Willy Wonka's Unknown gets a new gig in London

On a cold March evening, after the sun had set and when most school-age children were reluctantly starting their homework, Felicia Dawkins, 16, eagerly jumped on the phone from Scotland to share that her life was changed, for the better.

She showed up with the kind of bubbly, giddy energy that only a teenager could radiate. It's the same energy that drew millions of viewers to her TikTok account, where she emerged as a key participant in a Willy Wonka-themed event that went so badly that her memes briefly took over much of the internet and international news coverage. she went on for days.

That event, which took place in Glasgow at the end of February, failed to create the dazzling experience it promised. The fallout, in true Internet style, was swift and brutal. Organizers quickly shut down the event and promised full refunds to disgruntled families.

Afterwards, the Internet came across one of the event's most inexplicable characters, known only as “The Unknown”, played by Felicia. Footage of her portrayal of the evil chocolate maker who lives within the factory walls, which included emerging from behind a mirror to the cries of children, spread widely online, kicking off the show's 15 minutes of fame. teenager.

Now he's capitalizing, taking his scary talents south for a guest appearance at the London Dungeon, a spine-tingling theater attraction in the shadow of the city's London Eye, this weekend. The company contacted Felicia shortly after her viral moment to invite her to train with the show team and appear in the attraction. “We could see that she has a real passion, and talent, for theater and interactions with guests,” Richard Quincey, head of entertainment at London Dungeon and South Bank Attractions, said in a statement.

Felicia's mother, Janet Dawkins, said she had mixed emotions about the Wonka event failing so miserably and so publicly. “It all led to her getting all this, all these opportunities,” Ms. Dawkins said. “So if I'm honest, I can't really say I'm upset about anything that happened.”

Ms Dawkins said she was “very, very proud” of Felicia and that her family had been closely involved in helping the young actress find her balance amid all that attention.

Felicia spoke to The Times about her brief stint at Willy's Chocolate Experience, her love of all things scary and her acting ambitions. What follows is an edited and condensed version of that conversation.

What was your life like before the Willy's Chocolate Experience?

I was just attending school normally. I was preparing for high school in school, which is basically just exams. And my favorite subject in school: I love theatre, which is very cliché. I also like PE. I'm quite physical. I'm a scout too, in my spare time.

What kind of things do you do in scouts? I want to see if it's similar or different from scouts in the US.

Some weeks we just play games, other weeks we learn about badges and then we also go to camps quite often which is really fun. I was actually selected to go to Norway this year by the Scouts, which is why I also took the Willy Wonka Experience job, to pay for it.

How did you get the opportunity to participate in the Willy Wonka experience?

Basically, just someone from the House of Illuminati [the organizer of the Wonka event] I was talking to a family friend about this huge Wonka experience. And then in the conversation my name came up saying I would be a good Wonka because I love acting in real life. And they have already seen me, because I also attend a theater school here.

Did you get paid for the Wonka experience?

I got paid, yes. I wasn't paid the full amount, but I was paid £250 [about $315].

And how much was promised to you?

£500 [about $630].

Take us back to the day of the event. What was going through your mind and did you think the event was going well or did you think it was disastrous?

When I first got there and saw the set, I thought, “Oh, this is going to be a disaster.” But when people started arriving – like the first one, I would say, 45 minutes went relatively well – people seemed to be enjoying themselves. But then, he lost all the organization, and it went completely downhill from there on. And I thought, “Oh my God!”

As an actor, when you're in that situation and you're given a script that you have to learn right away, what kind of emotions come out?

I was so, so nervous because I had done shows before. I'm pretty good at learning lines. But seeing it, I thought, there's no way I can learn this overnight. And since the script was AI-generated, most of it didn't even make sense. So it was harder for me to learn, so I had to improvise.

Why did you decide to do it? revealed on TikTok after the end of the experience?

No one really knew that I was The Stranger. I told a couple of my closest friends, but when people on TikTok started coming forward and saying they were The Unknown, I was like, “No, you're not, because I'm The Unknown.” And more and more people started doing it, and they were getting a lot of likes, a lot of influence, and a lot of money. So I thought, I just had to come out and prove that I was the 16-year-old girl who did it.

Some of your TikTok videos have received millions of views. How are you handling your newfound fame?

It's a completely wild time, but I have to say that my family has been very supportive through it all. They helped me through all of this. They managed my TikTok, looking for new opportunities for me. I have to say, it's like my family is helping me through all of this.

Are you feeling overwhelmed or enjoying the limelight?

I'm definitely overwhelmed by it, but I still like it because I put a smile on people's faces. For example, I make people laugh. This makes me really happy.

What were some of the highlights?

I've been sent a lot of fan art and a lot of merchandise. It has to be the number one thing: people take time out of their day to make things for me and send them to me.

I read that you want to be a full-time actress. Tell me more about this goal and what your dream job would be?

After making the musical “Elf”. [a production she starred in a few years ago and played the lead character, Buddy], I told my mom, like, “I really want to go further.” And she got me into acting school. So that helped me get into a lot more, like, productions and stuff like that. So I think I'm just trying to get more opportunities. That would be the best thing for me because it's really a lot of fun.

You're going to London to be a guest artist at the London Dungeon on April 7th. If you can tell me, do you know what your role will be?

Yes! I'm so, so excited. I think I'll just be The Unknown at the event. I'm not entirely sure, though, but I think that's who I am.

How are you preparing?

Watch a lot of horror movies.

Which ones are you looking at?

“The rancor”.

Do you get scared easily? I guess you can't be if you like horror, right?

I was scared when I was younger. But now that I like it, I'm not really afraid anymore.

Would it be correct to say that you like to torment and scare people?

I like to give people very strong emotions. Like at school and last year, we had, like, this Halloween event and you were acting out and my character was, like, a deranged doctor and he scared all the little S1s and S2s, that's 12 and 13 year olds. And it was really, really fun.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Hopefully one day on stage.

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