Casey Wilson’s Heart is in Virginia

The Alexandria native’s film career began in her own backyard.

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T8WF5K May 14, 2019 – North Hollywood, California, USA – 14, May 2019 – North Hollywood, California. Casey Wilson attends Showtimes EmmyA® For Your Consideration ‘Black Money’ at The Saban Media Center. (Credit Image: © Billy Bennight/ZUMA Wire)

You might have spotted her in Alexandria’s Old Town recently. Or maybe you’ve seen her with Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd in The Shrink Next Door, just out on Apple TV Plus. Although she lives in L.A., Casey Wilson—actress, writer, and director—considers herself a Virginian first.

Her career began in the backyard of her childhood home in Alexandria’s Rosemont neighborhood, when her father rummaged in the attic, found some old red curtains, and built a stage there. Soon, she was writing her own plays and staging them for an audience of neighbors.

Her parents, Paul and Kathy Wilson, probably never imagined their daughter would wind up on Saturday Night Live—where Wilson was a cast member for two seasons—or appear in Bride Wars with Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway, the movie she co-wrote with June Diane Raphael, her best friend from college.

“I was driven and ambitious but knew it was going to be tough,” she says of the years after she graduated from NYU’s Tish School of the Arts and the Stella Adler School of Acting. “With acting you are perpetually looking for a new job. You have to hustle, and you have to have luck.”

But landing roles in Julie and Julia, Gone Girl, Always Be My Maybe, and the ABC comedy Happy Endings required more than luck—although she did run into a stroke of it when the show’s creator, David Caspe, became her real-life husband.

Wilson got her start acting in musicals at T.C. Williams High School, under the tutelage of her “beloved” drama and English teacher, Flo West. T.C. Williams was the “start of my whole life growing,” she says, adding, “I loved my experience there.” (Actor Dermot Mulroney is also a grad).

Her Northern Virginia childhood turns up in her recent book, The Wreckage of My Presence, a collection of personal essays published in May. “I always wanted to write a book but didn’t think I had enough to say,” Wilson recalls, adding, “I now have way more compassion for my parents. They were wonderful. I realized what it’s like to raise an emotional artist.”

The writing process was “cathartic,” she says, helping her process the 2005 death of her mother at 54 from heart failure. “It tells the story of grief but humorously,” she notes. “It has things you can laugh at, but are relatable.” After years of writing for television, where “you have a studio executive—or 10 other people—adding to what you write,” she enjoyed the freedom of telling her own story.

These days, her father helms the Kathy Wilson Foundation in honor of Casey’s mom, who directed childcare and development centers in Alexandria after retiring from her work in politics. “It’s small but mighty,” she says. “It’s my mom’s legacy. She had a passion for working with children with specific needs. Now, we do work with early intervention and getting kids screened at a young age.” Wilson has appeared on Celebrity Family Feud and Who Wants to be a Millionaire to raise money for the foundation.

Wilson and her family visit Alexandria every summer and during the Christmas and New Year holidays. “I love Old Town Alexandria. That’s where my dad’s office is. I love all the shops and la Madeleine Bakery on King Street as well as the Shirlington Movie Theater. I especially love seeing Old Town lit up at this time of year,” she says. “I absolutely love Northern Virginia and would live there if I wasn’t acting. The environment is so supportive.”


This article originally appeared in the February 2022 issue.

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