Kickapoo grad's life as Hollywood actress a 'blessing,' 'chaotic'"

Adrienne Wilkinson's first experience with acting was during her senior year at Kickapoo High School. Through an acting workshop held by a local photographer, she was instantly hooked. Two days after graduation in 1995, at age 17, she moved to Los Angeles with a dream. Today, Wilkinson said she is living that dream as a reality.

She wrapped up production of "Star Trek: Renegades" at the end of last year. This is the latest addition to the "Star Trek" franchise, and Wilkinson plays the captain of the Renegades, a black ops team. In theaters nationally (nowhere locally), is her latest film "Raze," a horror, action film. And she guest starred for the upcoming FX sitcom, "Braddock & Jackson."

We spoke with Wilkinson from her home is Los Angeles last week.

Q:You have worked on many different projects recently. How do you manage to keep all of your different projects straight?

A:It does have the potential to make one schizophrenic. [Laughs] It's so varied. But I'm blessed right now that I do have a lot going on. I'm a bit of a chameleon in that I've not had one particular genre or character that represents my entire career. This weekend I had the movie "Raze" come out. It's this action, horror film. It's very dark, and it's not for the faint of heart. If you can make it past the overt violence, there's actually a deeper message about femininity and a woman's place in society and what they have to do when confronted with the unbelievably difficult circumstances.

Equally I did a sitcom last week with Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence. You sort of can't have two experiences that are more different. It's a real blessing, but it's also a little chaotic. One of the projects I'm part of at the moment that's getting a lot of buzz, luckily, is "Star Trek: Renegades," which is potentially the next generation of the "Star Trek" franchise. We filmed a feature-length pilot, which means it can be released as a film that stands on its own, but we are actually hoping that it's the first of a new series.

Q: How did you start performing?

A: I was really involved in dance classes and loved it and truly acting had not been on my radar. Even dancing I looked at as a passion, but not something that I would ever consider as a career. I sort of fell into acting my senior year in high school. The very first week of school I was having my senior portraits done and the [photographer's] studio was also offering an acting workshop. And purely because I was bored and thought it sounded interesting I decided to take it. It was just for a weekend, and what I had not understood was that he was bringing in casting directors from Los Angeles to teach these classes. It was kind of trial by fire, and I first of all fell just madly and passionately in love with acting, but more strange was that within a week I was offered a job on a soap opera. In the end I had to pass on it, I was only seventeen and I needed my parents' permission and of course they thought I was insane. [Laughs]

Q: What was your first professional role?

A: It was within two or three months after I turned 18 that I was on "Saved by the Bell." Actually, the very first thing was "Sweet Valley High," but those were both within weeks of one another. I was really lucky in that it was a fit. There was the possibly I could have arrived and it could have all been a delusion that fell apart. Luckily I did start working immediately. But there's a difference between working and truly making a living, and that took a bit longer.

Q: What was it about acting that intrigued you?

A: There's just a real magic that happens when it's working. Whether it's on stage or in front of the camera, there's an immense amount of power, and I don't mean that in a control sense, but there is just really this magic kind of power that happens when you can affect someone emotionally. Whether that is touching them through compassion or whether that is them living their fears through you. Anybody having a fan is lucky, but there is also sort of a step removed where so many kinds of people are fans of your work having nothing to do with you personally, but really having to do with how the character you play represents them and helps them through a time in their life or helped them solve a problem they are going through. For lack of a better word, there is just something sort of magical about that.

Q: Has there been a role you've found most challenging or exciting to master?

A: I loved playing Livia and Eve. ["Xena: Warrior Princess"] was pretty much the best adventure I've had in my life. All of the costumes were handmade; it was truly working with the most amazing artists in the most amazing place in the world. It was just truly fantastic, so it's hard to top that. Especially when it comes to the juicy character I got to play. Her storyline has so much range. She started out as the empress of Rome, she then had everything taken from her, found out her real identity and then became part of this religious movement. Being part of the Star Wars universe has been incomparable. Getting to play Maris Brood. I just think she's one of the coolest characters in the universe. I'm biased of course. I hope that they are able to explore her more. And also some of the tiniest stuff that I've gotten to play has been the most exciting.

Q: Looking forward, is there a are particular role you want, or have your eyes on? Or someone you want to work with?

A: Oh, isn't there always. [Laughs] You know it's been a great year and I continue to hope it continues to bring some lovely opportunities. I really think there's a renaissance of television at the moment. I think the past couple years on television has been utterly extraordinary writing and some really amazing projects. And there's a wide gamut of things that I would like to be a part of. I do not have one particular project that I am married to. Truly what I most want is just to work on something that is creatively satisfying. Television is exhausting. You could have 14-hour days, six days a week. And you could be doing that 10, 11 months out of the year. It's kind of shocking to anyone outside of the industry how much work it takes to make an episode of television. To be involved in that, you want it to be something that you have enormous passion for.

Q: You have many projects ahead of you, but looking back, what emotions come to mind?

A: Mainly gratitude. I've had a really extraordinary journey. I've worked with fantastic people, I've had fun, and I've been creatively challenged. I don't regret making the decision to pursue this career even though it can be utterly heartbreaking and stressful and trying and difficult and incredibly unpredictable. I've really been lucky and I'm very aware of how lucky I've been in terms of just the entire journey as a whole. There's nothing like working with people where you're just amazed everyday what they're able to do. I think that's the overarching emotion along with all the stress and all the pulling my hair out and all of the trying to make work. In the bigger picture, it's been really lovely.