Jun 24, 2021
By Jake Uitti
Photography by Jordana Dale
Songwriter and actor, Victoria Blade, has probably been on your television screen during the pandemic. For those millions of WandaVision fans, she was the neatly attired “Commercial Woman” who appeared in all of the fake commercials embedded within the Marvel series that traveled through the American sitcom decades, from the 1950s through today.
On the chance you didn’t see the show, here’s a handy YouTube link to familiarize yourself with Blade’s work for WandaVision. Go ahead, take the three-plus minutes to check it out.
But Blade is also more than an actor. She is a songwriter and performer. She is also something of an amateur videographer. And we’re happy to premiere Blade’s latest single and music video, “Road Trip.” We caught up with Blade to talk to her about the Marvel phenomenon, how she found music, and how she found out about her role as Commercial Woman while on the vacation she shot this very video!
Jake Uitti (Under the Radar): What was the first thing you did that made you feel like you stood out?
I auditioned for the musical, Annie, when I was 10-years-old [laughs] and I forgot the words to my audition song, which was, “Somewhere Out There,” from An American Tale, and cried all the way home. Then a couple days later I got a call that I had booked the lead role of Annie in that musical. So, I suppose, I did something to stand out! Actually, when we were rehearsing, the director came up to me and said, “You know, in your audition, there was just something about you. You had this presence and I knew you were going to get the role.”
I imagine that’s what Disney and Marvel saw in your too! Okay, let me ask, when did you first find music as a young person?
I remember always singing as a child, always even making up songs while I was playing outside. So, that always felt pretty instinctual, to just put word to melody. It felt really natural for me. Then in high school, I was in a poetry class and I just loved writing, creative writing. My creative writing teacher was like, “Why don’t you put some of this to song? These feel like song lyrics to me.” That was great feedback to get because no one had ever suggested to do that before.
I didn’t know any professional artists growing up in the middle of Michigan. The idea of actually being a working artist actually felt really far away. But slowly I did find myself writing songs in college. So, really the way I got my start, was really hand-in-hand with acting, which is cool. I wrote a song in college for a play that we were working on.
The song was this beautiful, folky, intimate piece that fit into this larger whole of this play we were writing. My husband, whom I met in college, was kind of exploding creatively at the time with songwriting and illustrating and painting. So, we started writing music together in college. That’s really where I found the creative freedom and the joy of songwriting.
Growing up in New Jersey, the world of art and creativity always seemed far away from me too, in large part. So, I understand how good it can feel to find the space to be creative in various ways.
Growing up in the middle of Michigan, it definitely helps if you have somebody suggest it to you or if someone’s already doing it and you can kind of just hop on with them, as the case was with my husband.
You live in Atlanta today, so may I ask, first, how you landed in Atlanta via Michigan and, later, Chicago? And are you working as an actor in Atlanta and, if so, what is your relationship to that job today?
Yeah, so I started out in Chicago as an actor and a musician. As I said, it just so happened that a lot of folk songs I was writing would end up in a play I was working on simultaneously. So, it really was this beautiful, organic crossover between music and theater acting and community. It just happened that way in a really beautiful way, especially with theater because it’s such a communal experience. Songwriting really wove its way into that.
Then later I lived in New York for three years. It’s funny because each city has been such a unique experience with a little bit of similarity but yet so specific to the city. New York was a lot of songwriting but I didn’t have a band, so it was just always me writing songs forever! That’s where I recorded my first album, Lo-fi Love Songs, while we were living in Brooklyn.
We’ve just been on this creative nomadic journey. Starting in Chicago, going to New York, always acting the whole time, always doing TV, film, commercials, theater while always songwriting and recording here and there. And then eventually, I wanted to do TV and film and transition out of theater. That was the Atlanta move, it was a very strategic career choice. There is so much TV and film production happening in Atlanta.
So, that worked out really, really well and led to recurring roles on Brockmire, an IFC comedy, and WandaVision, of course. That brought us here and it really was a strategic career choice. But I want to say, I had a really rich, creative community in college [Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo] and that was the context in which my songwriting started to be explored in my personal life, because of that really supportive, highly creative community I was a part of.
