Erika Schaefer had a charmed first-step into Hollywood. After a year of college, she took off for Los Angeles and quickly landed a role in MyNetworkTv’s soap, Fashion House. Playing the assistant to Bo Derek’s screaming, ruthless fashion maven, Erika has learned to get a tough skin both on-screen and off.
Adorable and delightful, Erika talks to us about Fashion House, online fans and why she always flinches around our feathered friends.
Lexi, on Fashion House is your first acting job. How did you find out you got the role?
I was at my manager’s office and we were sitting there when she received a call from my agent. They said, “Erika has one of the lead roles in Fashion House.” And it was so funny because I hadn’t auditioned for Fashion House. I had auditioned for a different show – and somehow, the tape had been sent out to the producers and casting director of Fashion House. They really liked the tape, so they booked me right away for the role of Lexi.
I’m not sure what show it was –– I still haven’t found out but it worked out in my favor, so I’m not complaining!
(laughs) I know – completely not what happens in the world of acting.
I read that you had a really crazy schedule of 12-14 hour days.
Yeah, pretty much – six days a week.
How long did you do that for?
We filmed in San Diego for three and a half months. It was insane, seeing as I’d never done a production before – it was quite a way to be thrown into it (laughs).
How do you unwind from that intensity?
We only had Sundays off and thank god we were actually in San Diego because we’d all go to the beach. Pretty much the majority of the cast would hang out and have a good time. It was over summer, so it worked out great – just hanging out, lounging by the beach.
Fashion House is based on a telenovela from Cuba. Did that make it easier for you to do the role, that your character was already established and that the storyline had a beginning and an end?
I think it made it a little more difficult just because we shot by location, not by episode. So if you have a bunch of scenes at the main restaurant, you can be in Episode 1, and then in Episode 65. You have to know your story arc and where your character is in that point in time.
So, seeing that it had a beginning and an end, I think it was both good and bad. In a series, you have a bunch of different seasons you can get to know your character and transform your character, versus already knowing that there’s a beginning and an end and you have to know [how to develop your character] right away.
Did they sit down with you and tell you what your entire arc was?
They gave us about thousands and thousands of pages of the episodes and said, “you figure out where your character is!” (laughs) I had a five-inch binder of just my scenes and notes. There was a lot of preparation and studying which surprised me. I thought I’d memorize my lines, go on set and it’d be no big deal. And that is not how it was at all.
It sounds like a great crash course.
Oh, it was, it really was. It was better than any kind of acting class that I could have bought. There’s no comparison.
You weren’t familiar with the TV filming lingo when you first started. Anything in particular that stands out?
Like “the boom is in the shot” – I was like, “who’s Boom? Who’s in the shot?” It was ridiculous, it was embarrassing.
I felt like I [had studied enough] but there were so many terms that I had never heard of, that were right over my head. Bo was really fantastic and really patient and would explain it to me. I thought I looked like the biggest idiot but she said, ‘It happens to the best of us. I started when I was 19 and I didn’t know anything either.’ So it was nice, it was really cool.
But the good thing was that there were quite a few newbies on the show so I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what was going on.
You’ve said that Lexi is a lot like Anne Hathaway’s character, Andy Sachs, in The Devil Wears Prada. Did that movie inspire your performance?
You know, I saw that movie halfway through filming so I didn’t get to see it when I started. But it really did help – I think that Anne Hathaway has a lot of subtleties and she played the character really well. Showing her emotion, and the disappointment when Meryl Streep would yell at her. I took that into consideration, I worked off that a lot. Because Bo Derek is constantly yelling at me and putting me down and it’s pretty awful. It’s hard to play that character – there’s only so many ways to be sad. I tried my best.
If you had to be assistant to Bo’s Maria Gianni or Meryl’s Miranda Priestly, who would you pick?
I’d say [Maria] because she’s evil to everyone, where [Miranda] was mostly evil to the assistants. But [Maria] was evil to everyone, and it doesn’t make me feel as bad – I’m just another person she yells at (laughs). You don’t take it as personally.
You’re a big fan of fashion – which fashion fad do you wish you could do?
