Peta Wilson - Online Q&A
BBS (30 July 1997)
I was wondering if there was anything about your character on La Femme Nikita that you would like to change?
There's not anything I want to change about the character, because I worked on that for six months before the show started and I have a very full character and it's there. What I'd like is some of the writing to change so I had a vehicle to actually show the whole scope of the character.
Because as an actress, I can't really let the character rip, unless the writing permits it. If I let the character rip with the writing I've got -- I did that in the beginning and they didn't get it, so they didn't know how to cut it.
Because they were like, "Well, you should do it on the page as a subtext." I said, "But it doesn't matter what you are saying, it's about what the character's doing." It's not really what a person says, it's how they -- it's their behavior that sets up who the character is.
I need them to write stuff which is a bit deep, so the depths of the character can come out. And maybe they will in the next season. I do get a good, positive sense and a positive vibe that they're going to do that, because they've seen the way the character's going.
Now I'd like to pose the question of whether or not you think you'll stay with television acting for much longer. I've heard you mention in some interviews and such that TV acting isn't really your cup of tea... compared to perhaps theater or film. Do you think you'll stay with the television acting for much longer or will you go back to film and such?
I'd love to go back to theater and I'd love to do films, but mostly theater and mostly on my own terms. I'm hoping that if the show's successful, as it's going, I'll make enough money to have a production company, which I'm starting to do now, just to set it up, so that I can produce and direct and possibly -- I don't have to always be in the leads, little parts -- but actually get films going that I think are really good and actually use my commercial success to sell those things.
It has been a number of years (say back to the days of Emma Peel) since a female television character has had the strength and abilities of the character Nikita. Do you feel it is important for young women to see other women in untraditional (i.e., screaming meemie) roles where they are physically and mentally capable, and do you think it makes a difference in the way they view themselves?
I love men. I don't see the reason to push them into the ground. I just think we have to be a little smarter getting what we want. And we're more cunning than men anyway. We're smarter.
My role models weren't from television. I liked Angie Dickenson in Police Woman, but mine came from history. You know from studying Joan of Arc and there are so many, even the queens of England. Shakespeare wrote great women. So I think generally my role models haven't come from television, they've come from history books and my mother.
Sissy Spacek was a role model for me as an actress. And the character she played, Loretta Lynn, was a role model.
I read in an article you see the character Nikita as looking at the others through her sunglasses because they have taken everything else away from her. Which character in Section One do you feel Nikita has developed the strongest attachment to?
That's a very interesting question. I don't know I can answer that. Because I don't know that Nikita is really attached to any of them. She's attached because she has to be, but let's not forget that they're -- she doesn't want to be there. You know? I think she's going miss Walter. She likes him. She cares about him. She's got all kinds of weird things for Michael but, you know, if I answer that, I might give it all away.
I was wondering if you'd seen the original Luc Besson movie and what your thoughts were on how Nikita deals with being forced against her will? Of course she ultimately triumphs in the movie against all those who are trying to tie her down or quash her independence, but do you use any of those emotions and situations to create your TV character?
I saw the film when it first came out like everybody and loved it. I just thought this was rockin'. I said, "Right on." All right. The boys are really waiting for girls like that. You know, a little defiant. I think each actor has a different interpretation of any role. If, for example, I played Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? it would be very wrong of me to look at Elizabeth Taylor's performance and then say, "Well, how did she do that?" and work it out and then create the character. It's the same thing with Nikita.
If I had looked and studied the film -- I saw it once when it came out -- I would be all screwed up. Because the truth is, to play a character well and right, to play the human being, you have to go down inside your own heart. And the only way you do that is through the technique of understanding how to break down a character technically. You find the answers within the text and within yourself.
And so the Nikita I created is completely my own, and she reacts the way that she does in the show and it's very different from the film. I love the film by Luc Besson. He created that for that girl and taught her to act, and taught her everything, from what I understand.
How did you feel about doing Leno/Conan/Rosie? Do you enjoy the exposure or do you miss your privacy? Does your being the focus of the LFN publicity affect your working relationships with rest of cast?
That's an interesting question. First of all, I feel like a saleswoman. I feel like I'm out there -- we've got this huge conglomerate right -- it's like a big building -- and everyone else is working on it. Without the tiler, the painter, the plumber, we have no building. But guess what? I'm the saleswoman. So they build the whole thing and make it look really great. And I get out there, and I'm the one who sells it. So I'm on Leno. Thank you very much.
But the truth is, I embrace my crew and love them, so I share the whole experience with them and if given the opportunity I'd say thank you to my crew. Because without them, La Femme Nikita wouldn't be.
It also wouldn't exist without the audience to watch it. So, thank you!
The question I would like to ask is: which actor on La Femme Nikita is most like the character they portray, and which is not, and why?
Don Franks, who plays Walter, is very similar to the character he plays. Who else? Probably me. I'm most like my character. I don't give myself limitations. I'm not the kind of actress who would say, for example, "My character wouldn't do that." I never said, "She wouldn't do that." What I said is, "Well, let's see how Nikita would do it." So, therefore, I am a lot like the character.
Some of the other actors are very strict about their characters and they not giving themselves a lot of room to breathe, maybe. But Roy's a lot -- well he's not Michael but there's similarities between the two. And Alberta's not like that. She's not like Madeline. You know, she's much more nurturing as a person. You see it now and again in the character. And Eugene is definitely not operations, he's the sweetest guy in the world.
My question is, I heard you, your brother and father had been awarded the title Champion Trailer Sailor. I don't know if I spelled that correctly or not. I'd never heard of this. What exactly is it?
A Trailer Sailor is a boat, a sail boat, that you can tow in a trailer on the back of your car. And we had a Corsair, which is like -- I can't remember what the size is -- it's like a dingy. It's a racing boat. And we actually had the heaviest boat in the fleet. It was called Bewitched. And my father had the youngest crew. Me and my brother and three other kids. And me and my brother were the only ones that knew what we were doing, and the other kids were just sort of in the boat for weight.
And my father was in command and I was the first mate. I worked the spinnaker. It was great. We were third across the line among 500 boats. We capsized three times. And we were third over the line in the heaviest boat in the squadron by a lot. And we were the youngest crew. We also won the top/bottom trophy, which was a toilet seat. Because we capsized the most amount of times. What was your favorite episode and why? Also, what is it like working with Roy [Depuis], Matthew [Ferguson], Alberta [Wilson], Gene [Robert Glazer] and Don [Francks], aka "Old Ironhorse"? P.S. I hope you are feeling better after your bout with bronchitis.
