Erica burst on the scene a little over four years ago and before she herself knew it she was shooting her mouth off at esteemed casting director Angela Peri at Boston Casting while fighting for the role of Tar Eklund in the Micky Ward story brought to the screen by Dorothy Aufiero.
“I stepped out of line,” Erica told IMAGINE, “got in her face, swore at her, gave her a look and demanded a part in the movie! I had my first call back!”
Sweet, funny, beautiful Erica McDermott said what? “Looking back,” she says, “and having more insight on how this business works, I’m not sure I would ‘mouth off’ to a respected casting director if I were put in the same situation today, but it paid off for me that day. After what seemed like a hundred long auditions, I was offered the supporting role of Tar Eklund in the Academy Award winning movie THE FIGHTER, and she will forever be known as the ‘fighter sister with the big hair’.”
Where did she come from? How did she get here? I asked her to tell me her story
“I was born in Cambridge and I lived there and Somerville through grade school. In the 6th grade I moved to Merrymount, a neighborhood in Quincy Massachusetts. My parents married at a very young age, had me at a very young age and are still happily married today. I am an only child and I love it! My Mom and Dad sacrificed quite a bit to give me the best opportunities growing up. I watched my mother go to night school for years to become a nurse, and after graduating from Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree I decided to follow in her footsteps. I graduated with a baccalaureate degree in nursing from Salem State University in 1995.
“My first job was at Pembroke Hospital where I worked in the Pediatric Psychiatric Inpatient Unit. A couple of years later I transitioned into the specialty of Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury and became the Director of Medical Services at a residential facility in Boston. During this period, I was responsible for the overall healthcare of children that had suffered traumatic brain injuries. Needless to say I gained some serious perspective on life during this time.
“Shortly after marrying my husband, Bob (who works in the investment management industry) we moved to Nashville Tennessee. We lived there for nearly four years. I worked as a float nurse in several of the big hospitals in the city. What a cool place to live, and as newlyweds it was a great to be in place where we knew no one because it forced us to learn to count on each other – I think this is one of the reasons we are so happy after almost fifteen years!
Right after 9/11, Bob accepted a position in NYC, and we moved to southern Connecticut. I had both of our girls, 13 months apart to the day, at Greenwich Hospital. My new career was ‘stay at home Mom’ and I absolutely loved it! We moved ‘home’ in 2003, and settled on the South Shore. We’ve been here ever since.
“When it came time for both kids to be in school full day, I decided it was time to go back to work and started interviewing at local Pediatric Medical offices. It was right around that time that I received a call from my friend Barbara who told me about a stage show that she was pulling together to benefit a local charity. She insisted I come talk to her and the others . This is when everything started to change. I mean, I love to make people laugh, public speaking has never bothered me, and I did take part in exactly one school play in Middle School…. but acting as an adult?
“I decided to go try it out, why not, right? This is when I met Lisa Rafferty, an accomplished Director, and writer of a successful show called MOMologues. She wanted some ‘funny moms’ from around town to take part in a one night only performance of her show to benefit our schools. Lisa and I hit it off – and that was the beginning.
“After my first stage performance in MOMologues in 2008, I was offered free acting classes at Plymouth Rock Studios. Lisa had believed in me and encouraged me to give it a shot. When I got to Plymouth I met acting coach Kevin Lasit and at the end of the six weeks of classes he echoed Lisa’s encouragement. Kevin suggested that I reach out to all of the big casting agencies in Boston. I didn’t tell my friends just my husband and parents, and they were also very positive and encouraging, so I did it. It was three or four weeks later I found myself at an open casting call at Boston Casting for a movie called THE FIGHTER. I showed up not knowing what to expect, and when I arrived it seemed there were a million people there! I was there to audition to be a tough girl, for background work. It was then casting director Angela Peri told me I was too pretty to pull off a tough girl.
“I think my introduction to the Ellie Fund was coming into the 2010 OSCAR Night America show, whatever year Avatar was nominated – because I remember the ‘spoof’ IMAGINE produced starring Ernie Boch that year. So funny!
“The Ellie Fund’s then Executive Director, Julie Nation, had reached out to me and some other local actors and invited us to be guests at the only sanctioned Oscar party in Boston, which was a benefit for the Ellie Fund. As fate would have it, Julie and I hit it off, my mum had just won a battle with breast cancer months earlier and my other new friend, Lisa Rafferty, a breast cancer survivor herself, had just finished writing a new “MOMologues” comedy about Breast Cancer called “The Pink Ribbon Overdose”. It seemed like a match made in heaven.
“Julie and Lisa were able to pull together a very cool production of P.R.O. held at the Hard Rock Cafe in Boston. The cast featured Julie and me along with the very generous ladies for Channel 5 Boston; Karen Ward, Biancia Delagarza and Susan Warnick. The show sold out quickly, was so much fun to do and raised some money for a great cause – I was so thrilled to be a part of it.
“Each Holiday Season I take my daughters out of school and the three of us participate in a gingerbread house making event at the Home for Little Wanderers. It’s great to see all of the children interact and spend time together, and it’s also a wonderful opportunity to have my girls experience the rewards of giving their time to others.
“This coming Spring I will be performing in The Vagina Monologues to benefit The Victim Rights Law Center; which is an effort being lead by my friend and fellow ‘Fighter Sister’ Melissa McMeekin (see October 2013 cover story).
It amazes me how much work is here in New England for anyone in the industry. It seems there are constantly big movies with big budgets coming our way. The folks who work hard every day to continue the MA Film Tax credit deserve a huge amount of credit for getting and keeping the momentum going. Thanks to them most of my auditions and reads are right here in Boston, although I do go to LA on tape auditions also. I would love to see successful television series come and stay in New England, which could be a catalyst to bring us to the next level. I expect that New England Studios and their Operations Director Chris Byers and the work he is doing will go a long way to making that a reality.
I love the whole (acting) process. Changing the way I talk, creating character quirks and living my entire day as someone else is such a rush for me. My poor husband has lived with so many different women; he’s really supportive, but sometimes I wonder if it drives him nuts! Sometimes I can stay in character for weeks. It truly is what I love about acting the most. .. it’s not acting… it’s becoming. I suppose what I like least is spending time away from my family, and generally having to keep a very flexible calendar. I always have to reschedule stuff. Just this Spring I had to reschedule a trip to Disney World and Universal with my family. They are so understanding and supportive, I am so grateful. By the way, we just made that trip to Orlando in November.
“Typically, not more than a week or two will go by without me ‘practicing’. Each audition I prepare for, regardless of the size of the role is an opportunity to learn and get better. I don’t think of it a practice but I do look at each role I don’t get as exactly that, an opportunity to get better. It’s often a chance to create a new character in my mind, and contemplate the possibilities and different directions the character can deliver a writers lines. That’s what a I really enjoy about acting – the innumerable choices I get to make.
“More formally, I do participate in many classes and workshops whenever I have the opportunity, be it in LA, NY or Boston – it’s a great way to keep sharp, challenge myself and meet new people – which is something else I really enjoy.
“Something that is really fun, exciting and rewarding – which I’ve had the opportunity to do a few times – is to do an informal table read with other actors. In 2012 I was living in LA during pilot season (Feb-April) and I participated in a table read of STEEL MAGNOLIAS that was pulled together by and included more than a few names and faces we would all recognize, and that was really cool.
I’ll let Engine Room Edits Don Packer sum it up, “I love Erica. What can I say. She’s smart. She’s funny. She’s beautiful…. goes without saying, and she’s a pleasure to work with. Someday I’ll look back and thank the gods that I had the chance to work with her because she’s going to go big time.”