Actress Wrenn Schmidt doesn’t care much about being famous.
During a media interview on the set of Outcast in South Carolina, I asked Schmidt if she was ready for international fame.
After all, the redhead landed a series regular role on the supernatural drama created by Robert Kirkman who is also responsible for the wildly successful The Walking Dead and its spin-off, Fear The Walking Dead.
If there’s a TV show that could take the rising actress’ career to a whole new level, this could be it.
“My first big TV job was Boardwalk Empire. That show had such an amazing amount of success and I knew I was going to be working opposite a fan favourite and I really thought people would be like, ‘Who’s that girl?’,” she responded.
Schmidt’s character Julia Sagorsky was paired with disfigured war veteran Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) in the critically-acclaimed drama series.
She continued: “A phone did not ring at my manager’s office for three months. And the next year, I was doing a very small off Broadway play, which I was very lucky to be able to do, it was an amazing part, but I wasn’t getting recognised.”
“I thought this is a really good lesson to learn, like (fame) will come if it comes, but my goal was always to be a working actor and to be working on things that I find interesting and challenging and tell stories that need to be told,” she said.
Born and raised in Lexington, South Carolina, Schmidt says she always loved performing. As a teen, she attended a professional arts high school. But somewhere along the way, she started to question herself.
“I actually had a hard time because in college, I tried everything I could not to be an actor, I majored in history,” she shared.
“I was a theatre major as well, but I thought maybe I wouldn’t have it just because in high school, I really wasn’t the favourite student so I didn’t have much confidence in myself.”
After graduation, Schmidt worked with a theatre in New York but gained little fulfilment as she did only administrative work.
“I broke my ankle one day and had a lot of time to think about it. I always wanted to do this. Why did I ever let anyone tell me I couldn’t? So I started going for auditions. That’s how it happened.”
Since then, Schmidt has landed recurring roles in The Americans, Person Of Interest and Tyrant besides Boardwalk Empire. She recently acted opposite Tom Hiddleston in the country singer Hank Williams biopic, I Saw The Light.
In her latest project Outcast, she plays Megan Holter, a foster sibling of protagonist Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit).
Set in the fictional town of Rome, West Virginia, Barnes, who has been haunted by supernatural possessions all his life, lives as a recluse.
“Megan grew up in a very religious family. Her parents took in a lot of foster children which was how she met Kyle,” she explained her character’s connection to Barnes. Megan, who is a child psychologist, has been trying to bring her brother out of isolation.
When he learns that a seven-year-old boy, Joshua, has been suffering from possessions, Barnes is moved to help him.
Viewers soon discover that Barnes has the ability to free the afflicted from their demons. After witnessing his gift, the town’s preacher Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) urges Barnes to join him on his mission to deliver those possessed from evil.
But more than just a series on exorcism, serving up one spine-chilling supernatural encounter after another, Outcast is very much about exploring the lives of its rich characters.
When Megan was about 10, she was sexually assaulted by one of the foster children her parents took in, Donnie (Scott Porter).
“I think that shaped a lot of who she is. My guess for Megan is when you go through an experience like that, I think she feels like she succeeded at creating a whole new sense of identity that wasn’t about the fact that she was a victim, it’s about, ‘This is who I am now,’” she said.
“I kind of imagine she dug a huge grave and threw in all that has happened those years in her life and covered it up.”
Megan’s world is about to be turned upside down again when Donnie shows up in town again after all these years.
“She explores what happens when that identity she created for herself and that sense of normalcy is completely shattered by something, which is her seeing Donnie again.”
The series also follows Megan’s relationship with her husband Mark (David Denman).
“Even though on the surface it seems like they’ve got a great marriage – they get along; they make each other laugh; they complement each other – but what’s interesting is although she’s a child psychologist, she doesn’t talk about the things she really needs to talk about. This is a couple who would be divorced in five years,” she said.
Mark’s dislike for Kyle also drives a wedge between the husband and wife.
The actress says she loves seeing the strength her character demonstrates throughout the series: “She’s a really strong woman, a strong character … I feel like Megan exists as Megan, not as Kyle’s sister, not as Mark’s wife.”
Asked what she personally makes of the series’ supernatural element, Schmidt reveals she used to believe in the supernatural: “When I was in high school, even though I was raised Presbyterian, I was super into the occult, like I was fascinated by that.
“I was into vampires, Marilyn Manson, anything dark. I had some very interesting wardrobe choices. I usually tried to be in opposition with my environment.
“Right now, I believe in science.”
Outcast is shown on Fox HD (Astro Ch 724) at 10 pm every Saturday.