My favorite episode is "Mercy." The finale. Because I feel like it's the most honest. I had had to tone my character down a bit throughout the season. The producers and I sort of met each other halfway on some character issues. For me as an actress the finale was the most fulfilling experience. I really felt Nikita was really in a place that I wanted her to be at and I think we see so much of who she really is in that episode, and everything sort of comes out there.
How do I like working with all the other actors? They're fantastic. They're very giving, they're very different, all of them. Madeline has been acting for a very, very long time. And so the most women who are that age, they can seem to be a little insecure about a young leading lady. But Madeline is very secure in herself and she is giving to me and not at all intimidated by everything coming to me. She's always there to give me a helpful word and encouragement.
They all realize I work 60 percent more than they do. So they know how tired I get and hard it is on me, and they're always there to be nurturing, so they become my family in a way.
Roy is beautiful, but it's kind of like working with a very different kind of man, because he's completely opposite to me. He's kind of soft and softly spoken. He's French Canadian and I'm Australian. You couldn't get more opposite. I'm used to dealing with a very different kind of man. Roy is sometimes is shocked by me and my antics.
Matthew's a sweetheart. He's a very good actor. He's done many things. He was in The English Patient, he was in Love and Human Remains, he's been in many things. And again, they -- they were really great. Jim gives me a lot to work off.
And Gene is a sweetheart. I can't stand the character he plays. But he is a lovely, lovely man. And you couldn't get more of a sweetheart. He kind of wafts onto the set with his little French beret and his cashmere coat. He's a sweetheart. And he's very debonair.
And Don is a very interesting man. He used to be -- he's sung with people like Frank Sinatra. He's a great, great jazz singer and he has an incredible band and between takes Don sings me jazz songs. And if they're having a bit of a rough day or having a bit of a hard time with some kind of suits or people, Don will come by and give my arm a rub. And he will then go and break into song about my eyes or something.
So he's like a -- he's not like an old iron horse, he's more like -- he's like a little sweetheart, you know, like a little raindrop. And he gives me these black books. He makes up these black books where he puts all the photographs of me in them or of the character. And he encourages me to keep up a journal of all of the things that happen. He's a hippie kid. He lives on an Indian reservation. He collects old cars and I collect old cars. Or, rather, I'd like to collect old cars. So we have that in common.
And my bronchitis is much better. It was more from lack of sleep -- they worked me a bit too hard. It was very cold in Toronto. Minus 20 degrees. I got sick right at the end, but I don't think that will happen next year. I'll pace myself a little bit better. And I know what to expect.
My question is, in what ways are you like Nikita? In what ways are you different? P.S. I so agree with you about how Pam Anderson is a lame excuse for a blonde.
Oh, actually, I shouldn't say that about Pamela Anderson, because I've nothing personal against her. I don't really know her, so I can't really make any judgments. You know what I'm saying? That's how she makes her money and her career and she's really comfortable with that. Maybe she didn't like who she was before, so it's the '90s, and in the '90s world you can change it, if you don't like it, you can change it. So she changed it. And she's now a happy little camper. She's got that sexy boyfriend with all of those tattoos and she's a happy girl.
How am I like Nikita? It's so bizarre, but the Section, how Nikita feels about the Section, I generally kind of feel about Hollywood in a way. Not that I don't dislike Hollywood, but from something so foreign, and I'm acting because I love it and I have a lot of energy. And it's not an ego trip for me or having to assert my identity. It's just because I really like doing it, and I love telling the truth and love that I have the ability to be like a window and tell the truth about other people that I play. I can actually get my ego out of the way and do that very well. So for me, the metaphor's humongous.
I guess I just don't like people telling me that something can't be done. And they're in the position of power, that they can say yes, or no, and things happen. But they don't even try because they can't be bothered. That gives me... that gives me... that gives me a real pepper up my butt.
And I always look for a way around people like that. I don't meet murderers every day, the way Nikita does. I meet these other people. Then there's this little voice inside of me that goes, "There's a reason that he's like that. He wasn't loved. He needs love." There's something.
So what we do is we smother them in love. Kind of like a bee with honey. Give them enough, they'll drown themselves. So it's kind of like that reality in Nikita. Even with these really, really bad people. She's always looking for that. She's always looking for that one thing that -- a reason why they're doing it, so that maybe she can -- you know, give them what they need. Do you know what I mean?
And as for Pamela Anderson: We must not hate these people, we must envelope them, and just understand that they're different from us, and it is a freaky world and show business is full of freaks. We love her because she is what she is and she's doing the best she can do. And someone loves her.
Hi, Peta. What kind of music do you enjoy? Who are your favorite artists? You're doing a wonderful job! Keep up the good work! You and Lucy Lawless are both wonders from Down Under!
Well, Lucy's from New Zealand and I'm from Australia. That's like Canada and America. So we're sort of from the same place. And thank you very much for putting me on the same par with Lucy Lawless, because I do agree with you, I think she's fabulous and a very truthful actress.
What kind of music I enjoy? I like everything, as long as it is done with heart and soul and people want -- they've got a point to tell. I love it. I don't like -- I don't like manufactured music that's like some guy taking some girl and turned her into a big star. I'm not into Spice Girls and all that stuff. I really love Dead Can Dance. The first rock concert I ever saw was the Doobie Brothers. So I kind of like some of the old Doobie Brothers songs as well. I'm not very cool when it comes to music, because I like whatever makes me feel in the moment. You know? I really like Luscious Jackson, and that song "Naked Eye." Oh, Jamiroquai, I love those guys. Incognito, Brazil '66. I also like Burt Bacharach. I really love the Rolling Stones. One particular song I really liked was "Melody" by the Rolling Stones. It's on the album Black and Blue.
I also really like Frank Sinatra. "Witchcraft." I really like Liza Minnelli. I think she's fabulous. Hmm... I like Ella Fitzgerald. I love Tom Jones. He's especially good when I'm cruising in my car, '56 Thunderbird. I've got Tom Jones turned up and I want to get in the mood.
I like country music. I love Patsy Cline. Loretta Lynn. I like Lyle Lovett. I saw him in concert, he was very good. I like classical music too. I like a cellist called Yo Yo Ma.
I really like classical music. I like film music. U2 were very good. And still are. I think they're a bit commercial now but that Joshua Tree was a great album. Joy Division I like. I liked Madness. The Australian band INXS is a very good band. There's a band that's called Men at Work that was big years ago. I also like this Australian band called Split Enz, which is the original Crowded House.
Well, that's just a few. I have very eclectic taste; it all really depends on my mood.