For the longest time, I could not do skinny jeans. I just thought they were so weird. I hated them, I hated the way they felt around my ankles – and today, I’m wearing skinny jeans. So I overcame my skinny jean phobia (laughs).
There’s some other trends out there and I wonder what they’re thinking – like the leggings. I couldn’t pull those off for a while but now I have a few pairs. I think that living in LA, you’re constantly seeing it, and seeing how cute it looks on people so you figure, ‘okay, I’ll try it.’ My boyfriend laughs at me and tells me I look ridiculous but I say, ‘This is hot right now! This is trendy!’
Which fashion fad do you wish would go away?
I think showing your midriff and insane amounts of cleavage is overdone.
What’s your favorite item of clothing?
You check out the online boards to see what people have said about Fashion House and Lexi.
(laughs) I do – but it’s always not as rewarding as I’d hoped. Some people are really brutal. [And] I wonder how much of it I should be reading, and how much I should just take with a grain of salt. I’m getting better at brushing it off – but it really is hurtful at first.
What’s surprised you about what people have said?
I’m actually quite surprised at how positive people are about Lexi – a lot of people feel sorry for her and they really do find favor with her.
What kind of interaction have you had with your fans?
It’s really cool, the more I’ve been going out to big places like the mall or the airport, people have been recognizing me. The other day this little girl came up to me and said, “I know you hear this all the time, but are you an actress on Fashion House?” (laughs) She was really sweet.
I love when fans come up and say something, it’s a really rewarding feeling to have people say, ‘I love your character, I love your show.’ I’ve also been getting a lot of fan mail at my website, which is great.
What was the biggest challenge or culture shock when you moved from Arizona to Hollywood?
Oh my goodness – I would say, in LA, people aren’t very friendly. Maybe people move out to LA and are friendly and when they don’t get any response they become not as friendly. I remember, I went to the grocery store and being so upbeat and happy and the checkout lady said, ‘You’re not from around here, are you?’ Right off the bat, everyone knows I’m not from LA. (laughs)
So, with all your traveling, do you have a select music playlist when you go on your trips?
I don’t have a traveling mix, but I always do make a CD mix when I’m driving to Arizona or San Diego. It’s usually composed of Country music songs. I’m a huge country buff.
Who are your favorite artists?
Faith Hill is my favorite female and Keith Urban is my all-time favorite male – and it’s not just because he’s gorgeous! Because I think he’s really talented.
What is your favorite song to dance to?
Recently, my favorites have been all of Fergie’s songs. I mostly listen to it for the beats –I just think that her beats are so fun.
Name your number one irrational fear.
Gosh, I’ve never thought of that. I’m terrified of spiders and stupid stuff like that. I’m petrified of birds.
I swear to you this fear just struck up about five years ago. I don’t know what it is but I went to ASU [Arizona State University] for a year and there are birds everywhere. Every time I’d be walking to class, they’d be swooping at me and I’ve become traumatized because of them. It’s ridiculous.
When I’m out with my family, the all laugh at me and say ‘the bird is not going to come down and peck at you!’ People tell me if I’m afraid of birds, I have to see the movie, The Birds. So I’m trying to build up the courage to see that movie hoping I’ll be able to get over my trauma from birds.
So, now that filming is done, what do you have coming up?
I’ve been going out on auditions quite a bit. The production company for Fashion House has options to re-up me, or any of the cast, for another MyNetworkTV show – so we’ll see how that turns out. Eventually, I’d like to do features.
Do you have an ideal role you’d like to play?
I went out for an audition yesterday and she was a heroin addict – and it’s one of those things where I’ve never seen anyone on [heroin], I’ve never done it, I’ve even never been surrounded by it – so I think it’d be interesting to play a role that is completely opposite of who you are. Charlize Theron takes on a lot of roles like that, Angelina Jolie does it a lot – and I’ve really enjoyed the movies they’ve done.
And I hear you’re a big fan of Grease.
Oh my gosh, all time favorite. It’s so funny, the other day I was flipping through the channels and [there’s a new reality show coming up that picks] the next Broadway superstar for Grease. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh – that’d be awesome!’ Then I realized I really shouldn’t go out for it. But it was really exciting and I’ll definitely be hooked on it – to see who gets the leads in Grease.