The Insider: Ellen Wong
Ellen Wong wants you to know that she's not Charlotte York or Miranda Hobbes, no matter what her new TV show The Carrie Diaries makes you think. "On our show we're not mini versions of the show's characters; we're the friends who were part of her life in her formative years, the time when she's trying to figure things out and we're all trying to figure ourselves out," the actress explains. And if you've tuned in to The CW series, which airs every Monday at 8 p.m., you'd already know it; as young Carrie's BFF Jill "Mouse" Thompson, Wong is not only unlike the ladies we tuned in to week after week on HBO, but also unlike any other TV personality we've seen before. She's a bit of a nerd, sure, but she's way more complex--and, to be honest, surprising--than your average sitcom star. Which is why we were excited to chat with Wong while she took a break from filming to find out just what makes Mouse tick--and in the process, learned that the friendship onscreen isn't just an act.
The last time we talked you just finished shooting Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and were living in Toronto--now you're in New York City. How's it been?
New York is so amazing. i just remember my first time when i was in New York, just walking around and really just taking in the city, and I remember having this feeling that I have to come one day, I have to make it happen. It's one of those places where I feel like it really pushes me to go out and really explore and learn more. A lot of people in New York are so creative and so independent and forward-thinking, so brave. and everyone likes to go out and to do things, so it forces me to go out!
It's funny, because that's how a young Carrie Bradshaw reacts to the city on The Carrie Diaries.
I think all of [The Carrie Diaries' characters] in their own ways are go-getters. they go after different things. and i think that's why; I hope that anyone who watches the show can feel inspired and maybe remember that. Sometimes you forget what inspires you and what you really want to do. It's nice to really live with that feeling because when you're inspired by something, that's who you really are.
So what inspires you?
Every time I watch films, or my favorite actresses or actors, I always feel reassured again. And travel, that inspires me because it puts things in perspective. Sometimes we need to leave what we're used to and be put in a situation where we're challenged and out our comfort zone to know what we want. Especially here in North America, sometimes our visions or what we want can get so crowded with all these ideas of what other people want or what we're supposed to want. At the end of the day, you as an individual are the only person who can decide that.
Sex and the City is such a seminal TV show; was there any pressure to live up to it?
Not at all, actually. There was never pressure because we're not trying to be Sex and the City; I think we're something on our own, it's a separate story. What Sarah Jessica Parker did with Carrie Bradshaw in Manhattan, she created this iconic character; at that time it was such a bold and refreshing thing to see on TV a female character, a role model, a female who is going out there and who knew herself so well and knew what she wanted. I think it's so neat now to see Carrie Bradshaw in her formative years--how she became that confident, charming woman that she became later on.
What's been the biggest surprise with the show?
We get our scripts week to week, a week before we shoot, so I never know what's going to happen with Mouse! I really respect working on TV because it's hard; it's scary to not know what's going to happen to you! The little surprise I get every week from Mouse, because I feel like I'm learning more along the way and because my preconceived notions of what she was or who she was aren't exactly panning out any more.
That's what I like about the show--you think you know these characters, that they're these typical stereotyped cliches of high schoolers, and then they completely surprise you.
I feel like in TV it's easy to have stereotypes. We're not monolithic, we're a mosaic of different personality traits. Me and you talking right now, this is how we are. But if you're talking to your mom or your dad you're a different person; with your boyfriend, you're a different person; giving a presentation at work, you're a different person. I watched Sex and the City this summer, in one sitting, and that's what I actually really liked about the show: You have the promiscuous one, the sweet girl, the go-getter, but at the same time they all go through these different things that you can relate to at any given time. I might feel more like Charlotte at one point, and maybe later I like Miranda—we can understand and relate to what these women are going through. And I hope that people can feel that same sort of bond.
Does that vibe exist onset as well?
Yes! It's very fun onset. We really do enjoy each other's company and have a good time--and that's the only way that this show could have worked. The other day was Brendan [Dooling, who plays Walt Reynolds]'s birthday and we all went out. From the very beginning--even during the screen tests, the way that we would talk with each other in the waiting room it kind of made sense. And then when we were shooting the pilot we hung out a lot then. There were a lot of times AnnaSophia [Robb], Katie [Findlay, who plays Maggie Landers], and I were having dinner and giving advice on boys or something, and we'd have these moments where it dawns on us: Even in real life we're mimicking our characters.
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