I understand you practice yoga. I recently began studying a contemporary form of yoga, and am completely impassioned by it. I wondered how you got started, did you take a class, get a video, use a particular book? I find the spirituality gained with yoga is invaluable, and you must find it a requirement with your busy schedule. Yoga is medicine for the mind as well as the body. Too many people are like speeding bullets of activity, with no soul. Yoga cures you of that malady.
Yes, I agree that yoga is very beneficial. I got started with yoga because a friend of mine, who is a film director in Los Angeles, thought that would help me with my busy schedule. I was part of a theater company. So with not enough hours in the day and many things to, I started my every morning at 8 o'clock and I studied a very physical style of breathing yoga. It took me a long time before I got results, because I was wanting results. And as soon as I stopped wanting results, the results came. My mind was going 'come on, come on,' because my body was able to sort of do it. But as soon as my mind chilled out, I began to see the results. I use it all the time now, on the set. I agree with Pamela. She should keep it up and I think she should pass it on to the friends around her. That's what I try to do, pass it along.
Hi, Ms. Wilson. My question is about your stunt work. I was wondering how much of it you do... it seems to me that you look as if you have had some kind of training in martial arts. Your fight scenes are great. I just want to thank you for bringing a great character to life. You are truly a joy to watch after coming back from my college classes.
I do as much as they'll let me. I do train and then I work with an airborne, and ex-airborne ranger called Tiron Mortrell who was one of the big stunt guys at Universal. I mean, eight weeks of tai chi, tae kwon do, stunt punches, stunt falls, stunt throws -- breaking and entering techniques. How to defend myself if someone came after me with a knife. How to defend myself if anyone came after me with any object and vice versa, if I had to go after someone with an object. So I did this and I was all prepared to do all my own stunts, kind of like a Jackie Chan, and I was told not to, that I wasn't allowed to by the studio. So they allow anything that won't endanger my life.
And, Judi, keep working hard in college. I studied very hard when I was at drama school and I'm living proof that if you keep focus and keep studying, it does come to you. Just keep working at whatever you want to do.
Susan King, Los Angeles Times (3 August 1997)
USA's stylish action series, "La Femme Nikita," has developed a loyal fan base in its first season. The thriller, based on the 1990 cult French film and the uninspired 1993 American remake, "Point of No Return," already has spawned numerous Web sites and fan clubs. Australian actress Peta Wilson plays Nikita, the street girl turned government agent/pawn.
She has quickly become the femme du jour, gracing the pages of numerous magazines and making the talk-show rounds. There's even talk of holding "La Femme Nikita" conventions. And the series has gained even more momentum since moving in June from Mondays to Sundays, where it airs in a first-run programming block that includes "Pacific Blue," "Silk Stalkings" and "The Big Easy."
Executive consultant Joel Surnow ("The Equalizer," "Miami Vice," "Nowhere Man") is thrilled with the reception, even if it is on a smaller scale than for a hit on one of the major broadcast networks. "It's kind of great being a little underdog show--a little cable show--that doesn't have huge expectations," he says. "It's really been neat."
Wilson's Nikita is a young woman who, while living on the streets, was wrongly accused of murdering a cop and forced into a new life as an operative of a ruthless, secret government organization known as Section One. If Nikita doesn't follow orders, she'll be terminated.
Roy Dupuis plays the enigmatic agent Michael, who becomes Nikita's trainer and mentor. Alberta Watson is Madeline, the cool, mysterious master strategist, and Eugene Robert Glazer is Operations, the efficent bureaucrat who operates Section One.
The series wasn't an easy sell. In fact, USA turned down the original pilot script, which was very close in concept to the feature films: Nikita was a punkish killer given a second chance by becoming an assassin for a covert government agency.
"USA had done a show a couple of years before that had a very dark lead," Surnow says. "They were nervous about 'Nikita' being too dark. [USA said], 'If you have a woman who is a killer and ends up being brought into this organization and kills, it's too dark.' "
So Surnow came up with a new concept. "I pitched them on the idea of making her an innocent who was at the wrong place at the wrong time," he says, "and then has to survive by pretending to be the person she isn't. She wouldn't be an assassin. She will be killing, but that's not her job. She'll be killing just as if a cop would kill if he had to."
"Nikita," Surnow maintains, marks the first time on TV "where you have a female action hero. It's not 'Police Woman,' where she's more cerebral. She's actually twisting guys' necks and kicking and shooting and killing. It's a real person. It's a James Cameron female action hero. It's like a Linda Hamilton [in "The Terminator"] or a Ripley from 'Aliens.' "
Casting Nikita was arduous. Surnow read more than 250 actresses from all over the world. "It's a really hard part to cast because you have to have many different opposing qualities. You have to have vulnerability. I felt that American actresses weren't quite right for this part. The English actresses are a little more delicate."
The blond, blue-eyed Wilson had a "rawness" about her that Surnow loved. "She grew up in tribal New Guinea for the first 10 years of her life with an Army colonel father," Surnow says. "I think that's still in her. It's really great for the character."
Wilson says the experience of living in such a primitive area is "ingrained" in her bones and her blood. "I think I was much more in touch with the Earth [then]. Had I not had that time in New Guinea, it wouldn't be so easy [to shoot] under the pressure I am under. It takes 7 days to shoot an episode and we shoot 10 pages a day."
The actress was fresh out of drama school when she was cast as Nikita. "I did an audition where I just terrorized the office," she recalls. "I came in a mess, with no makeup on, in character like I was doing a play. After we did the audition, I acted like a normal person, which just blew them away. There are many actors out there who are just as good as me, if not better, who were waiting desperately for this break. What a great thing."
Though Nikita struggles with her life in Section One, Madeline lives and breathes the organization. In a recent episode, viewers learned that when she was a child, Madeline pushed her sister down the stairs and killed her because she wanted her doll.
"Everyone thinks I'm so evil," Watson says, laughing. "I never think of this role that way. She's just doing her job well. I think for Nikita there is a lot more gray area. I think for Madeline, it is black and white. You just do the job. This is a comic strip [character]."
As the season has progressed, Surnow says, the series has become more of an ensemble piece. "I think in the beginning we were trying to sell her," he says.
"Now we are more involved in all the characters. The whole idea of Section One has become a bigger deal than it was at the beginning. At the beginning we were dealing with [Nikita saying], 'Oh, my God, I'm stuck in this organization, what do I do now?' Now it's, 'I'm in the organization. I have moral issues about certain things I have to do, but we are all part of the team.' "
The second season, which begins in January, will explore different issues. "If the first season was a movie, that movie would be her trying to get out of Section One," Surnow says. "The second season will be more about her and Michael. That's all I'll say about it now."
La Femme Nikita
Heir to the Ann Parillaud and Bridget Fonda Role, Peta Wilson Kicks Butt!