I love Chicago, as a city. I’ve only been there once or twice for short times, but it always felt like everyone there was so grateful to be there.
It’s so special! I still have deep nostalgia for Chicago. It’s almost surprising that it exists in the middle of the Midwest!
Totally! And you were traveling to those various cities along the way in your career, you said you were able to work as an actor at each stop. I’m curious, how does that work exactly? Does an agent offer you gigs, do you audition constantly?
It has a lot to do with your relationships in the city where you’re working. So, leaving Chicago, that was the richest community I’ve ever left because of the theater community being so vibrant there. That was the hardest place to leave because there is such good theater going on in Chicago, and hopefully will be post-pandemic still. But then in New York and Atlanta, it’s been more about TV and film, agents sending me auditions. Very audition-based worked, as opposed to, “Hey, let’s get together and write a play.”
How was the audition for WandaVision and what was the clincher for the role?
Well, I really liked the audition because—you know, they gave us no information. So, we don’t know the title, we don’t know anything other than that it’s a Marvel streaming show. I really, thankfully, enjoy auditions. Most auditions that I get in Atlanta are self-tape auditions. So, you’re in control of the lighting, the sound, the camera. You’re the director of that audition. So, I enjoy that and I tend to do them rather quickly.
So, I would get the sides from my agent and look over it and make some choices, find some moments to add in fun bits and have as much fun with it as possible. I had read for a different townsperson role in WandaVision and the whole audition process took maybe 20 minutes. Then I sent in my tape and a few weeks later, they asked me to come in and read the script. It wasn’t exactly a job offer but they wanted to pay me to come in and read the scripts and help facilitate the table reads by filling in for roles that hadn’t been cast yet, and so forth.
That experience was lovely because it was the earliest I’d ever been involved in a production and we basically did a sitcom bootcamp where we studied the Dick Van Dyke Show and other sitcoms through the decades. That’s what the whole process was like for me. It was a mysterious and fun process. Then about a week or two later they offered me the role of Commercial Woman in all of the commercials, which, of course, I accepted. [Laughs]
You know, it’s interesting that you ask about the “clincher.” Talking about that “presence” aspect from before, I was on my first day working on the table reads and I showed up and met the cast. They’re like, “We’re going on a tour of the set!” So, we immediately walked onto the 1950s sitcom set for the show and there was this excitement in the air, we were seeing the set for the first time.
Someone walked up to me and said, “Hey, we loved your tape. You’re so playful and funny and thank you for the great work in your audition tape.” And as an actor, you do these tapes all the time and you send these tapes out! Like, I kind of wasn’t even placing which tape he’s even talking about! So, that was really lovely feedback to get. Most of the time you don’t hear anything, even if the feedback was good, you’re not going to hear about it. It was great to get that feedback and book that role.
Is the offset area for a Marvel movie giant? Is there a big food spread and famous chefs cooking for everyone?
Typically, yes. But because of COVID, it was such a different experience. Because usually on a set, it’s a communal experience eating together and taking your lunch together. But now it’s an isolating experience. Somebody brings you a prepackaged lunch and you eat by yourself in your trailer, which isn’t as fun!
Do you bring your guitar along when you’re acting?
I do! For WandaVision, I had to fly to LA and live in LA for two months. So, the first thing I did was go to Guitar Center and I just bought a Taylor Mini and played it for two months and then returned it! So, I didn’t have to fly a guitar back and forth, I just picked one up and took good care of it and dropped it off! [Laughs]
Taylors are great. They’re so warm.
They’re so warm and they’re louder! You have more control. If you want to play softly or if you want to play loudly just acoustic, there’s a lot more power. But yeah even throughout WandaVision, your lifestyle as a working actor is a lot of days off when you’re not called to set. For a role like Commercial Woman, I would be on set one to two days a week over the course of a couple months. So, all of those days off, I was songwriting and continuing to finish songs and record and stuff like that.
Was there a satisfying aspect to the role of Commercial Woman itself? And is there a satisfying aspect of having done that role now as you sit here today after the show is out and thriving?
