You may be familiar with the masterful workings of Mary Kate Wiles from the Emmy-Winning series, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. From that project forward, this young actress has flourished, raising money on Kickstarter while acting, writing, and producing her own projects as part of a successful digital comedy troupe known as, Shipwrecked Comedy. Now, Mary Kate stars in The Wayward Guide For The Untrained Eye, while maintaining her five-year-long position with the comedy troupe, Shipwrecked. In this exclusive interview, we had the opportunity to chat with the Emmy-Award winning actress to discuss her newest role in The Wayward Guide For The Untrained Eye, her journey with Shipwrecked Comedy, and an inside look into her acting process.
Megan Morgante: Did anything/anyone, in particular, inspire you to enter the entertainment industry?
Mary Kate Wiles: Seeing The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, for the first time in a theatre was what made me want to make movies. I was so swept away by that film and that story that I wanted to go on adventures like that myself and also be a part of something that made other people feel as transported as that movie made me feel. Those movies are still such a source of inspiration for me.
MM: What did your life look like before you entered the entertainment industry professionally?
MKW: I was a student! My first professional gig was while I was still in college, so it was a pretty straight transition from school to working professionally.
MM: Can you give an overview of your past in the entertainment industry and how it led you to where you are now?
MKW: While I’ve done a lot of film and theatre work, it’s my work in the digital space that has shaped my career most significantly. Getting cast in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was such a blessing in so many ways - obviously, that show was such a unique and special experience - but it’s led me to all the jobs, friends, and experiences I’ve had since. That show started me on this path in the digital space, which has allowed me to find an audience and even move into producing and creating on my own. I feel so lucky to be in a position where so many people are actively watching my projects, following my career, and helping to support me on Patreon or my various projects through Kickstarter. It’s such a cool, communal experience that you don’t get from television or commercials. I’ve gotten to play such an array of wonderful, fun, interesting characters through my digital series work and be a part of so many different types of projects.
MM: Can you give some insight into your newest project, The Wayward Guide For The Untrained Eye?
MKW: The Wayward Guide for the Untrained Eye is a new series produced and created by my friends the Tin Can Brothers, that will be told over traditional series episodes and podcast episodes. We shot back in 2017 and I know the show has had a long journey to get to where it is now, and I’m so excited that it’s finally getting to be seen and shared. It was a blast to work on because the cast is peppered with many of my frequent collaborators and friends, and I also got to work with some incredible actors I look up to, like Sean Astin, who plays Artemis and Paul’s boss, which was just a dream come true.
MM: What can we expect to see from your character, Artemis Schue-Horyn, in this series?
MKW: Artemis is a super driven, focused reporter, and her brother Paul is a curious and creative guy who’s just kind of excited by everything. Their relationship is a ton of fun and I loved getting to act opposite Steve Zaragoza; I think we play off of each other in a really fun way. But, as the story progresses and things get, erm...hairy, they start to have some friction and Artemis has to sort of shift her priorities.
MM: You’re a part of the comedy troupe Shipwrecked Comedy, which has created the award-winning series Edgar Allan Poe's Murder Mystery Dinner Party, that has garnered over 2 million YouTube views to date. What has your experience been like working with this group?
MKW: Shipwrecked Comedy has brought me so much fulfillment since I started producing with the group at the end of 2015. Shipwrecked is made up of myself, my longtime romantic partner Sean Persaud, his sister Sinéad Persaud, and Sarah Grace Hart. Sean and Sinéad are the creative minds of the group - they originally started it back in 2013 - and they write and come up with all of our concepts. All four of us act in each of our projects and as a producer, my role has often been connecting us with various collaborators, organizing the more logistical side of things, handling our social media, and other things. We all wear many hats. But, in a career and a line of work that is so unpredictable, it’s been very good for my brain to focus on Shipwrecked projects in between auditions and other acting jobs. It gives us all something to work towards and it is so fulfilling to create a story that is completely yours. It also brings me so much joy and pride to see Sean succeed - I think he is an incredible writer and actor, and I want to do everything I can to help him get the spotlight I think he deserves. Producing has taught me so much about how things work on the production side, and I think it’s made me a better actor and collaborator.
MM: Is there anything, in particular, you look for when reading new scripts?
