We’d love for you to meet Erin Wilhelmi, the lovely actress making her big screen debut this month in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Starring opposite Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, and Ezra Miller, Erin plays ‘wannabe goth’ high school student, Alice. She took some time to chat with All Things Girl between projects.
Some of our readers may recognize your face or your name, but tell us more about Erin Wilhelmi?
I was born and raised in Louisville Kentucky. I moved to NYC after graduating from the University of Evansville (in Evansville Indiana) with a BFA in Acting and been working here ever since.
What was your first paid acting gig? How did you celebrate that important milestone?
I performed in a children’s theatre show at Derby Dinner Playhouse in Clarksville Indiana one summer. That was my first official paid acting gig. It wasn’t very much pay, I don’t think. I think I earned 50 dollars per performance…so I didn’t really celebrate that. My first paid union gig? That would be Perks! :) I celebrated by paying my rent in NYC with my per diem money. haha.
Tell us about your family. Were you the oldest? Only child? How do your experiences growing up influence the portrayal of your characters?
My family means the world to me. My dad is a middle school science teacher, and my mom was a librarian before she decided to stay home to raise my sister and me. I’m six years older then my sister who is currently an education major at Murray State University. I’m so grateful for my upbringing. I think I draw on my experiences constantly as I’m working on a character. I was raised in a middle class environment and I attended both public and private schools. I was exposed to people of different cultural backgrounds and economic levels at an early age, and I think that has helped me to relate to different types of characters.
Tell us about the evolution of Erin?
I was the super quiet and shy one in middle school. Once high school rolled around I think I subconsciously decided to make up for lost time. That’s when I started to focus more on acting. I think, to this day, it still surprises my parents that their once ‘quiet’ daughter is now trying to make a living in front of crowds. I guess it is a little bizarre; it certainly is an evolution.
You are in the film Perks of Being a Wallflower. Tell us about it.
This is an inspiring story about a boy who feels very lost and alone as he starts his first year of high school. He ends up connecting with a group of seniors who ultimately become his best friends. It’s a story that deals with the often harsh reality of the teenage years. I believe this story brings a sense of hope to struggling teenagers – a hope that things will get better. If we can survive the difficult teenage years, perhaps we can survive anything. It’s a powerful feeling, almost as if we are infinite.
And your character Alice?
Alice is one of the seniors who Charlie (Logan Lerman’s character) befriends during his freshman year. She’s part of the ‘fab five’ as Stephen (Chbosky- the director) likes to say. She’s a quiet wallflower (and wannabe goth) who is anxiously awaiting an acceptance letter from her dream college. She’s a bit of a push over; sometimes letting her best friend treat her like dirt. Sounds like high school, right? But, I think as the film progresses she quietly evolves into a more self assured young woman.
Actors draw upon their own experiences. What are the similarities – and differences between “Erin” and “Alice”?
I can relate to the timid side of Alice, her desire to fit in, and her drive to succeed. Alice wants to be a film major and she has her heart set on NYU. I had my heart set on UE (University of Evansville) and I remember the agony of waiting to hear if I’d been accepted. It’s no fun!
Alice is more experimental then I am. She uses fashion as a way to express herself. I never had a specific sense of style so we definitely differ there!
What have you learned from the more experienced actors, like Emma Watson.
I was immediately embraced by Emma, Ezra and Logan. They were so knowledgeable about this profession and it was fascinating to hear their stories. Everyone has such a different path to success in this business. Sometimes that can feel very daunting, but other times it’s inspiring and encouraging.
What’s one thing about you that people may find surprising?
Perhaps my affinity for gorillas. People seem surprised when they find out how much I love gorillas. (I do have posters of gorillas on my wall.) To me, it makes perfect sense… I’m fascinated by human behavior, which is why I’m an actor. Gorillas match our DNA by like 98% which means they’re almost human!
How has your educational background molded you both personally and professionally?
I wouldn’t trade my education for anything. My college experience was both challenging and fulfilling. I was able to earn a conservatory degree while still getting a liberal arts education, which was one of the main reasons I chose UE. My education in the theatre gave me the confidence and the foundation to pursue acting professionally. I am still in contact with some of my professors and I feel such a sense of community and support even after having graduated. There were 16 actors in my graduating class and over half of them live within walking distance of me in NYC! The hardest (and scariest) auditions I ever did were in college and that prepared me well for the real world. I still look back at my notes from acting classes when I go in for different auditions. I’m so grateful for my undergraduate experience.
Is there a role model, mentor, or other person who helped you along the road to success? Is there someone you act as a mentor for?
My parents are my role models. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to watch your child follow such an unstable and sometimes heart wrenching career path. My parents have supported me every step of the way. It has become a routine to call them after every audition. Maybe that’s not always the happiest of phone calls, but it helps to know that someone is there for me immediately after. I wish I could say I was a mentor from my sister, but she is one of the strongest people I know. I try to be a role model for her, but she doesn’t really need one. She is currently very active with Best Buddies International- a non-profit organization dedicated to creating opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Her passion and commitment to children inspires me.
How do you stay in shape with a grueling filming schedule? Tell us about your workout routine and eating habits. What is your “go-to” meal?
Just living in NYC used to be my workout routine. lol. I try to keep track of how far I walk and the miles add up fast when you don’t have a car! A year ago, I actually started getting really involved in Yoga. It has helped me get into better shape and I can already tell I’m much stronger than I was this time last year. I’ve always been passionate about eating healthy. I found that if I focus on the nutrients in the different foods I eat, I’m able to keep a healthy diet. I’m not much of a cook, but my ‘go-to’ meal components would be almond milk, natural peanut butter, any kind of fruit (usually cherries or avocado,) walnuts, and Greek yogurt. I make sure to have plenty of those in the fridge!
What do you do during your downtime?
If I don’t have sides or scripts to work on, I’m usually spending my down time with friends. I love trying new restaurants in Astoria (Queens,) watching The Bachelorette or Mad Men with my roommate, or going to yoga with my many yoga buddies :)
What are the “top five” songs on your Ipod?
Right now the top five are – “Lights” by Ellie Goulding, “Riverside” by Agnes Obel, “Real Hero” by College, “Mere Guru Dev” by Krishna Das, and anything Eminem (I listen to him while I’m cleaning… it gets me pumped!)
What other projects are you working on? What’s on the horizon for Erin Wilhelmi?
I start rehearsals for Playwright’s Horizons’ show “The Great God Pan” by Amy Herzog in October. I will be playing the role of Joelle. I’m so excited about it. It’s the world premiere and it’s such an amazing script. It will be my off-broadway debut – something I’ve worked so hard for and I just can’t wait to work with such an incredible playwright, director and cast.
YOUR TURN: What one question have you never been asked, that you’d like to answer? (And what’s the answer to it?)
What’s with your coloring? (Do you want to tan? Do you even try? Is your hair real?)
And my answer would be – I’ve finally come to terms with my paleness. And no, I will never try to tan ever again. It only results in burns and I’m tired of looking like a lobster. (And yes, this is my natural hair color… which means that my scalp gets sunburned too.)
PHOTOS by JILL WACHTER