Dan Scapperotta, Femme Fatales (Vol. 6, No. 2-August 1997)
The title character has been previously embodied by two actresses on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Adapting his own screenplay, Luc Besson directed the initial incarnation of LA FEMME NIKITA back in 1991. Nikita is introduced as a sociopath who kills a cop and is sentenced to death. As her sham funeral is arranged for mourners, Nikita (Anne Parillaud) is whisked to a covert agency. She's offered a couple of options: discipline herself into a transformation as a female Remo Williams. Or face an authentic execution. Reluctantly enduring several years of training, Nikita turns into a government assassin.
Bridget Fonda slipped into the Nikita role--this time, Anglicized as "Maggie"--in a 1993 remake, POINT OF NO RETURN.
Purchasing the rights to Besson's character, the USA network launched an adaptation of LA FEMME NIKITA into a TV series. Roy Dupuis, who supported Peter Weller in last year's SCREAMERS, was cast as Michael, Nikita's trainer and mentor. Operations, who officiates the secret organization, is portrayed by Eugene Robert Glazer.
Peta Wilson, an Australian newcomer, was cast in the central role of Nikita. Formerly as army brat, Wilson's father was routinely stationed in New Guinea, which suffered a certain entertainment deficiency--specifically, a TV transmitter. The Irish-Australian family had no alternative than to improvise their own amusement. The youthful Peta and her brother engaged in after-dinner skits and standup; they'd lampoon other family members and lip sync to Fleetwood Mac. But moving from one post to another, every 6 to 12 months, offered Wilson another avenue for her fledgling career.
"I studied drama when I was in school," explained Wilson in a chipper Aussie accent that's "kept subdued" on-camera. "I usually went to a girls' school and, moving around a lot, one has to do a little bit of 'acting' to get in with the girls of that school. I kind of practiced acting to try and fit in. For instance... if they were into basketball, I'd get really good at basketball to fit in. If it was swimming, I'd get really good at swimming. I'd sort of observe them, for like a week, and then win them over. So that's really where it started."
Six years ago, Wilson landed in America for some dramatic education, New York-style. But she was sidetracked. "I fell in love and stayed in L.A.," shrugged the actress. "I decided to study in California. I also studied American history and studied all the playwrights throughout American history. I loved the Tennessee Williams biography, The Kindness of Strangers . The only way to get anywhere in life is to work hard and listen and learn. There's no easy route. I love history and books. I think it's a very personal thing when you read a book or learn about something. You get a new point of view and it adds to your library of information. As an actor, that is very important. The more you know about, the more it opens you up and allows you to express certain feelings. History is so fascinating. I like to look at photographic books, I like to tell my own stories when I look at a photograph."
Just about one year ago, Wilson finally hired a manager and blitzed auditions. But six months of casting calls resulted in only a few minor roles. A small part in an episode of HBO's STRANGERS series bought Wilson a trip to Parisian locations. When Charlie Connor remade VANISHING POINT, a '71 cult classic, Wilson was cast as a motorcyclist credited in the original version as Nude Rider. "In the original version, she was naked and played by an actress caned Gilda Texter," said Wilson. "In our version, I've got a bikini on." Another movie, WOMAN UNDONE, furnished her with one word of dialogue; Wilson admits she needed the credit for her bio.
"And, suddenly, my luck changed. I was offered the lead in a show..."
Ironically, Wilson was hesitant to attend the casting call. Once too often, she was on the cusp of bagging a plum role but was rejected, at the eleventh hour, because producers preferred someone with more mainstream familiarity: "I thought I'd do theatre or something because I didn't want to be like every other actress in L/S/... sitting on my butt doing nothing, waiting for a break in a handbag. But my manager suggested I go for television. I went for a few things like a comedy and a western on a network; they worked out well but, again, they went with a name. Then LA FEMME NIKITA came along. It was scary because I loved the movie so much, and I didn't know if I could do that. But Michael Picone, my manager, said 'It's only an audition. It's not about getting the job, it's about getting better at auditions.' So I went in an auditioned and I had a lot of fun.
The character that I read for was much like my own tomboyish self. They really liked me; it was surprising because here I am--completely green! I had just done only a few things and my fourth job is the lead in a TV series. Oh, my god!"
Wilson sprinted out of bed at 5 a.m. and, twelve hours later, still kindles a sultry bloom: "I saw the French version of LA FEMME NIKITA when it first came out. I loved it, I think Luc Besson is a great filmmaker. I really enjoy his films. I thought Anne Parillaud was beautiful and wonderful--that was the frightening thing."
Nevertheless, the USA network admitted a certain dissatisfaction with Besson's felonious anti-heroine. "The TV series is a very toned-down version of the film," stressed Wilson. "I just learned all this since I started. The first two weeks, it was taming Peta instead of taming Nikita. When I came in, I had been working on the character for about four months and found some very great nuances and some very interesting things to do with Nikita. But then they said, 'We're not going to sell the show in sequence, and there are standards and practices laws--and this comes across way too strong.'
"So the character that I play in the TV series is a very-toned down version of the one in the film. Also, she's not a killer. In the movie, she killed a cop. The script and Parillaud are so wonderful, you feel very sympathetic to her character; nevertheless, at the end of the day, she's still a killer. In the TV series, my Nikita is not a killer but a kid who was unloved. She was forced out onto the street. Her mother didn't want her. Like a lot of other street kids, she's just sort of surviving like a cat or something. Basically in the wrong place at the wrong time, she saw someone murdered; the murderer sees her, and she has to fight him off in self-defense and ended up with the knife. The governmental section stages her funeral and turns her into an assassin. Because she was a bit of a wild child, she gets labeled."
Alberta Watson abruptly dropped in to say 'Howdy.' The actress plays Madeline on the series, a Section One strategist who hones Nikita's skills as an assassin and a woman. As Watson departs, Wilson winks at me: "I couldn't be luckier at this point in my career to be working with a strong actress like that."
Thought sensuous, Wilson's spin on Nikita is equally assertive; the physical obligations of her role prompted Wilson to enroll for eight weeks of training. "I'm a girl," she pointed out--quite unnecessarily. "People are going to expect me to do it like a girl. I enjoy it. I played cops and robbers when I was a little girl. I rode skateboards and built cubby houses. I didn't have to, but I went and got a trainer who was an ex-airborne ranger named Tirion Mortrell. he taught me breaking and entering techniques, stage combat, basic combat, how to fall, how to throw people, how to fight, how to punch and protect myself. By the time I got on the Toronto set, I was ready. I would have been able to do the stunts myself; but the lead actress can't do that because if she gets hurt, the show stop.
