The ‘UnREAL’ Hollywood, Tough Situations, And How To Always Be Yourself According To Actress Natasha Wilson
GALO: Going off that, in a recent EW interview, you spoke about this being an “uprising awareness campaign.” Apart from the hope that viewers might rethink watching such shows in their down time, do you think it is possible that the basis and production of reality shows will change one day? It’s a bit hard to imagine that producers and TV networks would be willing to change the business model given how financially successful these shows are.
NW: I think that reality shows have been in the mix for so long now that people are starting to understand that it is just another format of storytelling. It’s just another way of telling the human story, even if they are “created.” But I’m sure that these [shows] are a reflection of what people see in their daily lives and write about, or that whole creative aspect.
I do feel like reality shows are dying down — I’m not sure, though. I’m not sure that people will watch other people get manipulated anymore or hurt. They do realize that they are real-life human beings — even though it is scripted here and there with all of the edits of the provocations and fights — and that it’s not fair that they are in an experiment that is going on. They don’t really understand what they signed up for. Even if they watched previous episodes or previous seasons of these shows, I still think that they believe that it isn’t going to happen to them and that they will be able to control all of the variables and won’t be the crazy people. But when you take mice and put them in an enclosed environment where you control everything, they can’t help but be controlled.
I don’t think it’s ethically okay, and I would hope that there is eventually an intervention that occurs. I don’t think anyone has even really pointed out how unethical these televised experiments really are. These people sign away their lives, and I think they could at least have a little more in-depth briefing before they sign the paperwork. I noticed that most reality shows now that are popular are housekeeping and DIY shows, and those reality shows probably even have a little bit of scripted aspects. But I think that is healthier than the whole alcohol [thing] and all that other kind of reality stuff.
GALO: So, last we saw Maya, she decided to leave. Do you think she made the right decision in leaving? What do you think would have happened if she stayed?
NW: It was difficult because she’s leaving behind these women who are going to be further manipulated, taken advantage of, and exploited. So there is that sense of abandoning people that need to be educated and cared for. You know, they are so stuck in their elements and their mindsets that I don’t know that Maya could have even helped them. They also have their own competitions going on within themselves, the jealousy and catfights — they might be in it for different reasons. They might be trying to out prove themselves within that circle, outside of Adam.
I think at that point, for Maya to leave, it was, of course, the healthiest choice she could have made. I think if Maya stayed, she would have tried to talk to Rachel [Shiri Appleby] a little bit more. I do think that Maya can see Rachel’s conflicting state of mind and her desperation at that point, especially after Mary [Ashley Scott] jumps off the building. I do think there is a tiny little crack of vulnerability that Rachel has that Maya can see into, especially after Rachel agrees with her about how crazy the situation is and how manipulative it is. If Maya were to stay, I think she would try to work on that relationship and try to bring Rachel back to the light side and maybe inspire her to change her ways. I think that is what everyone is trying to do for Rachel. But maybe Maya might be the person who could actually pull her out of it. They do have sort of a connection. Maybe Maya was the “pre-Rachel” before Rachel started to get involved in this type of setting. You know, that Rachel [who] wants to do it right.
GALO: And is this the end of your character’s journey on UnREAL or will we see her again?
NW: I don’t know. It is the end of Maya for season one.
GALO: I noticed on IMDB that between 2006 and 2013, you seemed to have disappeared from the radar. What can you tell us about your little hiatus? Were there just no opportunities you were interested in or did you just need to take a break and focus on something else?
NW: I didn’t want to be controlled and there was so much pressure. I wanted to travel, and when I first started making money acting, the first places I went to were India, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia (the more poverty-stricken parts of the world). I didn’t have any interest in Paris, Rome, or Milan. It was important for me to have the freedom to engage in different interests of mine, because acting had just been something I didn’t really pursue — it just kind of fell in my lap and I went along with it. It was around 2006 when I realized that I had a choice and that I could actually leave it. It wasn’t that I wanted to leave it because I didn’t like it. I just wanted to leave it to make sure that it was the right decision [and] that I really wanted to be a part of it. I needed the time to decide about my future. Did I want a different career? I had so many different interests (and I still do). At that time, I was like, “do I want to be this high school dropout actress, or do I want to have more power and make a confident decision in whichever direction?” So, now I am in that “yes, I will die trying to be an actress” mindset. That decision has already been made and I am okay with it.
