I am a terrible interviewer. I didn’t think I was, but then I interviewed Ella Wahlestedt for her new film Earth to Echo, and yup, not a good job by me. I had the chance to interview Kermit the Frog, and that was a group style interview with several of us asking Kermit questions in turns, and I thought that went swimmingly. I learned minutes before that this was to be, in fact, a one-on-one interview. And I had ten minutes. I did not have ten minutes worth of questions. That’s my bad. I will be waaaay better my next interview, if Jennifer and The Mandarin Oriental and the person responsible for such things for their respective movies give me another opportunity. Like, I will totally do an awesome job interviewing Oscar Isaac for the next Star Wars is all I’m saying.
I walk into one of the rooms at the Mandarin Oriental and there’s Ella Wahlestedt and if memory serves 400 publicists and movie people (I could be wrong about that). I immediately begin to feel the redness creeping up my neck to my face. The thing is, I get very star-struck. I get star-struck by extras playing corpses in CSI. But everyone is very friendly and gracious and don’t throw me out of the room for this.
Ella Wahlestedt moved to Palm Beach from Sweden when she was six, and moved to Miami just three years ago. Her family and friends are here. I asked what kinds of things she liked to do. Where she liked to go eat in Miami, for example (I never said these questions were gold). “We’re really big fans of Peruvian food,” Ms. Wahlestedt responded. “There’s some really good places, especially here in Miami. I love ceviche.” I suggested she try Jalea Mixta, a plate of fried seafood in red onion salsa, but that comment kind of just hung in the air like a stale fart. She was kind enough to give me a “Sounds good!”
The way she got into acting was “kind of a funny story.” She did gymnastics for a long time, and one day her coach didn’t show up. Wanting “to pass the time,” there was an acting class next door and she took a class. She was ten, and she “really, really enjoyed it.” She kept going back and eventually got accepted into a performing arts middle school where she was a theater major. From there, film and TV followed. She started going on auditions and “kind of did a little bit of modeling, but [she] found that [she] enjoyed acting a lot more.” It was more of a challenge to her, so she decided to pursue that route.
Being unfamiliar with how press junkets worked, I asked. “How many cities? How many days,” I wanted to know. “This is actually my very first press day.” Multiple interviews all day, and the poor girl got stuck with me. I’ll be much better when I’m interviewing her for 2 Earth 2 Echo: Suburban Drift. She said, “It’s been a really exciting experience for me. I’ll be heading to New York and Denver and back to LA, but I’m still kind of new at this.” You and me both. I asked if she kept hearing the same questions over and over, which is probably one of the questions she’s heard over and over. Ugh! But she’s enthusiastic about the movie and loves talking about it.
The movie was shot two years ago when Ms. Wahlestedt was 13. “You looked younger,” I said. As you’ve surmised by now, I ask the hard-hitting questions. Move over David Frost. Before the interview, I knew I’d ask what actors she most admired or most wanted to work with. I put my money on Meryl Streep. “I really like Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep.” Bingo! “That’s the obvious answer, but they’re so famous for a reason.” She loved Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump and it’s one of her favorite all-time movies. I wondered if she had to study for this film or rewatch maybe Goonies or ET. She grew up watching those movies, and “they are similar. They both deal with themes of friendship and outer space.” But she feels this film “is a fresh, new take on it meant for this generation with all the technology.” She believes kids nowadays will really relate to this movie.
Favorite movie? Forrest Gump, as previously mentioned. She also really likes The Perks of Being a Wallflower, American Beauty, and Donnie Darker. “I love a good mindbender.” Wonder if she’s seen Mulholland Drive. “Are you working on anything now?” She was on Army Wives for a full season, and just finished a project with James Franco. That’s interesting! Of course, you’d think I’d ask a follow-up question. Nope. Not me. Sure, I had ten minutes, but I’m an efficient interviewer! 6:14 is good enough for me! As far as what the future holds for Ms. Wahlestedt? “I don’t know… We’ll see where this takes me.”
Earth to Echo hits theaters nationwide on July 2nd!
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