"We went and played all the games, with virtual reality guns, for target practice. Then we went out to the range and practiced with real guns. I shot off 800 rounds of ammo--magnums and shotguns. I did that for eight weeks, three hours a day. I cross train. I do a little arm work because the guns are heavy. I don't do fancy workouts, like some of these people who dress up in a fancy outfit. I just strip off the clothes I've got and wear my underwear, T-shirt and a pair of shorts and go for it. It's more for stamina because sometimes I work 17-18 hour days. And I'm in every scene, the stamina has to be there. I'm waiting for my dad to see the show and see how I hold the gun. He can help me out with my career choice."
Thirteen episodes are in the can; cast and crew await the decision of network executives to produce an additional nine episodes to make a full compliment of 22 shows for the season. "It's so different from what I know, which is theatre," said Wilson. "It's a different skill altogether. My challenge is to make it as realistic as possible within such a short time span. We only get one or two takes. We don't have the time for more."
Then again, Wilson is no stranger to physical recreation. Bonding with her father and brother, Wilson abetted the family to earn the title of Australian Champion Trailer Sailor: "A trailer sailor is a sailing boat you can put on a trailer and take home with you. One year, my dad won the National Corsair championship on a type of sailboat called a Corsair. My brother and I were the crew, and we won. We've been sailing since we were ten."
The alluring Aussie prides herself as a painter, though her talent is rather limited. Seems she can only draw renderings of fish: "I didn't know why! When I arrived in the States, I didn't have much money. So, when it was a friend's birthday, I'd find old pieces of wood in back alleys and then I'd use whatever I had--house paint, real paint, nail polish, lipstick or whatever--to paint fish and give it to them as presents. Now it helps calm me down and I love getting messy."
Currently a resident of Toronto, Wilson--who doesn't miss L.A., but regrets parting company with her Hollywood coterie--shares quarters with her grandmother: "I'm just a regular person who happens to be an actor. I'm very down to earth and, sometimes, I lack tact. I'm a very, very passionate person. I'm pretty defiant at times. A little wild. I'm very inquisitive. I'm pretty romantic. I kind of like the idea of knights in shining armor. I want to have a family one day, and a place in the country with a house and a couple of chickens.
"I love being outside. Hey, I'm Australian. I'm a family girl. I come home at night, sit down and have a tea and a laugh with my grandmother."
"La Femme Nikita"
Don Nathanson, Behavior Online (5 August 1997)
Intrigued by the rising popularity of the USA network's television series based on the French movie of the same name, I've watched a few episodes. Briefly, a beautiful young woman had been imprisoned for a crime she did not commit, and removed from prison by a high tech spy system that offered her freedom within its confines if she agreed to become one of them. She is resourceful, athletic, heroic---indeed, everything one might want to see in a heroine. Within the relentless system of "Section One," assassination, destruction of property, rape, torture, theft, lying, and nearly everything else forbidden to normal citizens becomes ordinary behavior. Nikita, dragged into this system for dramatic purpose, becomes its soul, the only person who retains the ability to feel or to be empathic. Michael, her "control" and teacher, is by turns supportive and heartless in his management of her services to an organization that does "good" by being amoral.
Yet I do not think that the program has become so popular merely because of the data noted above. Rather, I believe that the show is based on an issue well known to us as therapists. Just beneath the surface is the theme of spouse abuse. Each week, the beautiful Nikita is subjected to a number of horrible experiences that she survives because she is both good and capable. Yet with all her skills and attributes, she cannot escape from this macabre system. Michael and the rest of the Section One staff treat Nikita with contempt for her ability to feel, even though they often say privately that they wish they were more like her.
It is the old story of a woman trapped by the man she loves, a man who beats, tortures, humiliates, abuses sexually, and terrorizes her in the service of love defined as adherence to a brutal but inescapable system.
If you haven't seen this compelling television series, I commend it to your attention. I'd be curious to learn whether my colleagues feel, as do I, that such shows validate the behavior we spend so much of our time trying to erase or mitigate.
La Femme Nikita Star Kicks Up A Cult Following
Walt Belcher, The Tampa (FL) Tribune (17 August 1997)
"You can learn to shoot, you can learn to fight, but there's no weapon as powerful as your femininity" is the credo of "La Femme Nikita."
But Nikita's femininity often gives way to old-fashioned kicks in the groin when the charm fails.
This offbeat action series on USA cable network has built a loyal cult following since its debut in January. Only 13 episodes were made this year, and they have been stretched out over the past eight months.
A new episode airs at 10 p.m. Sunday as the series builds to a cliffhanger season finale Oct. 5.
USA officials are high on the series and have renewed it for 22 episodes, which begin in 1998.
Starring Australian beauty Peta Wilson, the series appeals to women who see Nikita as a tough-but-vulnerable hero involved in romance and intrigue.
Men also are attracted to the statuesque Wilson, who has striking blue eyes.
The series is based on Luc Besson's 1990 French thriller, "La Femme Nikita," but it has a softer edge.
The story is about Nikita, a street punk arrested for a murder she didn't commit. She is sentenced to life in prison, but a mysterious agency, Section One, recruits her as an undercover agent.
Section One likes to take in ruthless killers, wipe out their identities and then forces them to take on life-threatening cases. But Nikita is not as ruthless as her record indicates.
"I will never be one of you," she tells one of her cruel bosses, Madeline (Alberta Watson).
However, she will do what it takes to survive.
Often she is in peril. Sometimes she takes a beating. Sometimes she gives a beating.
She also is trapped in a love-hate relationship with Michael (Roy Dupuis), her mentor at Section One.
Interviewed recently in Pasadena, Calif., during the Television Critics Association's fall preview tour, Wilson says she's in awe over her newfound fame.
"I'm very green at all this," she says. "I'm just very lucky to have this job at this point in my life."
The 29-year-old Wilson grew up as "an army brat" and spent much of her childhood in New Guinea. She was on the Australian "netball" team - it's "like basketball without the dribbling."
Wilson's boyfriend for the past six years is writer-director Damion Harris ("Deceived," "Bad Company"). She says they haven't spent much time together this past year because of her filming schedule in Toronto.
While in Toronto, she shares an apartment with her grandmother. Family members who seldom had left Australia are frequent visitors - her father, mother, brother, uncles and cousins.
"We're all very normal people who haven't gotten used to all this," she says. "The first time my mother and grandmother saw people ask me for an autograph, they were so overcome that they cried."
"I've been overwhelmed," she says. "I came to the United States in 1991 to start an acting career, and I've been studying ever since."
She says she wanted women to like the show and she wanted the audience to identify with her character.
"I didn't know if I had it right until people started coming up to me in airports and saying, "Poor you.' They sympathize with what my character is going through," she says.