I hadn’t been exposed to real loss in my life until my father passed away in 2009, and then I had a few friends and family friends pass [away]. I had never experienced what it was like for someone in your life to disappear. That was a heavy realization for me. We have such a short amount of time here; I should do what I truly want to do without fear of failure. So that’s when I said, “Screw it. I’m doing it all the way and [will] do the best I can.
GALO: I’m sorry to hear about your father and friends. That must have been awfully hard. But what you said — that’s definitely a good thing to take away from your life experiences. Jumping ship a little, I’m mostly interested in knowing what goes on in your mind when you’re not living another person’s life on screen? Who is Natasha outside of the acting world and what does she enjoy doing in her spare time?
NW: I am always reading books and I have lots of interesting friends who are involved in documentary filmmaking and storytelling. Even right now, my brother and I are working on our first show that we are going to try to pitch. So I am always doing something. Another thing that I didn’t realize I was doing until my friends started pointing it out to me is that anytime I meet anyone — it can be the bus driver or any random person — I always try to decide what their story is. Not in the judgmental way, but I watch their body language, the way that they speak and how they stress certain vowels. It’s like a character study and I do it for pretty much everyone that I see. I’m just collecting data for the next script I have to read or the next character I have to understand.
GALO: In one interview, you said that you work in the film industry in order to “unravel knots and inspire change for the better.” Could you elaborate on this? Does this perhaps have something to do with your passion for animal rights or other causes?
NW: So, I think that when people go to the movies and they are moved by an emotional scene (or even something in the scene that is benign but is able to move a few audience members) that is something that is so fascinating to me. You are sitting in this big, dark, black room with a massive screen and the actors’ faces are huge. They can’t lie. If they are lying, you can catch it. But when it is true acting, it is magical. It almost allows them to feel things that they otherwise don’t want to feel. People go to watch comedic movies for relief or a need. It’s essentially a need for x, y and z. When there is a need to feel something or a need to relate to a character, it means there is a need to connect. It is a good medium to have people affected by your character, [you can] then use that trust to bring to light other topic matters that people wouldn’t normally feel comfortable discussing or being part of. Or even raise awareness for topics that they wouldn’t have otherwise thought of. So it is a way of gaining trust and then educating people about topics that they are unaware of — and if they are aware, asking what those people have done to either contribute or take away from the topic. It’s a good way to talk to people without you being you. I can’t imagine being a bystander and not doing something about something that is so apparently wrong. It just kills me. I feel like I’m choking if I see something happen where someone/something is being completely taken advantage of. It kills me. Maybe it is just my own need to try to do something about it.
GALO: Having a dual citizenship in both America and Canada must be a treat, as they are two different environments that can often be an oasis from the other. If you ever had to choose one over the other, would you be able to make that decision? What factors would you consider?
NW: I do discuss this all the time. When it comes to the older generation, healthcare is phenomenal in Canada. But because I am not old yet, I don’t understand how essential healthcare might be. When you’re older and everything costs so much money, it is important to have a system that does take care of you. I haven’t really dived much into Obamacare to see if it is similar to the same thing. So for an older generation, I would choose Canada in a heartbeat.
Canadians love Canada because it doesn’t have such a corporate mindset. The focus is not on making money, making a product bigger and better for cheaper or accumulating consumer products. I can’t speak for the entire United States, but in New York and L.A. there is a culture of consumption. I do feel like most of America feeds off the newest products. I just don’t know that the focus is so much on taking care of the planet or thinking long-term. Like in Vancouver, we have to compost items. We can actually get fined if there [is] plastic in the garbage. It’s the same thing in California, but now we cannot even put food in the garbage bag in the trash. You get huge fines and tickets if there is even a banana peel in the garbage can. A lot of the change for the better is enforced because it is a primary focus. Nature, water consumption, taking care of specific grounds and parks are [all] important. Nature is very much protected and animals are protected in Canada. Different countries understand different things. I cannot choose between the two. But if I had to, I would choose California because the temperature is warmer and I would have to live in a warmer climate.
