Photography by Emman Montalvan at TACK Artist Group
Styled by Sissy Sainte-Marie
Hair by Charles Dujic at Tomlinson Management Group using BUMBLE AND BUMBLE
Makeup by Elaine Offers at Exclusive Artists Management
If dreams can come true, Emily Wickersham is one such dreamer who stood against kismet to pursue a larger life. Stepping out of her comfort zone, Wickersham decided to seek her fortune alone in L.A., leaving everything she knew back in New York City. Now a household name as the actress who plays Ellie Bishop in NCIS, Wickersham talks about her amazing experience living and working in the City of Angels.
How has L.A. been treating you so far?
I love it! It’s a very creative city. People from all over the world come here to pursue their creative visions, not just film, but music, fashion, visual arts, and tech. The creative community here is massive and diverse. As much as I love city life, I also love being outdoors and in L.A., you can have both year round. If I feel like going to the beach one day, I hop in the car and I’m there in forty minutes. If I want to hike Griffith Park, I walk five minutes up the street. I’ve also made some really great friends here. On the flip side, the city’s emphasis on success and career tends to put a tremendous pressure on you and create unnecessary competition and comparison between you and your peers, but I’ve become more aware of it and try not to play into it. But overall I really really enjoy it here.
Being brought up as a New Yorker and moving to L.A., what has been the biggest adjustment to life?
The smell of fall coming... Snow!... Then the sweet reward of summer. I really miss the change of seasons.
Tell us about your childhood.
I was born in Kansas and lived in Chicago, but then spent the majority of my childhood in Mamaroneck, New York. I was a tomboy growing up. I loved running around and playing sports. G.I. Joes and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were way more fun to me than Barbie and My Little Pony.
When did you become involved in acting and how?
I dropped out of Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania after my sophomore year and moved to New York City. It was both an exciting and depressing time. I was in a weird place after leaving school. I didn’t really know anyone in the city because all my friends were away at college somewhere. I decided to challenge myself by taking an acting class and a public speaking class, both of which had always terrified me. I had no clue what I was doing in my acting class. I was awful and kind of wanted to throw up each time I walked in because I was so nervous. But it made me feel alive and it really challenged me to be vulnerable way outside my comfort zone. And that I really loved. Sometime after I had started acting classes, a modeling agent approached me at a restaurant in Union Square and I started working with them. I asked if they could also send me out on acting auditions and they did. One of the first things I auditioned for was a small role on The Sopranos, which I got to my surprise. After that, I was addicted.
What is it really like, from the inside, to be a part of NCIS?
I love everyone I work with, the cast and crew, and really feel so lucky to have this job. At the same time, it’s hard. We are there a lot. I’m on set more than I’m home. So I’ve learned that it’s really about pacing and balance.
What initially drew you towards your character as Ellie Bishop?
I love how unapologetic she is. She is always just trudging forward. She has a drive in her that I really admire. She immerses herself in her work and is always problem solving. Our minds work in very different ways. I guess part of what drew me to the character is how different we are.
Let’s talk about the challenge of acting in a TV series.
In filming 24 episodes in 9 and a half months, it’s something I’m still learning. But I’ve become better at pacing myself and I think I’ve become much faster at learning my lines.
What would you be doing now if you have not been an actress?
I really love fashion and clothing. So maybe I’d be working at a clothing store or ideally, I’d have fashion brand and collaborate with great artists on it. One of my favorite parts on set is going into wardrobe to talk about what Bishop is going to wear and how her fashion sense evolves along with her character in the story.
Any hidden talents that you would like to lay out on the table?
Well, I don’t want brag or anything, but I can throw a football pretty well. My dad taught me at a young age and I feel pretty confident about it.
So what is next for you?
If I’m lucky enough, I would just like to keep exploring other characters in film or TV and telling their stories because stories have had a huge impact on me and my thinking. I’ve never learned so much from being told, but I’ve learned a lot from stories.
Stylist's assistant: Jenna Enns
Special thanks to Jessica Pierson, Kelly Tomlinson & ASSEMBLY LOS ANGELES.
Catch Emily Wickersham in NCIS, only on CBS.