Known for playing badass female protagonists on hit TV shows such as Renee Fleming on 24, Lily Salvatore on The Vampire Diaries, time traveler Emma Whitmore on Timeless, and Leslie Dean on Runaways, Annie Wersching is a star on the rise.
Here Resident Magazine speaks to this talented and spirited actress about what it was like to play Kiefer Sutherland’s love interest on 24, her current projects, and how she balances a successful career and a family life in Hollywood. This March be sure to catch Annie in the second season premiere of Timeless on NBC.
RM: What are some of your current projects?
We just finished the Marvel series Runaways which is airing now, we are seven episodes in out of ten. I’m currently working on season 2 of NBC’s TV show Timeless and then more time traveling after the holidays.
Runaways is a reimagining of what we are used to seeing in Marvel’s shows. It has a younger audience with a young kid drama but still retains the superhero action of Marvel with a great dynamic between the children and parents, so it’s fun to be starring in a new version of a Marvel show. I play Leslie Dean who dresses all in white and is head of a really powerful church in Los Angeles, a little like Scientology but different. She’s got a lot going on with her daughter Carolina but she’s also the leader of Pride and now she’s trying to balance Jonah and Frank in her life with Frank finding out about her relationship with Jonah. She’s also the only one who can hold the group together so she has to work on a few relationships within Pride, but she’s very good at that.
Timeless is exciting because we got cancelled and then 3 days later we got picked up again. My character Emma is more involved than last year but is definitely a bad guy. I’m excited to see her character fleshed out and to see it finally air. Emma Whitmore is a very mysterious character, and I’m as much in the dark until the scripts come out. I have heard that she is going to have a back story episode to see a little more about her past before they found her in the 1800s so we will get to go back to that time period she made an appearance from in season 1. She thinks things are supposed to be done a certain way and she does not approve of Lucy being in the picture and doesn’t trust her. She’s stirring up trouble.
RM: How did you get started in your career?
AW: I originally started in theater in grade school and middle school and then went to college for musical theater. I toured with a musical theater group and I was supposed to go to New York but I auditioned for a part in Los Angeles, and then didn’t make it to New York. I was doing extra work, catering, bartending and doing ‘the actor in LA circuit’ that everyone has done. But I got an agent while starring in a couple of shows at the Pasadena Playhouse and slowly worked my way up in the TV world as a guest star, then co star, and started getting more recurring roles. Once I was able to play a woman instead of a girl things clicked for me and I was able to carry myself better. 24 was a big deal for me to land and also General Hospital.
You are also a competitive Irish dancer, what was that experience like?
I grew up doing it. A close friend of the family from Galway got me started. It later became a part of life and I traveled all over competing, and I also played the Irish tin whistle. I competed from ages 5 to 17. When I go home to St. Louis and try to do it again with the girls I grew up with, after two minutes we are panting. It takes a lot of stamina but it was wonderful and a great thing to be involved with growing up. Back then I was known as the only girl on stage who smiled. It definitely gave me a stage presence as I began to break into the theater world.
Would you want to get back into dance performance?
I’ve had a few people who asked me to participate in Dancing with the Stars. Any role that would get me back into singing, dancing or musical theater would be heaven.
How do you balance family and work life as a Hollywood actor?
I’m a Midwesterner and have a good relationship with my mom and am pretty well grounded to begin with. So I had a good background to balance the Hollywood mom and relationship world. It’s not easy, but, I’m surrounded by really good friends. My kids are my priority and as much as I can I try to work in Los Angeles. Runaways has a large cast with 16 characters. But the fact that it shoots in Los Angeles trumps everything when you have a 4 and a 6 year old. It’s about making the choices that are the best for your family as a whole and not looking back.
How does your husband feel about your romance scenes, especially from 24?
He’s just like, “I’m going to get my turn soon, right? And I get to make out with a girl on a show, right?” He has a good head on his shoulders and makes jokes about it. Obviously we have a lot of trust. It’s definitely strange but it’s not at all what you think it is. The process of filming a scene like that is just the worst. There are a lot of people and all of a sudden you have to be romantically linked with a person you’ve been working with for a year and a friend of yours, it’s just strange.
What has been the strangest troll experience you’ve ever had on social media?
The strangest comments came from shows where I was connected with male actors who have so many women out there who are convinced they are their husbands. One fan wrote ‘Keep your hands off of him Renee, he’s mine’ (referring to Keifer Sutherland). Even on the Vampire Diaries there were some intense fans for Ian Sommerhalder, granted I played their mother but had abandoned them, and I received some really angry messages. I also played a serial killer character on Castle who was obsessed with Detective Beckett and fans wrote to me ‘Don’t you touch her!’ Sometimes these fans just confuse reality with the character.
It just shows what a great actress you are.
AW: Right, there we go!
Have there been any characters that you played who were close to your own personality?
I feel that every character I play I put a bit of yourself in there that identifies with certain aspects. I like to pretend and believe I am a badass so there’s that aspect in my characters such as in Renee and Emma. But I’m probably closer to the mom characters I play.
Which has been your favorite character to play?
I played Renee Walker the longest so I feel like I know her the best. I liked the character I played on Castle, she was a psychopath but was really fun to play and would’ve been nice to learn more about her. I’m such a kid when it comes to things like the Vampire Diaries it was fun to see how they shoot the vampire tricks and fast motion. It was also fun to learn all of the weapon training for 24. So I loved all of them.
It must be fun to play a time traveler.
Yes I love it. The latest episoide I’m filming I travel to 1955, and my character is a bit of a bad ass. She’s still in jeans and cool shoes. I got to go to 1920s Paris last season which was amazing. My character in the opening premiere is from WW1. And I’ve played in the 1880s Western period, but also the present day.
How do you describe your personal style?
I’m a terrible girl. I have a little bohemian vibe mixed with rock ‘n roll. I love wearing jeans, a tank top, and cowboy boots. It’s super fun to dress up. When I choose dresses for a Hollywood event,choose dresses with a twist on Old Hollywood glamorous vibe.
What are some of your favorite go to places in Los Angeles?
Times have changed. When my husband and I first started dating we used to go out in a different way than we go out now. We would go to an amazing dinner and wine bar. I like Perch, this spot in downtown L.A. that has a rooftop and serves amazing food. Our night usually starts at a restaurant and turns into a super fun experience. I also love Moonshadows in Malibu and love going to places I’ve never been before and having a new experience.