on making MORTAL KOMBAT - and her career as an actress
In 1990 Bridgette Wilson (HIGHER LEARNING; BILLY MADISON) won
the crown as Miss Teen USA, and feels it was a helpful experience for
her career: "The pageant was based mainly on your interview skills,
plus an evening gown competition. Having the practice of that to win my
state level competition, then to go on to the nationals, I travelled
throughout the country for a year, being a spokesperson for different
"All of that put together for an entire year I think definitely helped me as far as being at ease with people in interviews and auditions."
Wilson made a conscious choice to pursue her expanding drama career at the age of twelve, when she and her sister and mother had an opportunity to make a trip to Tennessee, a place she says she had always wanted to see, "and to this day I've never been there, but I chose to be in a musical instead. I'd always been involved in singing. It was an active choice to pursue being a performer."
In addition to acting, she continues to grow as a singer, with a record deal in Japan, where she has been recording. "I love music", Wilson says, "so that's a fun thing for me. I'd love the opportunity to develop that more over here, or even to play the role of a singer, to put the two together in a film. Something with music I'd definitely love."
She appreciates that her chosen career can have real social consequences: "What you see in film and media is so powerful, and stays with you. People complain about there being too much violence, or too much of this, too much of that, but as much as violence and other things stick with you, so do images like women fighting back against abuse. That scene in THELMA AND LOUISE where she shoots the rapist in the parking lot: that had such an impact. Audiences went wild over it. I thought it was great."
Wilson graduated from high school early, recalling "I always worked quickly and had gotten A's in my classes, so in my senior year I was able to get all of my credits at half-year. I graduated with my class, but that other half year allowed me to travel around with the [Miss Teen USA] pageant, and other things."
Born and raised in Gold Beach, Oregon, with a population under 2000, Wilson grew up in a family that supported her career ambitions. She moved to Los Angeles at age 17, agreeing that took some courage: "Yeah, I just kind of went for it. I enrolled in an acting class, and I worked in a mattress shop, and did little odds and ends here and there, then got my first acting job."
Recalling the mental training aspects of her martial arts experiences in MORTAL KOMBAT, and how that has helped her feel stronger as an actor, she recognizes another source of encouragement for her demanding career: "The most empowering thing I have in my life is the love and support I have from my entire family.
"My sister lives with me now, so that's a part of home that's with me every day, which is wonderful. When I wake up in the morning, I have a hug from my sister, which means a lot. When things come up in my day that I'm excited about or I'm nervous about, every day I can count on a call from my grandparents to say 'Good luck' and my mom and sister kind of rooting me out the door. It's fun to know, when you're stepping into someone else's life and meeting them for the first time, that you're walking in with so many things already, so many special and wonderful things from your life that if you meet and respond to them, they can feel and share and appreciate those things with you.
"And if not, if they don't respond to you, when you walk away, you really haven't lost anything. Everything that really matters has carried you through it, and that's what makes it okay to get by things when they're not so good. I'm just so lucky. I see and know people that aren't as fortunate, and I count my blessings every day."
As important to Wilson as her growing career is, she values even more having a family of her own someday: "That's an even higher priority to me. I think in part that's because I've had such a great family life growing up, that to have my own family and children to share things with will be the ultimate success, and when that time comes, being a good mother and good wife will be my first priority. Later down the road, at a different point in time, if I continue or resume working as an actor, then that would be great, too.
"I feel very fortunate to have done as much as I have at such young age, because I do feel like I've been able to experience and live it, and hopefully continue, but I also know the only reason I've been able to do all this and enjoy it and love it, is because of what I had growing up, and I would never want to take that from anyone, and if I can give that to someone, meaning my own children, that by far, my whole life to date, and my family life, is much more enriching than my job."
Since her latest work, Wilson is still looking for a part that is "completely out there -where you don't even look at the outside of the character because you're so fascinated by what's going on inside. There's only been a few things come along, but nothing yet that I'm actually doing, that I said 'What do I have to do to get this?' I'm still trying to find that, and in the meantime, there have been some great things come along that are interesting and fun, but not the really intense, challenging role."
Wilson used to be a national spokesperson for MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers): "It was great for me. Fortunately I've never lost anybody to drunk driving, but know people that have. But also, because it was mothers and an adult group, for me to be a part of it, I felt fortunate, because I was able to be sort of their young voice. It was my opportunity to connect with the children, and feel like I was impacting their lives and educating them in a positive way about something that really needs to be addressed.
"That felt good. I'm still a supporter of it, but not as actively involved as before." She is also an active supporter of the American Oceans Campaign, and various AIDS charities: "Those are things I go to and am usually involved in as much as I can. I'm not in charge of anything or a spokesperson or anything, but I try to make myself available to help out. As I continue to be involved, I continue to learn and be aware.
"I like to involved for myself, as well as educate people about it. And it absolutely helps me as an actor, because I think that the more you learn in any area, in any situation, any phase of life, whether it's an organization or just walking down the street and meeting new people - all these experiences help me as a person and as an actress.
"Especially living in a city, you kind of close yourself off to a lot of things, and walk with a tunnel vision to where you need to go, and when I step back and look at the people next to me, and kind of feel them and understand them, listen to what they're saying, it's helpful to me because I can really draw from those people when it comes to acting and finding a character. There are so many wonderful things to learn from the people around you."
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[originally published in Cinefantastique magazine]
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