’s something else out there, and that after she dies there’s still something else. So they go to Groom Lake and they end up trespassing on government property. The car breaks down and she gets kidnapped and taken back to the base camp where William Shatner works, and he’s trying to save this alien that they’ve captured. So my boyfriend and William Shatner team up to save both the alien and me! It was interesting to make. I had no idea what to expect from William Shatner, but in person he seems a lot like he is on screen. I don’t know what’s happening with the movie right now.
You’re not having much luck, are you? A wheelchair-bound bitch and a dying woman! Is the third movie any happier…
Actually, it’s called The Accident! That’s kind of a horror movie. My friend and I accidentally murder someone. We hide the body and then have to deal with the ramifications of it, psychologically and all of that. I think they’re trying to get the film into some festivals so that it can get a distributor.
And in the meantime, you’re playing Fred… maybe for the next few years! So if it all works out, are you ready for that?
Yeah, that would be great. I’m very ready!
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