WILLA FITZGERALD. TO THOSE OF YOU WHO DON’T KNOW, NOW YOU KNOW. Welcome to this sheer force of a woman who is sure to take the world by storm. Superstars have a magnetic field they say. SO, here’s to a woman who believes we are all activists, and that in realizing the lessons of self-reflection ( and the mirrors that those around us provide) we can fully realize both our artistic intentions and our purpose. Let’s get higher people. Lets’s Get Loud, and let it go…

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ERIN WALSH Lets start at the beginning. Where are you from? How did you get involved in acting.

WILLA FITZGERALD I’m from Nashville, TN. I’m an only child. I spent a lot of time entertaining myself as a child – running around my backyard playing all the characters in the stories I would make up, creating elaborate dances in wild costumes, and generally just taking all of this play VERY seriously. I started acting in front of people and not just in my backyard when I was in 5th grade. I joined the forensics team at my school which is sort of like competitive performance. You choose a monologue or a story and perform in rounds in front of judges. I got addicted to that rush of performing the first time I did it. I told my mom it felt like flying. Nothing in my life has ever felt as charged, as vital, as addictive as the sensation of performance. So I guess you could say, I did it once, and I couldn’t stop.


EW You have told me your “getting discovered” story and it speaks so much to me about how luck is a part of the talent bit. Can you enlighten our readers?

WF Finding my agents was perhaps one of the most serendipitous experiences I’ve had. I wrote my thesis at Yale on the Wooster Group, and so there were videos of me on their vlog in my senior year of college. These weren’t videos of me acting. These were experimental videos put together by one of the company members that I just happened to be featured in hanging around the garage, or talking about the rehearsal that day, or mopping the floors. But in the spring of my senior year, a director emailed the experimental theater company I was in at Yale trying to get in touch with me. No one ever checked that email account regularly but luckily someone saw the email and passed it along to me. The director had seen me on the Wooster Group’s vlog and wanted me to tape myself for a reading of movie he was trying to get made. I made two different tapes because I had no idea what “making a tape” was and sent them along. I didn’t get the reading, it went to an actress who was already working and established, but he ended up passing my materials along to the people who would be my agents. They called me a week later and asked me to come to NYC to meet them. I thought it would be a standard meet and greet, the kind I had heard about where agents ask you tell them when you’re doing a play downtown that they can come see you in, etc. But instead I walked into their office, full of nerves and anticipation and they offered to represent me. It’s wild to think about that string of events because if anything had shifted slightly, I may have never found Rachel and Ellen (my agents), who I love and have been working with since before the beginning.

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EW You are a CITY GIRL.  You are known to go out of your way to take long walks just kind of “around” whenever possible. Any favorite haunts, strolls, activities or whereabouts we should know about?

WF Oh I am a dedicated walker. It is my favorite part of living in a city, especially a city as walkable as NYC. I will get off of the subway a stop early, or walk to a further subway just to have time outside, people watching. Prospect Park and Red Hook are two of my favorite places. I also love walking all along the water from Red Hook to Brooklyn Heights. When I was training for the marathon I would do a lot of what I called “exploratory runs”. Basically I would just take the subway somewhere, kind of anywhere, get off, and run in a direction for 6 miles, 11 miles, 15 miles, whatever the mileage was that day and then get back on the subway and go home. Getting lost is the best way to learn where you are.

EW Favorite secret spot in NYC?

WF There is an amazing little park, almost a tiny town square, in cobble hill between these brownstones. I love walking my pup there in the mornings, sitting down, drinking coffee, and doing some writing. For some reason that garden feels out of time and place to me.

EW I find you to be so insatiably curious. What most fascinates you lately? Both in the news and even just randomly around you?

WF I’m on a really deep poetry kick right now. I just recently moved and had to take stock of all the books in my apartment. I found so many collections of poems I had forgotten about, or had bought and hadn’t ever read. There are just piles of books of poetry on all my surfaces right now. I’m currently in a moment of a lot of transitions and changes and my life feels like it’s moving very fast. Poetry speaks to this moment in my life so seamlessly because it offers itself up both in fragments (a poem here, a poem there) and in its whole (the full book itself).