She says she's not really a violent person but she gets a kick out of bringing down "the really bad ones."
"I enjoy the action parts but I really love being a woman and I love playing this part," she adds.
Wilson, who has studied martial arts, says she does a few of her own stunts.
"I get to do most of the fighting sequences and most of the running," she jokes.
She predicts Nikita's attitude will be different next season.
"She's been trapped and unhappy. She's a good person forced to do bad things. But she'll be a little more forceful next season and not so much the victim."
"La Femme Nikita" has become compared to "Xena," which also features a female action hero.
"Xena is on the offensive and Nikita is on the defensive," Wilson says. "She's a hero and I'm the antihero. She's fantasy and I'm reality."
La Femme Peta
Dan Snierson, Entertainment Weekly (August 1997)
Part babe, part nut-crunching machine, 26-year-old Australian import Peta Wilson has taken her place alongside Lucy Lawless as Action Figure du Jour with her starring role in the spy drama "La Femme Nikita," the USA Network's top-rated series. But behind her hard-nosed character lies a gal full of goof ("I'm the Maggo of actresses, very accident-prone," she insists) and giggle: "I've made a lot of grown men cry with laughter, because I really am quite a joke." Judge for yourself.
YOUR SHOW IS BASED ON CHARACTERS FROM THE 1990 FRENCH FILM. ANY THOUGHTS ON WHY FRENCH PEOPLE CAN BE SO RUDE?
For years they've been thinking they're the best. Now that they're not ruling the world anymore, I think they're in a bad mood. Or maybe they eat too much dairy.
HOW DOES ONE "KICK ASS"?
First of all, don't look like you're capable of it. Pretend you're short. Or try using a distraction. Go up to someone and say, "What's that thing on your chin?" When they look down, sock 'em and run.
WHAT'S YOUR WORST ON-THE-JOB INJURY?
I got a concussion doing a stunt where I was supposed to be thrown against a tree. The director wanted me to really "feel" the tree. The stuntman was helping me out, shall I say, and I caught the tree at 10 miles an hour. I worked the rest of the day, then had a CAT scan.
ANYTHING IN YOUR CHILDHOOD THAT WOULD EXPLAIN THIS WHOLE TOUGH-CHICK THING?
I was scared of the dark. Ohhh, I'd do anything not to have to sleep on my own. I'd get in bed and cover myself with dolls and teddy bears. I saw An American Werewolf in London when I was little and it took me years to get over it -- like six.
BEING FROM AUSTRALIA, HAVE YOU EVER EATEN A KANGAROO BURGER?
Absolutely not! But I've eaten a crocodile burger and a snake. And I ate a dead owl out of a men's urinal when I was like 3 years old. Lovely, huh? My mother found me in the latrine with bits of feather hanging out of my mouth.
ANY OTHER STRANGE HANKERINGS YOU'D LIKE TO CONFESS?
I get cravings for tins of condensed milk. I used to make condensed milk sandwiches. Mmmmmm. They're particularly nice with a bit of banana.
IF THERE WAS A TALKING PETA WILSON DOLL, WHAT WOULD IT SAY?
"Roooooooooger!!!!" That's my hairdresser's name.
IS FOSTER'S REALLY AUSTRALIAN FOR BEER, MATE?
No! VB (Victoria Bitter) is Australian for beer, not Foster's. They just spend more money on those silly commercials. I'm telling you, VB is a much smoother beer.
IF YOU COULD GUEST-STAR ON ANY SHOW, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
"NYPD Blue," as Dennis Franz's naughty long-lost daughter who's always stealing candy and high heels. I just love him. I think he's sexier than hell.
GIVEN YOUR NAME, HAS PETA (PEOPLE FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF ANIMALS) TRIED TO RECRUIT YOU FOR ADS?
Well, I have had lots of pets: crocodiles, tortoises, frogs, wild pigs, baby joeys, and blue-tongued lizards. But I do like to eat lamb, and I have ostrich-skin shoes. Actually, PETA must hate me. I'm gonna have to change my name.
OKAY, MISS TOUGH-AS-NAILS: WOULD YOU EAT A BOWL OF LIVE CRICKETS FOR A MILLION DOLLARS?
A million dollars, that's a lot of spondula. But I'm not hungry today.
New Nikita Makes Name For Itself
USA Network Series With Tough But Gentle Heroine Offers Top Dramatic Fare
Dusty Saunders, Rocky Mountain News (31 August 1997)
She's certainly not June Cleaver, wearing an apron. And she's not Xena, Warrior Princess, dressed in leather. She's Nikita, whose wardrobe is often as stylish as her series.
La Femme Nikita, starring Australian-born Peta Wilson, offers television's most unusual series heroine -- a tough but oh-so-gentle woman caught up in Mission: Impossible-type adventures not of her own making. And as the adventure continues, La Femme Nikita is on its way to becoming cable television's best weekly dramatic series.
Granted, the cable networks are just starting to move into the world of weekly series TV, so the competition is slight. But even if the field were more crowded, La Femme Nikita would hold its own in any comparison.
It should be noted, for the uninformed, that La Femme Nikita (8 p.m. Sunday, USA Network) is definitely adult television. If you follow the mysterious, convoluted TV rating system, La Femme Nikita deserves its current TV-M designation as a mature series. There's violence -- perhaps too much at times for viewers overly sensitive to TV's blood-and-guts formula series. However, such violence is not the central reason for the series' existence. La Femme Nikita deals with espionage and emotional warfare and features a terrific performance by Wilson, a sensual 26-year-old blond[e] with a lithe figure and piercing blue eyes.
La Femme Nikita is based loosely on the 1991 French movie, starring Anne Parillaud, about a hedonistic young woman coerced into becoming an assassin. This was followed by a Hollywood version, Point of No Return, starring Bridget Fonda.
Executive producer Joel Surnow made several adjustments in order to make the series more palatable for weekly television. The most important change was the softening of the lead character. Surnow decided, wisely, that the Nikita from the movies couldn't sustain a TV series heroine because she had killed a cop in cold blood while high on drugs. The audience would certainly not identify with that type of character. In this TV version, Nikita is mistakenly accused as the cop killer. Having no proof of her innocence, she's forced to live outside the law and work with an unnamed, covert anti-terrorist group.
In a further toning down of both the character and the violence, Nikita is not really a cold-blooded assassin. if she kills it's either out of self-defense or because the victim deserves it.
