Bello Watch: Erinn Westbrook

Photographer Rowan Daly

Q: Tell us about the audition process. Did you originally try out for the role of Magnolia? How did you end up landing the role?
A: I went in for Insatiable a week after finding out that another pilot I shot for a different network didn’t get picked up. Magnolia was the antithesis of the other character, so auditioning was cathartic, in a way. I read for casting and a few days later they brought me back for producers. I got the offer a few days after my producers’ session.

QTalk to us about the challenges or greatest learning experiences you’ve fostered since working on Netflix’s Insatiable.
A: Each project you work on comes with its own unique set of challenges. You work with a different showrunner, cast, crew. The days might be longer (or shorter), the environment different. When everything is new, you have to readjust. Aside from the normal growing pains that come with working with a new group of people on a new project, there were distinct challenges that came with Insatiable. Our show explores a lot of really sensitive issues and sometimes it does so in a dark, and what is meant to be humorous, way. It is very much a dark comedy. When Netflix released the first trailer, which showed one particular aspect of the show, there was outrage. Some people just didn’t understand what the show was about and didn’t want to give it a fair chance. There was a petition that was started to cancel the show before it even aired. It was frustrating for us to have to sit on what we shot, knowing what we knew about the show, in its entirety, and essentially wait for its debut to be able to fully defend it. Now that Insatiable has come out, so many people get what our showrunner, and the show, was (and is) trying to accomplish. I think we are all grateful that it resonates with viewers the way it has. Whether or not you agree with the humor, the writing style or the subject matter covered, it can be stated confidently that a lot of important and necessary conversations have happened because of this show. That was the ultimate goal.

Q: Please share a bit about your experience with your character, Magnolia, and how you prepared for this role. What are your favorite things about this character and what are the challenges?

A: When I first signed on to Insatiable, I knew very little about Magnolia, aside from the fact that she was this seemingly perfect teen pageant queen. From filming the pilot episode, it really seemed like winning pageants, at any cost, was her main focus. But, I knew there had to be more to her… and I am so glad I was right. When we started filming the rest of the series, it became clear that this girl was extremely complicated and that so much of her life was a façade. There is a lot going on beneath the surface that she’s dealing with. If you’ve watched the show, you know that Magnolia is struggling with substance abuse. That was dark. To have to go there was challenging. I would say my favorite things about Magnolia include her drive and work ethic. She also has a big heart and you see that flicker throughout the series. To prepare for the pageant aspect of the show, Debby, Irene and I (the “pageant girls”) spent time with real teen pageant queens, got coached by Bill Alverson (the character Dallas Roberts’ “Bob Armtrong” is based on), and attended the Miss Teen America pageant. Those experiences were extremely informative. Aside from that, I prepared as I went along. I worked with my acting coach, Shawn Young, via Skype a couple times before challenging scenes. His feedback was always helpful.

Q: What was your first opportunity working in the industry and how did you react when you finally landed a gig?
A: My first real opportunity within the industry was one scene on an ABC Family Show. Literally one scene… and I was so excited!  When I arrived to LA, although I had studied Dramatic Arts as my secondary field and had done a lot of high school and college stage work, I had no professional acting experience. Television/film set work requires a specific skillset that I had not tapped into yet. I had to take a lot of classes and get comfortable in the audition room — something that really only comes with time and practice. Booking that first role was an important sign that I was headed in the right direction.

Photographer Rowan Daly

Q: Give us your dream collaboration. Be it a director, artist, actor etc.
A: Ryan Coogler, Jordan Peele, Ava Duvernay, Shonda Rhimes and Issa Rae are all people I want to work with at some point. They have all led really important projects involving people of color recently and I am so here for that. Other dream collaborations could include something outside of entertainment, for sure. I have a strong interest in fashion. Collaborating with one of my favorite designers in the future is something I have on my to-do list.

Q: What are the greatest hardships or setbacks you’ve faced on your journey in your career thus far?
A: For every role that I have booked, there have probably been 20 that I have not. Maybe more. And that is true for 95% of the actors you see on TV. We all have “setback stories.” We have all endured rejection. Losing a part that you’ve committed to is never easy. As actors, we invest emotionally in almost every role, and it is difficult to detach sometimes. Especially after a month or more in an audition process.  I cannot tell you how many times it has come down to me and one other girl and has gone the other way — often for reasons out of my control. Those experiences were (and are!) always hard but, I knew if I kept going, something would eventually work out. And they have, several times, in major ways for me. I am grateful for that. Thick skin, self-confidence, mental strength and the ability to persevere and remain optimistic are all important traits to have in this business.

Q: Do you have any hidden talents? Anything you what to share with us that we don’t know?
A: People are always surprised to find out that I am musically inclined. I have played the piano for 17+ years (I actually have my childhood piano that I grew up playing in my apartment) and I love to sing. I am definitely looking forward to more projects involving music in the future.

Q: It’s clear that you love style. Who are your favorite designers and what beauty products are you currently using?
A: I am all over the map when it comes to fashion. One day I’m buying couture, the next I’m in the back of a pop-up clothing truck in Venice trying on vintage t-shirt leotards (true story). Designers and brands I am gravitating towards currently include Zimmerman, Vince, Cinq a Sept and Dolce & Gabbana. I also love Reformation, Planet Blue & Topshop for more casual, everyday looks. My favorite online shopping destinations are Moda Operandi and Revolve. Current beauty products include: Dior Addict Lacquer Stick (“Sassy” is my go-to), M-61 PowerGlow peels and Clinique’s oil-free foundation in Sand.

Q: What are you working on currently or what can we expect next from you?
A: Insatiable was recently renewed for a second season and so I will be heading back to work on that soon. I am really looking forward to seeing what happens with Magnolia after such a crazy cliffhanger at the end of season one! In the meantime, though, I am excited to explore different roles. I just finished filming for CW’s Legacies (The Vampire Diaries spinoff), so fans can tune in this fall to catch me guest starring on that. I am also writing. I studied English and American Literature and Language in college and creative writing was always my thing. My literary aspirations have sort of taken a backseat to my acting endeavors for the past few years, but I am excited to roll up my sleeves and pick up the pen again. Stay tuned.




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Hanna Von Matern

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