EW Anything you have seen lately (film, theatre, art, etc) that you found to be particularly inspiring?

WF I just saw the Sound Inside on Broadway with Mary Louise Parker. She is an absolute force. I was all the way up in the balcony, and the show is just two people on stage. Even though I was truly in the nosebleed seats, the vitality of those performances truly reached all the way to the back of the theater. Nothing gets me more excited or more energized than theater that really MOVES.

I also saw Portrait of a Lady on Fire at Tiff this past September. What an amazing film. I don’t think I’ve ever been so engaged, so delighted, or so surprised by a film. Emily Dickinson said “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” Well that’s how that film made me feel.

EW Let’s talk about your process as an actor. Where do you start with each role? Anything specifically physically or mentally in terms of preparation that you find to be helpful?

WF I start with the page. I’m big on text study. I think because I started in theater, I really believe all of the answers to any of my questions can be found on the page, even if that means between the lines. I also love to do extended free-writes for characters, just spill everything, all my thoughts, out onto the page and see what ideas or revelations stick. Once I’m a little more situated in the character, I love making playlists for that person. A soundtrack is infinitely helpful in prepping and on set. Also meditating during wild days on set keeps the whole machine moving.

I think we should all be fighting for equality in our communities and justice for our peers, neighbors and our earth.

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EW Any times you have ever felt unsafe or taken advantage of in this business?

WF I feel very lucky. I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve felt unsafe in this business. I’ve had the pleasure of working with people who I respect and who have been incredibly respectful. I also feel like I entered this business in a moment where there was growing awareness around power dynamics and workplace environment. I am currently on a show where our show runners, most of our writers, most of our directors and most of our leads are women. And I can say, it is a wildly different dynamic and environment on a set led by women.

EW Do you ever hope to get into directing or other sides of the camera?

WF Yes! I directed a few plays in college and also took several playwriting classes. I’ve been working on writing a few different things for film for the past couple of years. I started writing again because I realized how much I craved some sense of control over when I get to be creative. I think that is the most difficult thing about being an actor. There is a degree of waiting you have to become comfortable with OR you have to start producing your own work and making your own opportunities to be creative. I’m a workaholic – so I think it was natural that I just reached a point where I couldn’t do anything but the latter.

EW I know you write as well- can you tell us a bit about what you are currently writing and other projects in this vein you have worked on/ are working on?

WF The current baby is an adaptation of a novel from the 1860s. The seed of the novel is the premise of the film which is set a decade into the future. That’s all I’m giving away for now.

EW How do you feed your creative self on a daily basis?

WF It’s incredibly important to me to have creative outlets that aren’t related to my job or my industry. I love starting my days writing, reading a book and walking my dog. Those are the ways I find my inner home and feed my creative self. I also love taking myself on dates – going to a museum alone, seeing a play or movie alone, taking myself out to dinner. I’m an introvert. So I guess what I’ve realized over the years is making my time by myself as mindful as possible is how I give myself the most energy and access to my creative resources. I’ve also been back in the pottery studio recently after taking a year off. I love spending a few hours on the wheel making pots and plates and cups. There is something so satisfying about making something concrete, distinct and utterly useful.

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EW What are you daily rituals? Meaning, both what a typical day is like for you and how do you connect with your professional needs, your creative ones, your loved ones every day? I know it is hard in a freelance world to find structure and inner calm simultaneously- so, well, how do you chase the dragon?

WF I feel like my first years in NYC were really a quest for creating structure. And it was certainly a difficult journey. It is so hard to find consistency when your life can be upended on a daily basis – you get a job, you leave the next day; you’re unemployed for a couple of months waiting for the next project. I really rely on the small daily rituals – making coffee at home, cooking most of my own meals, going to the gym every day I can, taking my dog on two long walks a day. I’ve found that if I start my day with structure (coffee, gym, walk) and end my day with structure (reading, writing, tech-free time), I feel so much more centered and capable.



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EW Do you think in terms of 5 year plans, 10 year plans- do you have one?

