Bad-Ass Woman: The Powerful Roles of Annie Wersching

The Rookie Season 2 Episode 10
Harold Perrineau, Annie Wersching, Michael Trucco and Nathan Fillion in season 2 episode 10 (Photo Credit: ABC)

Annie Wersching confessed that she secretly has a desire to be a Disney princess as she sings a few lines from The Little Mermaid in a very melodious voice. That’s hard to believe, considering the strong characters she’s played throughout her career – most notably bad-ass FBI Agent Renee Walker on 24, Emma Whitmore on Timeless, Julia Brasher on Bosch, Lily Salvatore on The Vampire Diaries, and Leslie Dean on Runaways – are not princesses.

“That’s gonna last until I’m in my 80s. Mostly from the singing perspective, I’ve always wanted to sing the Disney princess songs,” said Wersching, who lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children.

The actress reprises her role as Leslie as Hulu’s Runaways returning on December 13. In addition, she’ll appear on the December 8 and December 15 episodes of ABC’s The Rookie, starring Nathan Fillion. She plays a serial killer named Rosalind Dyer who’s been on death row for five years.

“So there’s gonna be a lot of me on your TV that week, everybody. Sorry,” she joked. “It’s a really creepy, exciting role. (Rosalind) agrees to help them with (aspects) of her case in exchange for being able to get out of her cell for a little bit and lead them to where these bodies are buried. Of course, she masterminded a plan beyond all of that, so it’s a really fun episode. I got to work a lot with Harold Perrineau. My character has some pretty big connections to him. I’m messing with him and Nathan quite a bit. It was really fun!”

Wersching spoke about Runaways, which enters its third and final season. She wasn’t shocked that the series, based on the Marvel comic book of the same name, was ending.

“(There’s) a new wave of Marvel TV happening. We were sad and bummed, but I wouldn’t say we were necessarily shocked. It wraps up nicely, but we left it open; there’s a little bit of a window we left open in case there was a fourth season. We were definitely prepared for both,” she said. “I feel they did a nice job of giving it a nice, sweet wrap-up… I think the fans will be sad and really sorry that it’s gone, but yet they’ll also feel satisfied as to how it’s been wrapped up.”

On Runaways, six teenagers from different backgrounds possessing super-powers unite against a common enemy – their parents, who are members of a secret criminal organization called the Pride. Besides the Pride, Leslie is a leader in the cultish Church of Gibborim. She and Jonah (Julian McMahon, Nip/Tuck) – one of the Gibborim, an alien race, and the Pride’s benefactor – are the parents of Karolina Dean (Virginia Gardner, 2018’s Halloween). At the end of last season, Leslie – pregnant with Jonah’s second child – left the Pride and has been granted asylum with the Runaways.

“We learn at the end of season two through Xavin (Clarissa Thibeaux, Tapped Out) that the baby inside Leslie is indeed also part-alien like Karolina. That poses a big risk because she knows and everybody else knows that Jonah’s coming for the baby,” said Wersching. “Leslie in season three is about protecting that baby, trying to do what’s best for that baby, and – eventually – she births the baby in episode four, which leads to a whole other set of interesting, slightly scary circumstances.”

Jonah also gets a new body this season. He takes up residence in Victor Stein (James Marsters, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), another member of the Pride.

“At the end of season two, James got together with Julian and tried to pattern his speech in the same way. I was like, ‘Wow! That is really good.’ He really seemed liked Julian inside there, so that was cool to see how he gave it his own little twist to make it seem how different he was from Victor,” she said.

Wersching enjoyed working with both Marsters and McMahon.

“(James is) great. It’s fun just connecting with him, having been in the genre world. I did Vampire Diaries and obviously he did Buffy and Angel, so we connected about playing vampires. He’s a real pro, a really nice guy, and a great guitar player!” praised Wersching. “I love Julian. I had so much good stuff with him and so many fun scenes. He’s just the nicest guy, and we had a really good time together. We want to work together again somehow, someday, so hopefully that’ll happen.”

Wersching also enjoyed working with on-screen daughter Gardner.

“She’s fun. We had a good time. She’s a great actress too. She’s hilarious because she plays this bright, sunny, rainbow-glowing character but she could not be more of a trucker in real life,” said Werching, laughing. “She loves to drink, she’s always flipping you the bird, she’s always wearing flip-flops, she loves Matchbox 20 – she’s a hoot. It’s funny when you know the real Ginny and then you see what she does with Karolina, you’re like, ‘Wow! She’s a really good actress!’”

In turn, Gardner praised Wersching.

“Annie’s great. She’s talented. She’s wonderful and she’s so nice,” she said. “Whenever I see photos of us, she and I look alike more than my mom and I look alike. It was just great casting.”

Marvel's Runaways Annie Wersching
Kathleen Quinlan and Annie Wersching in ‘Marvel’s Runaways’ season 3 (Photo by: Michael Desmond/Hulu)

Also this season, Nico (Lyrica Okano, Pimp), gets corrupted by sorceress Morgan le Fay (Elizabeth Hurley, The Royals). The Runaways team up with the titular heroes of Cloak & Dagger, which was cancelled in late October after two seasons.

