Rebel Wilson knows she has a lot of fans in the Philippines. How? She rattled off stats collected via Twitter Analytics, which measures the performance of account holders across leading social networks. So, it wasn’t surprising to hear the actress, beloved and hilarious as Fat Amy in the Pitch Perfect movies, reveal in our chat that she was a math whiz in high school and that she has two college diplomas, including a law degree.
Noted for delivering off-kilter lines as if they’ve only just crossed her mind (when in fact, they’re in the movie script), the Sydney, Australia native projects intelligence even when she’s getting up to the most hilarious antics. It’s one of the joys of watching her on screen and talking to her in person: Rebel always seems to be looking at the world with a sense of bemusement and irony. While speaking in the wry, deadpan tone of Fat Amy, Rebel stressed that she’s different from the funny, eccentric member of the Barden Bellas. The same goes for Brynn, the scene-stealing, creepy roommate of Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids, which was her breakthrough role.
The 27-year-old actress, who served for a year as Australia’s Rotary International Youth Ambassador in South Africa, recently began putting her numerical acumen and creativity to a new use by starting her own venture, a fashion line for plus-size women. That Rebel found time to establish a clothing line is especially impressive given that she works almost non-stop on TV projects and will appear in upcoming movies such as The Social Life, Kung Fu Panda 3, How to Be Single and Grimsby.
Do you know you’ve got a lot of fans in Asia?
I have lots of fans in Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia. I think they really like singing over there (laughs) in the Australo-Pacific. I feel like I’m an international actress because I’m from Australia and yet I’ve had all these opportunities.
When I try to come up with jokes, I don’t just think about what’s going to work in America. I try to think what’s going to work on a global scale. You can’t get that right all the time but I try because I really do see movies like Pitch Perfect as being global movies.
How did you know you have a lot of fans in the Philippines?
If you go on Twitter Analytics, it lists all the countries and what percentage of followers you have. It lists the cities and tells you. Like in America, I know I’m really big in Kansas (laughs). They break it down.
What are you like in real life, the real woman behind Fat Amy?
I’m very different. I know it’s easy [to think otherwise] because I talk like Fat Amy. But in real life, I’m very sensible. I have two university degrees, one being a law degree, so I’m a qualified lawyer. If anyone gets into trouble, needs a little advice (laughs)…
I often play fun, zany characters so people think I’m like that all the time. I’m not, which is good because otherwise I’d be a bit of a maniac.
And you’re an academic star…
I was very dorky and didn’t have many friends (laughs). My law degree was from the University of New South Wales. I graduated in 2009. I majored in space law. I knew at that point that maybe I wasn’t going to be a professional lawyer. Space law is, for example, about the moon being owned by all of mankind under international treaty. But what may happen is, for example, if China gets there and says, “All of this part is ours. We’re going to drill here.” Or, “We’re going to build some cool space station and none of the countries are allowed in.” So, it’s the study of what’s going to happen and what laws we can put in place. My other degree is in the arts. I majored in theater and film.
You were particularly proficient in math when you were in high school.
I had the best standardized-test score in the Australian Mathematics Competition at age 14.
How do you feel about your growing fame?
It’s really crazy because I’m the first female from Australia to make it in mainstream Hollywood comedies. I can’t go to malls. Even going to the cinema is really difficult. I used to love going to the cinema by myself. Now I can’t do that because there would be paparazzi shooting me and saying, “She has no friends.” So my relaxation time is gone. I can’t go out to the supermarket. It’s great though because it means people recognize what you do. Now I’m becoming something of a role model. I should try to use that for good.
When is your fashion line coming out?
I’m bringing out a plus-size clothing range later this year. It’s such an untapped market. There are many girls, especially younger girls, who are bigger but don’t have cool clothes to wear. The line is coming out in October — an American plus-size brand called Torrid. It’s been so cool designing clothes because it’s being creative but in a different way. I get to touch all the fabrics, draw little designs. Some of it is for leisure, like sweatpants, but a bit more upmarket. And some really nice dresses and skirts. Cool stuff, different.
Are you a rebel in real life?
I’m definitely a non-conformist. I don’t do what other people do. I’ve always thought a little bit differently. That’s why when my jokes come out and I’m improvising, they come out differently. A lot of people ask, “Were your parents hippies?” They were actually professional dog handlers. They’re actually quite conservative. I did go to a Christian high school and I went under my two middle names, Melanie Elizabeth.
How confident are you?
I’m very confident in some things; I can get up in front of 10,000 people. I tell jokes and command a stage. But sometimes in real life, I do get a bit shy, like when I’m on a one-on-one date. Because you’re not playing a character — it’s just you in real life. I can get a little embarrassed at times but it depends on the situation.
How much do you relish competition?
I’m quite competitive. When I was younger, I was a good junior tennis player. I would literally do a lot of things like put off the other player by grunting. I used to do whatever I could to get the mental advantage over an 11-year-old kid.
This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of Smile magazine.