Erin Wasson is readjusting to dry land after getting her sea legs. The IMG model has just returned from debuting her new film, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, for thousands of sailors aboard Navy aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln deployed in the Middle East, as well as screening the film for troops in Bahrain and at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, Africa.
In her first major film role, Wasson plays the vampire Vadoma in the thriller, which is based on the 2010 New York Times best-selling novel by Seth Grahame-Smith. Continuing Hollywood’s love affair with all things undead—from Twilight to The Vampire Diaries—Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter aspires to allegory, its vampires propagating the ultimate evil: slavery.
Tim Burton, who co-produced with director Timur Bekmambetov, lends his signature twist to the macabre mash-up of the iconic US President with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The stellar cast includes Benjamin Walker as Lincoln, Dominic Cooper as the president’s fang-hunting mentor, and Rufus Sewell as Wasson’s brother, the head vampire.
Before jetting off to the Middle East, Wasson appeared at the Cannes Film Festival last month as an ambassador for Chopard. We chatted with the Irvine, Texas native, who is currently in LA reading scripts for her next project, about vampires, Rachel Zoe and life as a supermodel.
ELLE: How was the experience of visiting the troops to screen your film?
Erin Wasson: It was a humbling, exciting, once-in-a-lifetime experience. You get to land on the ship in the middle of the ocean on an airplane and it’s very exciting. We also visited Bahrain and went out to Djibouti and the Navy there as well. Djibouti is a very heavy place; you’re out in the middle of nowhere and it’s 120 degrees.
ELLE: It was you, the cast, and about 4500 servicemen. They must have been very happy to see you!
EW: These boys have been out there for nine months, they’ve been extended twice now. Twice they thought they were going home and twice they had to deal with the fact that they’re not. Anything we could have done to build morale was certainly what the whole trip was about.
ELLE: How did you approach playing a vampire?
EW: Reading into the role of Vadoma, she is Adam’s sister, so they are partners in crime. Adam is the biggest, baddest, meanest vampire of them all, and I carry out the missions. In doing that, I had pure evil intentions. When you’re playing someone on the evil side, it’s a bit less daunting because you can kind of subtract a lot of the other human emotions that would normally take place. It was a very physical role as well; she was not meant to be a woman of huge opinions or provoking thoughts. She was a physical character, for the most part.
ELLE: What was the experience of making your first major film like?
EW: Like anything in life that’s new, it’s uncharted seas, which can be a little unhinging. Given the fact that I come from an industry that I’ve been in for 15 years and I know the ins and outs and the workings of, you get to a comfort level and have the tools that you need to do the job at hand. I was going into a completely new industry where you have to conjure up a different set of tools and skills. Playing another character means getting outside of yourself and personifying somebody else’s vision of this character. So it’s a growing process; it can be scary and unnerving, but those are the moments when you grow.
ELLE: You previously had an uncredited role on Somewhere. What was it like to be directed by Sofia Coppola?
EW: I played a girl walking down a staircase at the Chateau Marmont. I spent about four and a half hours on set with her. What I took from that experience was watching the way she worked; watching her peaceful nature and orchestration of her actors and her grips and just the way she directed. She does it with very few words. I really respected that.
ELLE: Is acting a new career direction for you? Do you think you’ll being doing more films and less modeling?
EW: Time will tell. I realize that I’m still very green, and you’re only going to get out of this industry what you put into it. So my responsibility at this point in my life, having someone take a chance on me and put me in this position to even realize that this could be a possibility, I have to put work into it. It’s about signing up for seminars and working with teachers and creating that skill set. Because I don’t want anything just handed to me. I don’t know where it’s going to take me, but I certainly look forward to the challenge.
ELLE: You’re well known for your personal style; when you were in Cannes recently, you decided to use Rachel Zoe as your stylist for those appearances.
EW: There’s such a thing as collaboration. It’s not just someone telling you what to wear. It’s someone actually taking the stress out of doing the pulls for you. There’s a huge difference between being a dress-up doll for someone and being a collaborator. I think when you can work with someone who’s an absolute professional and can take a lot of the stress off being as busy a person as myself and that can bring in and make requests for you and organize everything… it’s about making things as easy as possible.
ELLE: How did you describe to Rachel what look you were going for?
EW: It was a little bit of describing myself and having a really pretty good idea of who I am as a person. She certainly wasn’t trying to change me. But going to Cannes, I looked forward to getting outside of the box and putting on something that was a little more sophisticated than what people are used to predictably seeing me in. I wanted a slightly different direction while still staying true to myself.
ELLE: Who were some of the designers that she pulled for you?
EW: I ended up wearing Antoni Berardi and Oscar de la Renta.
ELLE: Do you expect to be working with Rachel and other stylists in the future?
EW: Yes, it’s a really nice thing to work with someone who can take that stress away and open up new ideas and bring possibilities to the table. It’s the same reason why big designers use stylists in shows; it’s always nice to have someone else’s perspective, whether you want to follow it or not. It’s really nice to get a different take on things.
ELLE: Which designer do you feel best reflects your own personal style?
EW: I really appreciate people like Miguel Adrover and Haider Ackermann, people who really go to the beat of their own drum. It definitely takes a very specific woman to wear those kinds of clothes. They’re slightly more constructed in certain ways. And then there’s people like Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan, with a very sort of quintessential, straightforward American and easy to wear approach to design.
ELLE: Which photographer do you always find yourself having the most fun with on a shoot?
EW: It’s got to be Mario Testino. That man I think wakes up for fun every day! It’s his attitude. I think that fact that he’s Peruvian, there’s this natural essence of this charismatic character in him that’s just in his blood. And I think when you’re at a point in your career such as him, then you can have fun with it. A lot of stresses are gone because you’re sure of what you’re doing and have your footing. He’s a very jovial creature and he likes to surround himself with people who are fun and want to have fun. It’s always a good time.
ELLE: What has been your single most memorable photo shoot?
EW: Certainly I’ve been on shoots that took me to extraordinary places, destinations. I remember being on the middle of a floating glacier once when I was shooting the Rolex campaign with Mario Sorrenti. That was a moment when I was like, ‘Am I really standing on a glacier in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean?!’
ELLE: And your most memorable experience on a runway?
EW: The Alexander McQueen show that was based on They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? because it was such an out-of-the-box approach to what a fashion show is. And I think it was two seasons later when we did the chessboard, when all of us were dressed up as chess pieces and were part of a chess game. He was an absolute poet, that man, and being part of his shows was being part of something extraordinary that was never going to happen again.
ELLE: Of Paris, New York, Milan and London, which is your favorite city to walk in during Fashion Week?
EW: New York, because I’m home. I can go and have fun but then go home to my bed. There’s something that’s nice about knowing that at the end of the night, you’re going home to a semblance of normalcy.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter opens Friday.