“It’s gonna be really, really fun for all the Marvel fans. It’ll be fun for everyone to see them one last time,” said Wersching. “That episode’s really a great episode.”

Wersching explained what attracted her to Runaways in the first place.

“The word ‘Marvel’ is hard to turn down. You don’t need much more convincing after the word ‘Marvel.’ I didn’t know much about the character. I hadn’t read the comics beforehand and – actually, even if I had – the Deans are pretty different on the show than they are in the comics,” she said. “I had a conversation with (showrunners Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage). They described the plans for Leslie. I really liked the idea of her creepy factor – running the Church of Gibborim. I liked what they had to say, I liked that it was Marvel – that’s pretty much all I needed. They were shooting in L.A., another big plus when you have small children.”

Born and raised in St. Louis, MO, Wersching spent her youth competing in Irish dancing and belonged to the St. Louis Celtic Stepdancers. She earned her undergraduate degree in musical theater from Millikin University in Decatur, IL.

Her first TV role was Liana on Star Trek: Enterprise in 2002. Afterward, she guest-starred on various TV series and had a recurring role as Amelia on the long-running daytime soap General Hospital.

Next, she landed her breakout role, Renee Walker, on 24, which starred Kiefer Sutherland as protagonist Jack Bauer. Each season of 24 occurred in a 24-hour period with each episode comprising an hour. Renee was the most popular character in season seven and gave 24 a much-needed shot of adrenaline after a nearly two-year absence due to the 2007-08 Writers Guild of America Strike.

“I think Renee was brought up pretty much by the books, and she came into the FBI following the rules and wanting to play by the law, then she was chained to Jack Bauer and all sorts of interesting things happened. He can be quite the influence,” Wersching said with a laugh.

Like Jack, Renee wasn’t above bending the rules for the greater good. Admittedly, Wersching was nervous about how people would react to Renee going toe-to-toe with Jack.

“Jack and Renee have such a really, really unique relationship after only knowing each for just one day,” she said. “I think it had to do with the fact that she was no-nonsense and sometimes did what she needed to do, but she shows the human side of Jack that was in him earlier on before he went through so much and was hardened so much… She helped make him a little bit more human and his ways made her a little less, so it’s a really interesting flip that they did.”

Renee returned in season eight, although she was much edgier and darker. However, just after Renee and Jack consummated her relationship, she was murdered by a sniper’s bullet – much to the anger of many fans.

“People say to me, ‘I was crushed when she died,’” said Wersching. “I did all kinds of fun things on 24 – I cut off a thumb, I stabbed an eye, I got buried alive. I’m the only one to ever get two silent clocks. I got a silent clock when I was buried alive and thought I died. I got a silent clock when I was actually killed.”

Wersching enjoyed working with Sutherland.

“Kiefer’s great. He’s like family at this point. When you spend so much time with someone… you form a special bond,” she said. “He was a great teacher for me. I feel like I could just sit there and watch him work for hours. During my time there, I tried to soak up as much as I could because he’s such a pro and such a great actor.”

Another character Wersching’s also known for is Lily on The Vampire Diaries, based on the popular series of books of the same name by L.J. Smith that ran for eight seasons on The CW.

“I knew that the Mama Salvatore character was this iconic character that had always been talked about throughout the first 5-6 seasons. I knew it was a character that the fans had been longing to know more about and had been waiting and waiting to meet. Then all of the sudden, it’s me! I liked that she was this bad-ass Ripper (an infamous nickname given to sadistic vampires) yet also this proper mother from early 1900s,” she explained.

Wersching laughed hard when she was asked what would happen if all of her best-known characters got together for a girls’ night out.

“Oh wow. Oh man. That would be quite a mess, I think. It’s hard for me not to imagine them kicking ass in some form, so they’d have to do paintball or something aggressive because they’re all really aggressive women. I mean, c’mon, a time-traveling assassin, a Ripper from the past… I feel like they could all get along in a really snarky way. There would definitely be some mayhem throughout the night. And if they’re drinking, all bets are off,” she said, laughing.

Even though it’s been nearly 10 years since she’s played Renee and has gone on to other well-known characters, she’s still remembered best as Renee. In fact, Renee is Wersching’s favorite character.

“I played her the longest. I just spent so much time with her. I went on such a journey with her from being a goody two-shoes FBI agent to being a bad-ass. She was my favorite. I feel like I got to know her the best,” she said. “I really loved Emma from Timeless as well. She had a snark to her that was fun to play. That show was so fun, getting to dress up in costumes from different time periods. Emma made her way in a man’s world very easily.”

She pointed out that she’s never been a regular on a legal or medical drama.

“I feel like I do genre shows and cop shows, genre shows and cops shows, genre shows and cop shows,” said Wersching. “I love them. They’re so fun. It’s fascinating to me that I’ve never done a law show or a medical show. I can’t believe I’ve never played a doctor. It’s funny that I’m almost always some version of a cop… The genre stuff is fun. Even though you’re in a genre show, it’s different from the other ones. The genre fans are really hardcore and passionate and super-supportive. The cool thing about genre fans too is they’ll follow you to your next jobs as well, which is really sweet.”