“Confessions of a Superhero” is a fascinating documentary focusing on the lives, aspirations and conflicts of four people who dress up as superheroes for tourist dollars in Hollywood. Working off donations, they share the common bond of wanting to further their acting careers, and this was the route they had chosen to hold them over for the time being. Of all the people interviewed, Jennifer Wenger, who dressed as Wonder Woman, stood out. Her story was the most human of the bunch. She was the most honest, and the most real. After watching the film I was sure of one thing: I needed to know more because this woman was going to go far, and I wanted to get a hold of her before Matt Lauer was asking about romance and trips to Italy.
Getting in touch with the actress was far from easy. After many failed attempts, however, I finally heard back from her, and we were able to arrange for an interview to take place. I’ve never interviewed a superhero before, and I wondered how forthcoming she would be given the fact that it was so hard to land the interview in the first place. It turns out she was remarkably frank and funny, which always makes for a good time.
Wenger grew up in Tennessee watching “Saturday Night Live,” and as a child she knew she wanted to be an actor. “My brother, Matt Wenger,” she says, “was a comedian and a comic book artist. He has always been a huge inspiration to me. I would watch him dive into these crazy characters at a moment’s notice. He had a little show he did in our basement that he let me be in every now and then, and that was my first gig.” These basement shows led Wenger to seriously consider pursuing acting, but she did not let many of her friends and family know. “I was afraid people would make fun of me,” she admits, “or tell me I was ridiculous. Some of the people who knew me were shocked when I just left one day for Hollywood.”
It was the classic small-town girl goes to Hollywood story, and Wenger admits Los Angeles was scary and a bit of a culture shock. In order to put her mother at ease she took the first job she was offered, which was at a children’s pizza place. Soon thereafter she started playing the role of Wonder Woman in front of the Kodak Theatre. That, of course, led to the documentary, short films, student films, and a couple of co-starring roles. She is finally what she calls a “working actress,” but it was “Confessions …” that brought her into the limelight.
If you’ve seen the film, you know how easy it could have been for the filmmakers to turn the very human story of aspirations, divorce and an unconventional job into a comedy. Wenger didn’t initially see it that way, though.
“During the shooting of the film,” she explains, “I honestly did not think twice about it. I was just answering the questions I was being asked and carrying on with my everyday life. It wasn’t until after the editing started and I was getting a [divorce] that I thought about what an idiot I could look like. I then prayed about it, and just asked that the truth be told. If I was being stupid in any way and they caught me… fine. I could accept that, but I prayed that they wouldn’t twist anything to be something else. There was only one line in the entire film that I feel was twisted. When I said the line about [doctors] the question wasn’t heard. I was asked why I think people would rather be an actor rather than a more traditional job, and to me I really think people are afraid of being forgotten. I don’t personally care about that. I just love the stage, and I don’t care even for two seconds about fame.”
Fame of a sort is what she found, however, and it all started with the smart choice to play Wonder Woman. Anyone who reads comic books knows there is quite a variety of female characters to choose from. Wenger could fit the bill for many of them. Wonder Woman seems obvious, as she is easily the most recognizable of the female superheroes. Your average family could identify her over, say, Ghost any day. Her icon status was not the reason the actress picked her, however.
“I saw Lynda Carter when I was about five. I knew I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. She was just an incredible creature! I was lost in her beauty and even her beautiful voice. She talks as if her words are a song. Her being Wonder Woman was enough, but then the character was so awesome, too,” she continues. “A strong, gorgeous woman who kicks ass and saves the world wearing my favorite color (red). Done deal! I love her!”
Wenger’s Myspace page makes it look like she is real comic book fan. A lot of stars claim to be, and some (such as Samuel L. Jackson and Nicolas Cage) really are. With comic books being big Hollywood properties these days, it seems like a lot of actors are jumping on the bandwagon. That is not the case with Wenger, however. Her brother got her into comic books, but because she was a cheerleader and “trying to be cool” she didn’t start to collect at that time. Once she moved to Los Angeles and became less concerned about the cool factor, she started reading them again and collecting. “I have been a happy little nerd ever since!” she states. “I never miss ‘Wonder Woman,’ but I enjoy lots of other books, too. I am so excited about ‘Watchmen.’”
Anyone who has ever been in a comic book store when a female walks in knows how awkward that can be. Male customers will often circle around like vultures, unsure of the strange, beautiful person who has wandered into their midst. Dress that woman like a superhero and you have to expect some sort of transgressive behavior. Wenger, who enjoys the day-to-day life in Hollywood and the tourists, has had her share of bizarre encounters while posing for their pictures.
“My favorite memory,” she says, “would have to be the time a kid stuck his finger in my crack and took off. I took off after him and he looked terrified. I was so busy chasing him and thinking about what a bad ass I was that I didn’t realize I had a character posse behind me. It was Zorro, Chewbacca, and Elmo. They were screaming, ‘You don’t hurt our sister!’ It was awesome!”
One thing that unites the four “characters” (Batman, Hulk, Superman and, of course, Wonder Woman) in the documentary is their desire to pursue acting as a full-time career. The film actually opened some doors for Wenger and led to a part on “My Name Is Earl.” “I booked it,” she says, “and it was such a great experience. [The film] has also given me the opportunity to meet and contact so many awesome people who like the same things I do and support me along my journey.”
If you go to the Kodak Theatre these days, don’t expect to see Wenger reminding tourists that she and her cohorts live off donations. She still goes to comic book conventions and does in-store appearances, however, but life is different for her these days. Acting and performing in more traditional venues have taken center stage in her life.
“I just [did] an episode of ‘True Blood,’ and I booked and shot a pilot this year. I also booked a Broken Lizard movie, but it shot the same day as ‘True Blood’ so I could not do both. I just did a live comedy show that ran for three months and sold out every show except for one,” she says proudly. “My comedy partner-slash-soul mate, Michelle Prenez, and I wrote and produced this show together. It was the biggest blast I have ever had! We are also doing stand-up shows at the Improv in March. March 24 we are doing our musical comedy set, which is the most fun in the whole wide world.”
When asked if she has any final thoughts on the film and being the subject of a documentary, Wenger replies, “I am really happy with the film. I think it is a really awesome thing to be able to look back and see your mistakes from a different perspective. Not many people can do that. I saw things in a whole new light when I watched [it], and I cried like a baby when I saw the part where me and my mom were telling the same story together. I am very grateful for the whole experience.”
Wenger is a natural talent who isn’t afraid to take chances. When I first watched the film, I thought she would be the one who goes all the way and would actually be able to have a career in the belly of the Hollywood monster. It seemed like such a Hollywood story that it couldn’t end any differently. And though she’s not exactly a household name yet, she is getting there. Like Wonder Woman, she’ll never give up, and that is why she’ll succeed. Hard work, good looks and a lasso never did anyone any harm.
Posted on March 30, 2010 in Interviews by Doug Brunell
If you liked this article then you may also like the following Film Threat articles:
- TALES FROM THE CRYPT: FROM COMIC BOOKS TO TELEVISION! (DVD)
- “COMIC BOOK THE MOVIE” UPDATE
- EXCESS HOLLYWOOD: I’M BATMAN
- COMIC BOOKS ARE FOR KIDS
- PAUL GIAMATTI IN ALL HIS SPLENDOR
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