GALO: You also speak five languages, correct? What interested you in learning these languages?
NW: I do! I grew up speaking English and French. I began traveling when I was very young and I had been exposed to a variety of dialects in a multitude of languages.
Languages help us to engage with one another, but also with different parts of ourselves. I think about intonation, volume, voice quality, rhythm, body posture, and physical gestures that pair with verbal communication. Essentially, what a language does is that it helps another [person] decode what you’re encoding. It invites another [individual] into your world as you experience it. It’s sharing. A language communicates one’s thoughts, feelings, and is a beautiful way to engage another into your world — verbal or nonverbal, but still a language of some sort. Different languages stress different values in their cultures. The language very much reflects a culture’s foundation and evolves to exclude unimportant words of the current moment in time, while also including new and seemingly relevant words (“bootylicious,“ anyone?).
In traveling to India more than half a dozen times now, I have learned to speak conversational Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi. I can understand 85 percent of it now. Today, I am working on learning to speak conversational Spanish and German. Both are very unique, and again, [they] reflect the culture’s social temperature and current necessities of communication. I have always felt like I can learn more, do more, understand more, and create more. I’m always trying to grow (at warp speeds it feels like!). With this comes my fascination with languages. I enjoy understanding another person’s way of thinking and I believe one’s use of language says a lot about who they are — their sentence structure, choice of vocabulary, speech pattern and overall energy behind the tones and notes. This can come out of a survival need, the geological climate, social context (quick, rushed languages vs. colorful, eloquent tongues). I’m fascinated with human beings and our plethora of verbal and non-verbal languages, cultures, and social contexts.
GALO: I read that you enjoy interior decorating and shopping for antiques. What have you recently purchased and how would you say it reflects who you are?
NW: My most recent acquisition is a hand carved antique, brass tray topped, Anglo-Indian table. This work represents hours of someone’s focus and attention, not only showcasing the artist’s creative imagination, but also highlighting their engineering skillset. The depth of detail can be easily overlooked, as it doesn’t distract in an aggressive manner. Instead, the carefully carved botanicals allow for a sense of delicacy and humility, while keeping the piece sturdy and strong, all the while serving its purpose. I am a believer that there is a little bit of us in everything and a little bit of everything in us. Life recycles itself into one another.
GALO: Going off that, you say you like to breathe new life into damaged things. How does this pertain to your roles on screen? And what would you say is your deal breaker when it comes to choosing a role? Is there any type of role that you are absolutely against taking on?
NW: Adapting is stronger than remaining stubborn. I think in this career, today I can think one way and tomorrow I may think differently, depending on new information I’ve received/new lessons I’ve learned. If I find a scene to be completely uncharacteristic, I will challenge its relevance, absolutely. This [stance] is not to fight, but is instead to understand another’s POV (i.e. writer’s/producer’s/director’s) and then incorporate it into my understanding of the character. Today, I am open to understanding all characters, and as long as I believe in the work and the people behind the project, I will honor the written character.
GALO: So now that UnREAL has wrapped up for you, where can fans expect to see you next?
NW: I just finished an independent feature film called Darc. It is a hyper-violent, epic gangster film that stars Tony Schiena, who [also] wrote it. He is a real-life special operations guy who works with government operations. He’s highly trained and he’s kind of like the new action hero. I play a daughter who is kidnapped by a Japanese clan. My father ends up sending out Darc (Schiena’s character) to save my life. The whole movie takes place in-between the States and Tokyo.
GALO: That sounds intriguing! We can’t wait to see it when it comes out next year. Thank you so much for chatting with us!