Extraordinary People Sharing Their Stories…
An Interview with Brainy, Feisty, & Funny
Susan Farese, SJF Communications
Remember those feisty sisters in the 2010 Award-Winning Film, THE FIGHTER (starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo)? Get off the porch why dontcha!!! ! Meet Scituate, (Pronounced Sit-choo-uit) Massachusetts‘ very own Erica McDermott: actress, celebrity, model, RN, wife of Bob McDermott and mom of 2 tween daughters, Maisy and Kate. Erica’s amazing breakthrough role was portraying “Tar Ecklund”, the “sister” with the BIG HAIR in THE FIGHTER, along with other “Sisters”; Actresses Melissa McMeekin, Bianca Hunter, Dendrie Taylor, Jenna Lamia, Jill Quigg and Kate O’Brien, (sister of late night host Conan O’Brien). Erica also appeared as Carl Elway’s Assistant in “American Hustle” (working with Director David O. Russell on both films) and several other Independent feature films as well as a variety of theatre performances and celebrity hosting events.
Erica has a really interesting story to tell…so…Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m thrilled to introduce you to my “kindred spirit” from New England, Erica McDermott, a.k.a. Erica McD.!
SJF: Let’s start at the very beginning! Please tell us a bit about your early years.
EMcD: Sure. I lived in Somerville Massachusetts until the sixth grade. We moved to Quincy, where I did the majority of my “growing up”. My parents married very young and soon after they welcomed me into their world. They’re still married today!
SJF: Sweet! Do you have any siblings?
EMcD: I am an only child and I LOVE IT!! It was very challenging to play the game Connect Four all by myself – I had to get creative. (Hahhaha I’m only half kidding)!
SJF: I marvel at your solo game playing abilities!! OK moving on… You know you’re a kindred spirit of mine-we’re both Registered Nurses, and we share the zodiac sign “Taurus” (no wonder), which is a premium! Where did you study Nursing and what is your specialty? Do you still practice?
EMcD: Yes, I’m a Registered Nurse. I earned my BSN (Bachelors of Nursing) with a minor in Chemistry & Biology in 1995 at Salem State University. Although I don’t currently practice, it’s important to me to maintain my license. I worked hard to earn it – it’s something that means a great deal to me. My specialty as a nurse was Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury and Neuropsychiatry. I often look for continuing education classes that focus on these areas.
SJF: Very impressive…and your credentials made me think about another funny nurse who is also an actress, Bonnie Hunt! How did the acting bug bite you? What propelled you?
EMcD: When my children were entering full day school, I decided it was time to get back into nursing. At the same time, I was asked to perform in a One Night Only benefit performance in my home town of Scituate. The show was called MOMologues, a comedy about Motherhood. The director Lisa Rafferty, was looking for funny Moms from my town, and people suggested they ask me to take part. I had been in exactly 1 play in Junior High School, and public speaking really never bothered me. After some thought, I agreed to do the show. When the show was over, I had an overwhelming feeling of happiness. Without question, in 2008 I had found a part of me that I didn’t know existed.
SJF: Incidentally, Lisa Rafferty was kind enough to send me a note about you: “We’ve been so lucky to have Erica be a part of the development of two our MOM shows. Her talent shines through our material – her commitment and fearlessness sparks the comedy every time”‘
SJF: So…MOMologues was extremely serendipitous! And after the MOMologues?
EMcD: A few weeks after the MOMologues show, I received an email from Plymouth Rock Studios. PRS was planning on building huge Hollywood style Studios in Plymouth MA. They invited me down to see the plans. I still don’t know how they found me?? While I was there they offered me free acting classes over several weeks. I decided to go & didn’t share this new activity with any of my friends. I was fearful that they would think I was having some sort of a midlife crisis. I loved the classes, and was strongly encouraged to send a head shot and resume to local casting and modeling agencies. To my surprise, I started working the next week. My first job was a photo shoot for stock photos for a magazine.
SJF: Very cool! Such an amazing start to your acting/modeling career! How did they find you??? Talk about mysteries! Free acting classes are usually unheard of! And then a photo shoot to boot! Alright, now for the fun stuff…Come on..Tell us about your breakthrough role in THE FIGHTER and how it came about!
EMcD: Not long after that photo shoot I was called into Boston Casting for a film called The Fighter. They were looking for background actors to be “tough girls”. I was called into a room with about 20 or 30 other people, Casting Director Angela Peri spoke to the group. She walked by each girl assessing if they could get the “job done”. Girls were passed by over and over again because she didn’t think they looked “tough” enough. I had been taught in my acting classes that sometime you need to take a risk. I went for it. When Angela told me I was “too pretty to be tough”, I stepped out of line, got in her face and aggressively told her that she was going to give me part in movie. I may have dropped an F-Bomb…. or two. Little did I know that this was the first of 5 auditions that would ultimately earn me a supporting role in the Oscar Nominated film The Fighter.
SJF: That’s phenomenal! Ahem. I was at that casting call too, (LOL) but on a different day and placed in a different group of women…Angela took one look at me in my get-up: wig, bandanna, in snake pants and snake sandals with my supposedly “tough broad” stance & garb and matter-of-factly said: “Nah ah…Go over and talk to my casting associate, I want you for featured as a nurse in that other film, which was ultimately called “Locked In“. Yep I was one of those “passed over” but it’s all good, and then I was fortunate to be cast featured as a British Reporter in The Fighter anyway!! I really admire how you took the risk! That takes chutspah!
SJF: What are your “secrets” for newbies breaking into “the biz” or for those who aren’t booking roles or just need more opportunities? Any particular tidbits of advice?