WF I do of course have ideas of where I want to be in 5 years, and 10 years. But I feel like I also have been utterly surprised by so many things that have happened in my life thus far. If someone told my child self where I’d be right now, I would have never believed it. I want to direct. I want to produce. I want to have as much agency as possible in the projects I do. I have a list of people I want to work with. I want my friend-family to grow even stronger. I want to become a stronger advocate for change in my community globally and locally. But I think the real secret to a 5 year plan or a 10 year plan is staying open and making myself available to all of the wild and wonderful challenges, changes and opportunities which are sure to be a part of those years. That’s where the magic happens.


EW Do you believe that acting is a vocation, that it is a higher calling?

WF I do. I didn’t want to go to conservatory for college because I knew I needed to make absolutely SURE that there was nothing else I could possibly do as a profession. I went to Yale as a Psych major, intending to finish my degree in that department. That didn’t happen. After doing at least two plays a semester and taking as many classes in the theater studies department as possible, I switched to Theater Studies as my major in my Junior year. When I got my agents in my Senior year it was the clearest sign I could have ever asked for. I knew I had to move to New York and take the journey I had to go on.

EW Do you find  a great social responsibility to being in the public eye, and sharing yourself in a very public ( and increasingly more so) realm?

WF Yes, I do. I think there is a real complexity to having any sort of public facing image. I obviously have a lot of thoughts and ideas about the world, politics, society, etc. I also am not an expert in the fields I have opinions about. So basically, when I offer up my ideas about the world on social media, or in an interview, or any sort of public space I’m offering up just that, my ideas. It’s a dialogue with an audience that can’t really answer because of the distance of time and space. And that always makes me a little self conscious because I’m not trying to preach. I’m just trying to be the most alive and awake citizen I can be.

EW What do you most hope your legacy to be?

WF Wow. Hard questions – maybe because I think “legacy” implies to me something remote, the way I’m perceived by people distant in the future. And I think what matters to me most is to be loved and respected by the people I surround myself with on a daily basis. I guess I want my legacy to be that of a curious and engaged human who was a loyal and dedicated friend, collaborator and colleague.

I would also love to leave a physical legacy – some sort of communal work and maybe even living space that provides resources and opportunities and community for artists.

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I want my legacy to be that of a curious and engaged human who was a loyal and dedicated friend, collaborator and colleague.


EW In one sentence tell us what you learned from your higher education.

WF Do not procrastinate.

EW What is your most happy place right now?

WF With my dog, on a walk, making audio memos of ideas.

EW What do you wish someone would have told you when you were starting out?

WF There is no right way to do it. Be a freak.

EW Mantra?

WF Be as a leaf on the stream.

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EW Favorite meal?

WF Sourdough bread, homemade pasta sauce and a delightful salad. And dark chocolate. Always dark chocolate.

EW Any physical things that make you feel fantastic and like your best creative self you would like to share with us?

WF A hot bath. A great long slow run. A face massage. An Alexander lie down.

EW Any charities or causes you would like to bring attention to?

WF At the end of last year, I travelled to Nepal with Thousand Currents—a non profit organization that supports and funds grassroots movements and communities in the Global South that are working for climate justice, economic justice and food sovereignty. These efforts are largely led by indigenous peoples, youth and women. Thousand Currents is a public foundation, meaning they do not take government grants. Funded by individual donors, Thousand Currents provides the kind of holistic support needed to affect actual change by providing flexible and unrestricted, general operating grants to these communities.

EW Do you consider yourself to be an activist? What does that mean these days anyways?

WF I want to become MORE of an activist. I think we should all be activists. I think we should all be fighting for equality in our communities and justice for our peers, neighbors and our earth. To me, being an activist is being an engaged citizen – organizing, voting, showing up and speaking up.

EW WILLA FITZGERALD- WHATS YOUR SBJCT? What really moves you and motivates you and makes you most extraordinary?

WF Art. I never feel more myself than when I’m engaged with a piece of art whether that is a novel, a painting, a film. It’s a mirror, a lens, a new way of looking and seeing myself and the world I live in.

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