Cult Times (UK) – 2002
January 2002 (issue #76)
She’s spent the last few years of her life living in a cave, but now ‘Fred’ Burkle, aka Amy Acker, is out and fighting demons in our dimension!
Amy Acker knew exactly what she wanted to do the minute she arrived on the set of Angel: she wanted to do something different. And as Winifred ‘Fred’ Burkle, the human ‘cow’ Angel (David Boreanaz) and company rescued after five long years in Pylea, Acker managed exactly that. “It was so exciting for me to play this character, because she’s not like anything else I’d ever played,” says the actress, who turned up as the taco belle in several episodes – Belonging, Over the Rainbow, Through the Looking Glass and There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb – near the end of last season, and who this year joined the cast as a regular. “I don’t usually get cast as the funny, quirky, dorky girl, so I wanted to experiment with playing someone who wasn’t the ingénue or the victim. I thought I could really have fun with that, and not be afraid of going over the top sometimes. I mean, it’s hard to go over the top when the show’s about a vampire with a soul and you’re surrounded by demons and characters like The Host [Andy Hallet]. It’s a little bit of a safer environment.”
Already this season Fred has figured prominently in three major episodes: Carpe Noctem, Fredless and Billy. The episodes found the maths wiz not only doing her bit to help the gang at Angel Investigations, but they addressed, in various ways, Fred’s re-acclimating herself to life in the real world after years of torture, interminable loneliness and the constant threat of death. Acker takes a moment to reflect on each hour. “Carpe Noctem was about body-switching and Rance Howard played the old man. Rance is Ron Howard’s father, which was pretty cool,” the actress says. “In Fredless, I got to play so many emotions. I was sad about leaving, but then got to come back and save [the team]. You also saw my parents (played by two genre veterans, Jennifer Gubb of The X-Files, the Robocop series and TekWar, and Gary Grubbs of Time Trax, The X-Files and The Astronaut’s Wife]. It was exciting to make her a fuller character and not just the quiet one who had a crush on Angel. And then, in Billy, I got to work a lot with Alexis Denisof, which was awesome. The episode made me want to do a Horror movie. I loved being chased around the hotel. We had such a good time filming that episode. Alexis was scary most of the time. I never knew what he was going to do, and he was carrying a big axe!”
That’s what’s been. So what’s coming up? “Right now we’ve been on a big sweeps run of five episodes that’s been a lot about Darla [Julie Benz] and her baby with Angel. So all of the secondary characters have been involved in trying to figure out what’s going on and how to handle it, but we haven’t had big, strong individual episodes. We’ve all been a part of the team. I think that’s about to change. We’re about to get back into some standalone storylines. The Darla episodes are really cool. Julie is awesome and there are some great shots in those episodes. But I’m also excited about what we’ll be doing after that arc.
“Fred is still a little unsettled. I’m still living at the hotel with Angel, but it’s not really talked about much. I want to see who she’s going to be on her own, separate from the team, but also as a part of the team. We’ve also got this whole romantic thing going on. I’ve got the crush on Angel, but Wesley [Denisof] and Gunn [J August Richards] seem to be into me. I’m a lucky girl. I think the Angel crush will always be there, but it’s becoming more of a big brother crush. He takes care of me and looks out for me. I don’t know what’s going to happen with Wesley and Gunn, but it could be an interesting storyline coming up. That’s the rumour, but I don’t know if it’s true. I cannot imagine Fred in a relationship. I think that would be hilarious. I’d also like to see Fred and Cordelia [Charisma Carpenter] become friends. It’s been Fred and the boys a lot and I’d like to see the women hanging out. But I don’t know if they’re going to do that.”
If it sounds as if Acker’s having a terrific time, she is. But it could have been a very different experience. After all, it’s tough to walk into a show that’s already been on the air for two years. “It was not strange one bit,” Acker enthuses. “All of these people are so great and so nice. I think I was nervous about that for a half second, but then I met them all and realised that they were cool with it. If anyone was going to make a big deal out of it, it was going to be me. So I feel really lucky that it was these people who were on the show I came onto. The one thing I did have to do was catch up on the history of the show, what had already happened on the series, in episodes, and also in terms of mythology. That’s something I’m learning about every day. I’ll go in and they’ll be like, ‘This is the something demon.’ And I’ll say, ‘Oh, should I know what it is?’ They’ll say, ‘Yeah, in episode three it did this or that.’ It worked out nicely because Fred didn’t know any of this stuff either. So as it comes up in the episodes I kind of learn about it at the same time she does.”
Truth be told, the 25-year-old is almost as new to acting as she is to Angel. Acker was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, and planned to pursue a career as a ballerina. Then she had knee surgery and came to the harsh realisation that, even before going under the knife, she wasn’t as good as she thought she was. Still in high school, Acker picked acting as an elective course. She continued to study the craft while in college at Southern Methodist University (SMU). “I knew since my first class that this was what I wanted to do,” she says. She began acting in school plays, including Terese Raquin, a drama in which she played the title character. She won a role in a busted pilot entitled Hell House, then filmed the murder-thriller The Accident, which may play at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival in an effort to secure distribution. Acker soon after landed the lead in Groom Lake, a Sci-Fi feature directed by and co-starring Star Trek legend William Shatner. The film, with Acker as a dying young woman who goes with her boyfriend to Groom Lake in search of aliens, may beam into cinemas or début on cable sometime in early 2002. And, not long after wrapping Groom Lake, Acker joined the cast of Angel.
“Angel has been new and exciting,” she says. “I learned a lot last season by working with David on the Pylea scenes. That really helped me to learn how to work on film, period. I’d done some stuff before Angel, but nothing that was this fast-paced and this intense and this long [of a run]. We do an episode and then start all over again. Even now I’ve realised that there are more elements that just keep getting added on. You’re on episode two and you’re just exhausted. The scripts are coming later. You used to have two weeks to prepare for a show and now you have two days. So there’s always something new that’s added to it, and that makes it a really interesting experience. It’s not something college theatre classes really prepare you for. I told them at my school they should have a class about acting with demons, because we didn’t learn that.”
It’s pointed out to Acker that most of her credits are of a genre nature. Terese Raquin involved ghosts. Hell House cast Acker as a nasty wheelchair-bound girl, one of seven students living in a haunted house. More than a few people will consider The Accident a horror movie. Groom Lake is a Horror and Sci-Fi mélange. And then there’s Angel. So what’s with all the visits to the dark side? “I don’t know, but I seem drawn to them,” Acker says with a laugh. “Almost everything I’ve done on film and even quite a few of the plays I’ve done have been about that. I like doing everything, but maybe I’m attracted to the people who are interested in shows or movies about the dark side. Or maybe they see something in me. I don’t know. It’s great. I’m excited that I get to do this. I didn’t realize until I got Angel that pretty much everything I’d done had something to do with ghosts or aliens or monsters. I still haven’t figured out this connection.”
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