EMcD: I acknowledge that what happened to me is ridiculously unusual. It’s almost hard to believe. I wish I had some magical advice to share with other people looking to break into the business. Classes, owning the choices I make during auditions and being prepared are some of the things that I try to do to stay on track.
SJF: Those all make a lot of sense! Can you tell us who your inspiration is as an actress?
EMcD: My family are very supportive. They believe in me and route for me. They all inspire me to work hard and to do my absolute best. We try to sit down for dinner, together, as often as possible. We really connect at this time, and talk about our day. When possible, I book auditions during the day while my girls are at school. I’ve learned how to juggle as so many Moms and Dads do.
SJF: Now for a little nitty gritty, how do you “get into” character?
EMcD: If I am being considered for a role in a biopic, I research everyone involved in the story. I look at photos, read books and watch documentaries if they are available. This process helps me see the whole picture before zoning in on one particular person. Kristin Swan from Swan Communications Therapies is my Dialect Coach. If I need to pick up a new accent quickly I can always count on her.
I often visit a coffee shop in Hingham to try out a new accent for the first time. It’s weird to speak to someone in a new voice for the first time. I feel that if I can do it, in front of strangers, and truly pull it off without anyone raising an eyebrow – that I have perfected the accent.
SJF: Erica, Kristin Swan was so kind to send us a note about working with you. Here’s what she had to say: “I will very gladly speak about my work with Erica!”
….”Erica is a talented actress with an acute ear and an excellent handle on accents. She makes my job as her dialect coach very easy as she comes prepared and is easily directed. To prep for a new accent, we research and chat specifics about the target accent and then with some additional pointers from me, Erica typically dives right in and starts practicing. I will check in and phonetically transcribe a paragraph or two from her speech, providing periodic check-ins until it is mastered. It never takes long, as she is a quick study. What is the most impressive about working with Erica is how analytical she is. She wants to understand not only the accent she is prepping for but also her own native Boston accent. Her level of awareness, her preparation and her tenacity leads to an end result that is natural and believable.”
SJF: Kristin really admres your work ethic! Very impressive! “Pahk the cah”, eh? (Can you tell I miss Boston)? Also quite a task, to research all the characters! Monumental!
SJF: Do you “give back” and if so, with which particular groups? Do you feel that it is important for other actors and celebrities do so as well?
EMcD: I support a few local charities and organizations here in Boston. I’ve been a fan of The Ellie Fund for years. They are a non-profit organization that fights breast cancer by easing its effects on patients and their families. I’ve followed The Home for Little Wanderers since I was in Nursing School. They’ve been open for over 200 years and have earned the reputation for doing whatever it takes to strengthen vulnerable families and to keep children safe.
SJF: How often have you hosted events as a celeb, which is a different “role” than acting. Is hosting events difficult? How do u prep?
EMcD: I’ve hosted quite a few events – sometimes I’m a solo emcee and sometimes I’m part of a group. Most recently I hosted the Imagine Magazine Awards Show at the Boston Hard Rock. It was fun because the room was filled with peers, colleagues and friends from the New England Entertainment Industry. I was able to poke fun at my friends and tell a few jokes – it was easy to prep for this event. What I loved about this specific party was that I truly celebrated the success of some pretty special people in my region who work in the film & television business. To hear exactly why they were given awards was inspiring to me.
SJF: Here is another recent interview link featuring you in IMAGINE MAGAZINE by Publisher Carol Patton: http://imaginenews.com/getting-know-erica-mcdermott/
Side note, folks…Below are a few photos of Erica’s metamorphosis as very different characters in those two films!
Erica McDermott as Tar Ecklund in The Fighter with Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams and her other “Sisters”
EMcD: – It took over 2 years to grow my hair out after filming The Fighter. Not a complaint, just an observation. I’d bleach my hair again in a second if a character called for it. I also had to keep the pounds on during filming. I can’t say that part was hard. Hahhaaa!
SJF: WOW! I think that your hair in THE FIGHTER (and that porch scene) is unmatched and will always be historic as was your cleavage (ahem) in American Hustle! Bagels or prosthestics???
SJF: I have a little surprise for you…One of your Sisters in “The Fighter”, another sassy, silly, serious actor, Melissa McMeekin has a little to say about you: “I just am so honored to know Erica. I have said so many times that being part of The Fighter was an amazing gift, but truly the best gifts were the friendships I formed with the amazing women that played my sisters. And Erica and I have become so close that I honestly can’t even believe that I didn’t know her 5 years ago. She is an incredibly talented and fearless actress. She is a complete natural, it’s like she just knows exactly what to do, her instincts are incredible. I really think she can do anything and she is probably one of the absolute funniest people I know. Her comedic timing is off the charts. She is one in a million and as beautiful as she is the most stunning thing about her is how truly amazing of a person she is”.
SJF: That was so nice of Melissa and so true about you, Erica! Keep on shining!
So, what’s next for you on the big screen?
EMcD: I recently worked on the Warner Brothers Pictures’ biopic, directed by Scott Cooper, about Whitey Bulger called Black Mass. My character is Mary Bulger, wife of ex-state senator Billy Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch). It was an incredible and memorable experience. The movie is set to hit theaters on September 18th.
SJF: I am sure we’ll stay tuned for that film! Benedict is nominated for several awards for his portrayal of Alan Turing in this year’s “The Imitation Game” at the top of his game as well!
SJF: Thanks so much Erica, for sharing your extraordinary story and for all of your photos!!
You can follow Erica McDermott on TWITTER!
Here is another recent article about Erica from IMAGINE MAGAZINE http://imaginenews.com/getting-know-erica-mcdermott/