Tom Cruise’s Barry Seal in American Made is mothered by the fictional Lucy Seal (an amalgam of women from Seal’s life) played by Sarah Wright, who has been acting for the screen for the past 20 years but who is today enjoying the glow from Cruise’s star power.
Married to actor Eric Christian Olsen, Wright has mostly worked in TV (7th Heaven, Mad Love, Parks & Recreation). We got to know her better during the press rounds for American Made.
How did you build this character?
I feel like there’s this idea for Lucy that Doug [Liman, director] and Tom [Cruise] had when we first started this process. I am from the South originally, and I think there’s something that I brought that was ‘I am a mom’; Momma Barry, raising one kid my whole life. I was around a lot of women on a farm when I grew up, women who worked on the farm. My brother and I grew up working on dairy farms. The women were super strong. Not only were they cooking in the kitchen but they were also out on the field. There is something about making her a strong female character but also sexy and fun and she has this great energy and vibe to her.
You and Tom have a great chemistry.
The casting process was incredible. I auditioned for the director and the producers and flew to Atlanta where Tom was. It was a 4-hour audition and we had crazy chemistry; he was incredibly inclusive and open and inviting and so great about making me a part of the process and really wanting to know what it was that I can bring to her, not only just acting but also from real experience. I think right away we had chemistry.
You grew up watching Tom Cruise. Was it surreal to have that audience-actor relationship switched to peer-to-peer?
Absolutely. When I landed in Atlanta, my phone rang and it was Doug Liman and he was like ‘I am so excited, we can’t wait til tomorrow, it’s gonna be great… hold on a second Tom wants to say hi’, and I was like ‘what…?’ I wasn’t mentally prepared yet, I was going to see him tomorrow but today I was just flying in. I got on the phone and heard his voice and everything just comes flooding in. And then when we pulled up to the audition, he was sitting outside waiting for me and the first thing he did was ‘can we just stay outside and talk for a little bit?’ And then I found out he lived in Kentucky the same time that I was there for a long time, so we have a lot of stuff in common. And when we went in we already had this great little thing going.
Tom Cruise is often credited with his female co-stars being cast. What was the process with you?
He hadn’t seen me in my previous work, he saw my audition. From what I’ve heard from everybody he was super excited and he was like ‘yeah let’s get her out here’. That was encouraging for me just knowing that from the beginning, but he also told me a hundred stories about females he worked with in the past. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be a name, he looks for a partner to go on that journey with him, whoever it is.
You launched a website about parenting, and you said on there that being wife and mother is your most rewarding life experience. Not acting?
I think both are great. Being a mom has really grounded me in a way. I always wanted to be a mom, and when I became a mom, my kids became my whole world. They are fascinating, but the whole pregnancy, birth process for me is fascinating. It’s definitely a passion of mine, I love being a support system to other women out there who don’t have that much information and that’s the whole reason behind that website.
It’s an interesting journey from Kentucky to Hollywood. Did you always have that little desire in you to be an actor or did something happen that changed your course of direction?
When I was 9 years old, I had auditioned for a play in a small town community theatre. I got the job and spent most of my summer from then on doing acting workshops at that theatre and then working on its play A Christmas Carol. I played Fannie Scrooge and so it was really fun. It birthed this love of performing for me. But also, when I was 18 I was living in Chicago, modelling, no idea what I really wanted to do with my life and decided to take a year off. I auditioned for a TV show through my modelling agency. I booked it and it was this random moment that brought me to Los Angeles. From then on, I just kept working.
Did you meet Eric [Christian Olsen] on one of those?
Yes, on the second one. The first show I did was Quintuplets, and then right after Quintuplets got cancelled, Fox put me on another show called The Loop, and Eric was on The Loop with me. That’s how we met. We’ve been together for 11 years now.
American Made is in cinemas August 24, 2017