Amber Brooke Wallace is a young actress who has already worked in several notable films and TV series, such as One Tree Hill, 90210, and Mean Girls 2. Her directorial debut OKStupid is a successful web series, in which she also plays the lead role of April. When April finds out she is going through pre-menopause at the age of 29, her impulsive roommate Jess convinces her to use dating apps as a free 'sperm bank' to help her conceive before her eggs run out. A modern dark comedy about life expectations.
Amber won Best Performance of Fest at the Actors Awards, for her fantastic role as April. We asked her to join us for an interview.
Amber Brooke Wallace. Photo by EllaClicks
Amber, it's a pleasure to have you with us! Tell us about your background. Did you grow up in Georgia? What made you interested in acting and what were your first steps in the entertainment industry?
The pleasure is all mine! Yes, I grew up in Gwinnett County (about thirty-forty minutes outside of Atlanta). I was a very expressive baby and always singing and performing for my parents. Someone suggested I take an acting class as an outlet for all my creative energy (I think I was five or six) and I was 'discovered' through that class by a talent manager. One of the first roles I ever auditioned for was in a Mini Series with Diane Lane and Donald Sutherland and I booked the part. Being on set for the first time was magical and I knew, even at six years old, that THIS was what I wanted to do with my life. My parents were incredibly supportive, and thus, I dove headfirst into this crazy business and I've never looked back.
As April in OKStupid
You're so young, but you have extensive acting experience. One Tree Hill, 90210, Mean Girls 2 and more. What were some of your favorite characters?
I've loved portraying every character for different reasons, but I think Lila (90210) was one of my favorites because she was kind of a jack of all trades and I got to learn new skills by being her. I learned ballroom dancing, how to deal cards like a card shark, and how to play bass. But she was also the most like me. On the flip side, I played a character named Janet in a web series called Right Hand Man (still yet to be released) and she was one of my other favorite characters because she does not think like me. She is completely socially unaware and desperate to be liked and involved. Getting into her head and physicality was challenging and enlightening and super fun. I got to just play!
Alongside acting, you're also the lead singer of your own band! What kind of music do you do?
I used to sing for a heavy rock band (super grunge inspired). Now my music is more alternative with grunge, pop, and trip/hop elements. I have an EP coming out this fall that is very melodic and conceptual. I wanted every song to embody specific moods.
OKStupid - Trailer
Let's discuss OKStupid. Tell us about the collaboration with your writing partner and co-star, Kimberly Gikas. How did it all begin?
Kimberly and I had been hustling in Los Angeles for a couple years and struggling to find acting work - not unlike a lot of actors at our level. We would get together and vent and try and inspire each other and think of ways to stay relevant and fulfilled in this crazy business. We had been throwing the idea around of creating our own project but also had never done anything like that before and didn't really think we could pull it off. One day we were hanging out and joking around and Kim brought up dating apps as a fun subject for a web-series. I added the idea of using dating apps for something other than dating and slowly the idea unraveled from there. We began writing. And soon we had the first draft of a pilot that we were really proud of. The rest was history. I don't think either one of us thought we would actually have the ability and/or know-how to make it. But... we did!
How did you prepare for the role of April?
It helped a lot that I wrote the series because I had a very clear idea of each character's voice and point of view. April is an awkward, paranoid, and slightly neurotic woman. I myself have dealt with anxiety for most of my teen/adult life and really pulled from that part of myself in becoming her. We all have elements of every character in ourselves - its just a matter of amplifying that element and discovering how it manifests in us through that character's point of view. From there is was just a matter of fleshing out her unique history to better define that point of view.
What did you enjoy the most about portraying her? And what was the most challenging thing about it?
The thing I enjoy most about April is her inability to hide what she feels. Her honesty is refreshing (and sometimes uncomfortable) to live through. The most challenging thing about April is not judging her decisions. Its almost impossible to do justice to a character you judge, so I had to be sure I have a solid understanding of who she was and why she does what she does (again, being one of the writers was very helpful for this part).
Was it difficult to act and direct at the same time? How do you handle that?
It was difficult! Luckily we had an amazing cast and crew. I had never directed anything before, so that was daunting in and of itself. Am I doing this right? Am I prepared? Am I missing crucial shots/coverage/performances? Do I have the verbiage correct? And splitting focus between acting and directing was definitely a challenge. The thing I found the most difficult directing was my cast. As their co-star I felt uncomfortable sometimes giving them feedback (like I was stepping on their toes or something), so I had to remind myself that I wasn't a fellow actor in that moment, I was a director. And I had a vision I wanted and needed to try and capture. Once I was able to shake some of that doubt off I found directing very rewarding!
In your opinion, what’s the most important thing to do on set?
Be prepared. Hands down. Closely followed by 'do your job and let others do their job'.
How do you normally prepare for auditions?
I like to stretch my imagination by improvising monologues/situations as my character. Then I will memorize my scene and play. I try not to over-rehearse so it stays fresh. If I can get it on its feet with another actor/reader before going into the room, all the better.
Did you ever refuse a role? If so, why?
The only time I have refused a role was because of a filming conflict with another project. Otherwise I have only refused to audition for roles because of nudity. Totally don't mind being in a project with nudity or other actors being nude, its just a personal preference that I not show my own naked body. But I would also refuse to audition or perform a role if I felt the message would be damaging to anyone.
Do you have any tips for up-and-coming directors?
Again, be prepared. Know what you want your project to look like. To feel like. BE ORGANIZED! Keep track of every shot/take and mark the ones you like. COVER YOUR BASES! Nothing is worse than editing and realizing you have nothing to cut to or not enough coverage. If you have the time, get the shot. Be communicative. Be on the same page as your creators and crew members. But, most of all, enjoy the process and have fun. It can be tedious and stressful. But your crew and cast will perform much better if everyone is enjoying the work. And so will you!
What is your dream production? Is it a tv series, a studio movie or maybe a theatre play? Who is the director, who are your co-stars and what is your role?
My dream is to be in a TV series like Game of Thrones or Dexter or The Walking Dead. I would love to play a villain or a warrior of some kind! I would love to co-star with Giovanni Ribisi, Paul Giamatti, Emma Stone, or Sam Rockwell. There are so many good actors, oh my goodness. I would also love to be a tech-guru or forensic analysis or something for a Crime drama like Criminal Minds or Lucifer. Picking a director is harder because TV usually has lots of directors for one show. I've had good experiences with most television directors I have worked with so far.
Can you share a bit about your next projects? What are you planning for the rest of 2019, and will you continue the directing path as well?
Right now I am working on pitching OKStupid to streaming platforms to possibly expand it to a half hour show with a full season arc. I am also releasing new music in the fall and working on a music video for one of my singles. I've been in talks with some other writer friends about future projects and would love to continue directing and producing as well.
Where can our readers follow your work?
You can follow me on:
IG - @amberbrookewallace, @okstupidseries
Facebook - Amber Brooke Wallace OR www.facebook.com/c/okstupidwebseries .
YouTube - www.youtube.com/okstupidwebseries
LINK to Relative Danger (winner of the 48hr Los Angeles Comedy Fest) Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6-YnuOeDdo
LINK to Get This Back Music Video (DEMO VERSION): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2kjKPhhgvU