Wilson fits the TV version of Nikita perfectly, portraying the tough and gentle sides of her personality with equal vigor. And Wilson's physical performance adds much to the character. Wilson underwent eight weeks of intensive training with a martial arts expert prior to filming the series, which premiered on USA Network last January. Wilson already was in marvelous physical shape, having spent part of her growing-up years in the jungles of New Guinea, where her father was stationed in the military.
Wilson is surrounded by agile actors playing members of the secretive espionage unit, including Roy Dupuis as Michael, who works with Nikita as an operative; and Alberta Watson, portraying Madeline, Nikita's supervisor, who gives new meaning to the term cold-blooded. An ongoing story line, dealing with Nikita's constantly having to prove herself to her superiors. gives the series a double-edged plot each week.
In the Aug. 17 episode (the last new hour of the current run), Nikita was assaulted by a rapist. After protecting herself in fine fashion, she was the subject of an intensive search because police wanted her to identify the man, believed to be responsible for several rapes and killings. All of this did not sit well with Nikita's superiors, who had their own agenda. Like so many episodes, the ending was anything but predictable television.
La Femme Nikita is in reruns until Sept. 21 when the first of three new episodes airs. The series then goes into reruns again until January when it begins the second season of 22 weekly installments.
Peta Wilson Interview
Rob Tannenbaum, Details (August 1997)
How would TV's La Femme Nikita kill you in her off-hours?
"By saying you can't have any."
Your show gets called "sexy" a lot, probably because everyone wears black. What do you find sexy?
Roman Polanski's movies. Italy. And music: Dead can Dance. Heat was a sexy movie. Gena Rowlands. When I was nine I went to a Doobie Brothers concert and Patrick Simmons ran by with his guitar. He was seating, and I can still smell the leather - that was sexy. John Malkovich, Sean Penn, Sam Shepard, and my boyfriend are sexy. You know who's sexy? Dennis Franz! He's got the shit going on. I like people who dare to look in your eyes and hold a glance. And my boyfriend says I have this thing about Marky Mark, which is ridiculous.
(holding a glance) Have you ever seen a casting couch?
No. In the first six months I was in L.A. I got a couple of movie roles, but about six times I lost a part to a star. I said to my manager, "Look, I don't wanna sit on my ass in L.A. and not do anything. I'd rather go to New York and do theater. So my manager said, "Just try TV." Right away, I got offered three things: a sitcom on Fox, a Western at CBS, and La Femme Nikita. The closest thing I had to a casting-couch experience was on the sitcom. I got a really weird vibe from the lead actor - I felt I'd have to feed his ego a lot. I'm a country girl from the bush - I can't deal with that. I wanna do the work, I don't want that bullshit. (A ten-minute digression about drama school ensues) Sorry. I've been up filming since 4 A.M. What was the question again?
I don't remember. I asked it such a long time ago.
Oh yeah - Pauly Shore. (laughs) I hope I never run into him! He's very cute, very charming. He just intimidated me.
(still holding the glance) What was it like being an Australian Army brat?
We had a houseboat, and we'd just go around Papua New Guinea. A lot of the local people hadn't seen many whites. None of them had television or radio. My brother and I were completely different from them, but we wanted to fit in, so we'd never wear shoes and were naked a lot. We'd take long walks through the rainforest and had lots of animals: a pet alligator, crocodiles, kangaroos. I remember it was the best time of my life. Then we came back to Australia and my mum and dad got divorced.
You were a model when you were younger, and you had anorexia and bulimia. Do you blame that on modeling?
It was a combination of things. My parents' divorce upset me a lot. Then I started modeling, went to Europe, and fell in love. When I came back to Sydney, I'd become a woman. All the boys would look at me, and I would look at the boys - or the girls. (laughs) Sydney was kind of wild. I was making more money than my whole family put together, but I was unhappy. Models are about being seen and not heard, and that's just not for me. It was a period when I didn't like myself much.
How wild was Sydney, exactly? Did you date girls?
(pauses) What will the network say? (laughs) I never dated girls. I never really dated anybody.
Since you're Australian, I'll remove the euphemism: Did you have sex with girls?
No. No, no, no. Kissed a couple. Good kissers, girls. It was always with my best friends, and we were all straight, completely straight. I'm very straight. I remember going out one evening, four boys and four girls. The guys were being really boring and macho, and I went down to the bathroom. Then my friend Kate came in, then Joey, and we all had a little kiss, and that was it. Then we went back out and stood around the boys, going "Ha-ha-ha, you have no idea."
Nikita uses a gun. What's your favorite way of killing a man?
Saying you can't have any. (laughs) If I were going to kill you, I'd freak out first. I'd get really loud and talk in your face, (shouting) and make you think I was completely insane, get you giggling and laughing, then go kaboom! An ex-marine I trained with said the basic way to kill a guy is to kick him in the balls first.
When should a man be slapped?
When he tries to hide that he's looking at another woman. just look, okay?
Is Nikita ever going to have sex with her brooding mentor, Michael?
Oh God, he's so frigid. I say to him on the set, "C'mon, Michael. When is Nikita gonna get a bit?" But I think Nikita is a virgin anyway, or maybe she's bi. She'd be so freaked out by sex, she'd come in two seconds like a sixteen-year-old boy. She just wants love. It's from all that time living on the streets because he mother never cared for her.
Are you going to stay on the show?
If I get a twelve-hour turnaround, so I can get some sleep, I don't know why I wouldn't stay. It's a very funny show - inadvertently. When I look at it I howl. At the same time, I'd really like to be doing more substantial work. I'd love to be sitting her talking with you if I'd done a play or something great. I don't really have a body of work. All the stuff I studied I can't use here. I came straight out of theater to this, where I just hit the mark and bark, basically. There's no rehearsal, no read-through; I meet the director the day of the shoot. The great moments of film are in the silences. But they use close-ups all the time, you can't see the body.
Oh, they do body-shots. Especially when you're wearing a low-cut dress.
'Allo, 'allo! We know what kind of body shots you're talking about. I know. I'm comfortable with my sexuality. Whatever. It's not like it used to be. Talk about sexy man: Montgomery Clift, Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy. Now everything is pretty.
Except for Marky Mark.
Marky Mark is pretty too!
I just wanted to see if you'd stand up for him. Look at you, leaping to Marky Mark's defense.
Was I really? No, I was not!
Yes you were. You're boyfriend's right.
I'm so embarrassed! I don't even know the guy. Jesus.
Nikita Becoming A Real Killer for USA Network
Jim McConville, Electronic Media (1 September 1997)
For USA Network, patience is turning out to be a virtue.
After nearly 18 months, USA's Sunday night original programming strategy is beginning to pay dividends. It posted solid ratings last month, fostered in large part by USA's legitimate breakaway hit, La Femme Nikita.