MKW: This sounds so silly, but honestly - for it to be well-written. So many scripts, even some scripts for well-established tv shows, are riddled with errors. I can’t get wrapped up with the story if I feel like it’s just not very well-written on a basic level. That goes for not just spelling and punctuation, but also if the writer infuses their spirit and voice into the script as a whole. It’s so much more exciting to think about being a part of a project if I’m immediately swept away and brought into the world by the writers on the page. Then, it’s apparent that they have a clear idea of the world, the project, and are excited to tell it. That's the sort of project I want to be a part of.
MM: Where do you tend to draw your inspiration from when preparing for each role?
MKW: For the most part, I do as much diving into the script as I can to really build my characters. I read the script over and over again so that I know it backward and forwards because when you’re shooting out of order, you need to be able to drop a pin in the story and know exactly where your character is on their emotional journey at that point. I find that every time I reread a script, I discover something new; good writing truly gives you everything you need. If it’s a situation where the character has a specific job or skillset that I don’t necessarily do or have in real life, I try to research that. For example, I listened to a lot of true-crime podcasts spearheaded by female reporters to prepare for, The Wayward Guide. So, it varies from role to role, but my starting place is always the script.
MM: If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
MKW: I would tell myself that “being nice” is less important than sticking up for myself. As a female, growing up in the American South in a Christian community, I was taught over and over that, I was supposed to be nice, kind, and selfless above all else. In certain ways, I do value those traits and I do try to continue to exhibit them. But, on the flip side, I didn’t learn that being nice and selfless wasn’t always the answer, and in my younger days, I got taken advantage of quite a lot in friendships and relationships because I just didn’t learn to stand up for myself and set healthy boundaries. That has been a hard lesson that I’ve had to learn multiple times over and over again in my adult life, but I think I’m finally getting there. I think that’s probably a situation that a lot of women can relate to.
MM: Have you ever experienced any notable challenges throughout your career?
MKW: All the time, (laugh-out-loud)! All actors go through dry spells and it can be very hard to continue to believe in yourself and keep pushing when the jobs aren’t coming like you hoped they would. It is a constant struggle for us, and probably other creative professionals as well, and I think finding a way to maintain your sanity in between the ups and downs is a very important struggle for actors. One specific challenge that I’ve been somewhat candid about is that a few years ago I was in a very popular short film that got picked up to be a series. After a very long, drawn-out process, I wasn’t cast in the series, and I was devastated. It’s very hard to put hours and hours of yourself into a project and then be cut out of that project’s success as it moves forward. But, I know this experience is something that has happened to a lot of actors, and it was out of that experience that I started creating things with Shipwrecked and developing myself as a producer, so even though at the time it was very painful, I wouldn’t change it now.
MM: Do you feel you have a social responsibility with your growing platform?
MKW: Yes, absolutely. I used to rarely tweet anything very political, but that all changed in 2016. Now I don’t feel like you can be alive in this world without feeling very strongly about what’s going on in our country, and I think all of us with some amount of audience have a responsibility to speak out against injustice and do what we can to spread awareness. That goes for things as simple as setting a good example by wearing masks and following health guidelines during the pandemic, as well as speaking out about the Black Lives Matter movement, women’s rights, and all the many, many issues we’re dealing with as a country right now. It can be hard to know what’s best to say at times, I never want to insert myself into a conversation where my voice shouldn’t be taking up space that other voices should have, but at the same time, I want to raise awareness and lift up others who might have less of a voice. I’m not perfect and it certainly is a situation that can be tricky, but I hope I can continue to use my influence for good. I think if you are lucky enough to be in a position where a lot of people care what you do and say and watch the work you create, you have a responsibility to use that platform positively. That also goes for just being a kind, caring, and responsible person.
MM: What would you say your personal style is like?
MKW: My style has really veered into the vintage realm these past few years! I love classic looks and silhouettes from the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, there’s something so timeless, gorgeous, and glamorous about them. I also love the idea of recycling vintage clothes and giving them new life and knowing that when you’re buying a vintage dress you are likely getting something that is one-of-a-kind!
MM: Who is your ultimate style icon?
MKW: I’m going to have to go with my ultimate icon - Cate Blanchett. She is always so classy, gorgeous, and always takes risks with her style, but always looks so polished and put together. She is aging so gracefully, I just adore her.
Photography by: Eric Carroll