The most satisfying part of actually shooting the role was, I would say, working with the hair and makeup team. It was really fun to create different looks as a team and just play dress-up for a living, right? That was just the most fun you could ever have as an actor. It was also fun artistically to study the different styles of advertising throughout the decades. We were going for a sincere representation of those different epochs of advertising.
Then I would say the most satisfying thing of the whole job, in general, there is something really exciting about being a part of a show that sweeps the globe like this one did! There’s something really satisfying about having a hand in something that captures the collective imagination and has a big impact on the culture.
Okay, well, we’re premiering your new song and video, “Road Trip,” today. I believe you’d said you got the call for WandaVision while on the road trip which is depicted in the new video. But what do you want to say about the genesis of the song and what it’s all about?
So, this was the end of 2019 and my husband and I hadn’t really been on a vacation in four or five years! Like a real vacation, longer than a weekend. We were planning our dream vacation, driving up the coast of California over the course of 10 days and I was having so much fun just planning the vacation and imagining all of the things that we were going to do that I got swept away and wrote this song about the vacation before it even happened! As I was planning it!
Really, while I was writing the song, I felt the inspiration of the people listening to the song, if that makes any sense? Like, I really felt I was writing it for other people to encourage people to get out there and do those things that sound really magical to them and not wait around. Of course, this was in 2019 and there was no danger at that time of travel. So, what I like about it coming out now with the vaccine rolling out is that there is that possibility of adventure and travel again, which we all need.
That really comes through. My wife and I are planning a vacation actually driving down from Seattle to California along the coast and this song put me in that mood for sure.
Like, “I dare you not to be inspired to travel!” [Laughs]
What was the genesis of your 2019 LP, Lo-fi Love Songs, and does “Road Trip” and your song, “Anybody,” which is already out, portend a possible new release this year?
Lo-fi Love Songs was a collection of songs that I had started writing really all throughout the 2010s. It’s really a collection of love songs about my journey falling in love, getting married, starting our careers. Just that whole journey of what it looks like to choose to love someone. And I realize that has been a huge theme of young adulthood for me.
I had just kept writing about it and I realized I wanted to put it all on cassette tape in a really simple format and just honestly share those songs and share my story with the world. So, I’m really proud of Lo-fi Love Songs. With me, I wrote songs so often that really at any moment I could record an album! My challenge to myself is to start recording more than I write, because I always write way more than I record.
I’m challenging myself to start committing to recording. So, “Anybody” and “Road Trip” are a big part of that newfound commitment to actually recording and releasing songs more often. So, I do have a second album that is written and I’m excited to start recording it this year. But I am also interested in releasing singles because there’s a freedom and a spontaneity you can have with releasing singles that is liberating.
Now you’re under the Marvel umbrella, which has a giant reach. You’re writing new music, you told me you’re also on TikTok! So, when you close your eyes, what comes to mind when you think about the future?
That’s a great question. So, in 2020, I developed and wrote a TV series that features my songs as music videos throughout the series. It’s basically a retelling of my journey as an artist mixed with—it’s a woman stuck in a dead-end job until one day she comes face to face with her dream life through vivid visions in the form of music videos. So, the journey is her really coming to a self-awakening to the fact that she’s a musician. She starts writing songs and she finds her voice as an artist. So, I want to make that show! It will be such a beautiful blend of what has always been unfolding in my life, which is acting and songwriting existing side by side.
With empowerment, too. Last question! What do you love most about music?
I think about that a lot. I believe music more than any other art form reaches people’s hearts the quickest and the easiest. So, as an artist, what I want to do is to reach people’s hearts, reach their imaginations. I feel the quickest and easiest way to do that is through songs. There’s something about music that bypasses all the bullshit. You don’t need a two-hour movie to affect the listener! You don’t need 17 episodes of a TV show. You can literally get to the heart of a person with one song. So, I love the simplicity of that. Also, as a writer, I love how you can write a song so quickly and so specially. I love TV writing, as well. But that’s a long haul, you know?