USA tied with Turner Network Television for the top-rated cable network during prime time in August, averaging a 2.2 rating, representing 1.6 million households, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Nikita, an action-adventure series produced by Universal Studios, has helped push USA's Sunday night prime-time ratings up 22 percent over last year since it moved to its 10 p.m. slot in May. Last month the show earned a 2.5 rating, representing 1.75 million households.
"We were looking for that 10 p.m. show to make it a solid night for us, and we found it in Nikita," said Kay Koplovitz, chairman and founder of USA Network.
La Femme Nikita is one leg of USA's four-hour, prime-time "Sunday Night Heat" block, which includes Pacific Blue, Silk Stalkings and The Big Easy. The network last week disclosed it won't renew The Big Easy beyond 1997.
Also last week, USA exercised its option on long-running drama series Silk Stalkings and will pick up the final nine episodes on their 22 episode order for the 1997 season. The show has scored a 2.1 Nielsen rating in August, a 17 percent increase over last year.
USA's rating boost comes as much-awaited good news after last year when the network lost its status as the top-rated cable network to TNT, which barely beat it out in overall Nielsen ratings average.
The network plans to stick to its original programming scheme, said Rod Perth, president of USA Networks Entertainment. The network will add two original prime-time dramas next season as part of its $180 million original programming budget for 1997-98, up 5 percent over last year.
Mr. Perth said USA has 30 original drama series on the drawing board which the network will draw from to eventually start a second night of original programming.
"We feel that if we keep working on it, we will have the right shows to come into that block and develop a second night," Ms. Koplovitz said.
Shows now in development include fantasy action-adventure series Bruce Lee's Netherworld, which uses computer imagery to bring the late karate champion back to life. Also in development: On Sunset, a drama series about a Los Angeles homicide detective on Sunset Boulevard from the producer of the Red Shoes Diaries.
USA's original programming strategy also comes at considerable cost and doesn't necessarily guarantee hits. The Big Easy, for instance, shot on location in New Orleans, costs an estimated $1 million per episode. Its rarefied price tag and poor ratings prompted USA to pull the plug after 1997.
"We had high hopes for Big Easy," Ms. Koplovitz said. "But it didn't really meet the standard that we had set for it."
USA's original programming strategy ran into a brick wall last year when it tried to build a Saturday night original comedy block. Its four prime-time sitcoms -- Claude's Crib, Lost on Earth, Duckman and Weird Science -- were all canceled earlier this year due to poor ratings.
Mr. Perth attributed the shows' failure to viewer perceptions of USA as an action-adventure network. "Comedy is not something that we are known for. And the shows were not compatible with one another," he said.
No Longer Down Under
Femme Fatale Develops A Comfortable Niche
James Endrst, The Hartford Courant (9 September 1997)
Peta Wilson is in an outfit so snug she looks like she was born in it. There is not a corpuscle to spare between her lean, muscular frame and her black Diesel pants. Her posture, her attitude is action-ready; her look, blond and high-impact; her style, a mix of mod and grunge, accentuated by straight as straw hair and a favorite fashion prop -- a sleek pair of shades.
Wilson, 26, is pumped as she stands talking to a reporter on the rooftop patio of a California hotel. And why not? She's the star of USA Network's La Femme Nikita (airing Sundays at 10 p.m.), the highest-rated original drama on basic cable.
Six months ago, the Australian-born actress was a complete unknown. "This is all new for me, mate," says Wilson, who came to the States just six years ago to pursue an acting career. "It's been a huge thing professionally," she says of Nikita, which was inspired by the French film of the same name. "It's put me on the map. There's no role that could be better for me and no role that could be better suited to me. Because I'm green."
But Wilson, like Nikita, is no pushover. Feminine and doe-eyed one moment, the two can be intimidatingly macho the next.
"The character allows for my inexperience," Wilson says, "because Nikita is a chameleon. So I'm a chameleon."
In this slickly produced, hour-long action-drama, Nikita is plucked from prison, where she has been serving a life sentence for a crime she did not commit. Her new life: work as an elite operative for the government-run Section One, "the most covert anti-terrorist group on the planet." As Nikita explains, "Their ends are just, but their means are ruthless. If I don't play by their rules, I die."
Running the Nikita show at Section One is the mysterious Michael (Roy Dupuis), a Svengali-love interest who turns the punk Pippi Longstocking into an extra-mean fighting machine. Madeline (Alberta Watson) is the master strategist, the queen of mind games. The big bureaucrat is a guy called Operations (Eugene Robert Glazer).
"These people own her life," Wilson explains. "So all of her strength and her morality and humanity has to be kind of hidden, because basically Nikita is an angel in wolf's clothing -- running with wolves."
The show made its debut in January on Monday nights, then moved to Sunday. Part of USA's so-called "heat block," the hour seems to be getting hotter all the time. (Pacific Blue kicks off Sundays at 8 p.m.; Silk Stockings follows at 9, with Nikita and The Big Easy at 10 and 11, respectively.)
"We didn't know it was going to do so well," she says. "We hoped....But nobody realized."
Wilson thinks the audience is reacting to Nikita's tender side, her tragic circumstances. "People can relate in certain ways to being in the wrong place at the wrong time," she says, "and having to do things they don't want to do because they have to. I think Nikita's character is the audience...so they're rooting for me and with me."
Anyone who has seen the series, though, knows Nikita takes advantage of its star's sex appeal. Wilson is dressed and re-dressed so often, she should have a runway. But Wilson rejects the idea that people are tuning in for some kind of titillation. "The character is so human," she says. "She has many different things that make her accessible. [The audience isn't] being attracted to the sexuality. They're getting beyond that."
There's no getting around the violence, though. And when Nikita lets loose, it isn't pretty. Or easy. A longtime athlete (Wilson was a basketball player of note in Australia and an accomplished sailor), the star says, "It's very physical, but they take very good care of me. It's shot in the winter [in Toronto, Ontario] so it's very cold and that makes you extra tired."
Wilson isn't complaining. She's making good money, she says, and has just set up her own production company. "I'll be doing small independent features under $5 million. Producing them and sometimes [acting] in them, sometimes not."
Naturally, Nikita has opened some doors, but Wilson isn't rushing through them. "I've been getting some offers," she saus. "I'm not going to say I'm getting loads of them, because I'm not. A lot of people in this business haven't seen the show." But Wilson has been passing "because I feel they're not the right choices right now. I'm not being greedy and selfish. I'm just sitting and waiting for the right project."
Not that she would say no, she says, if Warner Bros. -- the studio that produces La Femme Nikita -- wanted her to star in a rock 'em-sock 'em feature. "Hey, nothing wrong with being an action girl," she says.