Katie Wilson, host, actress, comedian, and self-prescribed professional nerd, has made a living on loving the things you love.
“I started playing video games when I was 5, and Legend of Zelda was a huge game for me because it was a medieval fantasy,” she tells SYFY WIRE.
With internet culture inundated by toxic fandom and accusations of ruined childhoods, Wilson is a breath of fresh air, an enthusiastic creator who found her calling as a pre-teen. Since joining YouTube in 2008, Wilson’s channel has garnered over 11 million views and boasts almost 99,000 subscribers, all thanks to her mix of light-hearted parody videos, gameplay sessions, fan films, and generally positive movie reviews. Wilson often teams up with friends to get the job done, making her full-time job as an entertainer and creator all the more enviable.
SYFY WIRE spoke with Wilson about her all-consuming love for Xena: Warrior Princess, making fan films, and working as a woman in a genre-centric space.
When did you first realize that this is something you wanted to do?
I would have to say that when I was about 13. I auditioned for my first musical. It was Grease, and my parents were like, “Yeah, okay, whatever. She never sings. She's never acted. She'll probably get cast in the chorus or not at all.” They were kind of expecting disappointment — I mean, not really, but then I ended up getting cast as one of the lead supporting characters and then I started doing musicals in Arizona and I got to do some really fun productions. I was the narrator in Joseph and I did High School Musical as Sharpay — it was really awesome as a kid to perform.
One of my first jobs ever was working with Radio Disney as a performer. We would travel all around Phoenix and sing and dance for people.
How old were you when you were doing that?
I was about 14.
Oh my gosh. So little.
Yeah! So it was my first job ever. And I did that pretty much through high school and then I decided to move to L.A. — I wanted to act. I got cast in a YouTube video to do sketches and sing and I just started gaining followers on YouTube from being in other people's videos.
I kind of loved the culture and I grew up a huge medieval fantasy and sci-fi fan, so I wanted to be able to share my experience and my love with those genre types of television, movies, and video games with an audience. And so then I just started my YouTube channel, where I was doing blogs and sketches and parodies, which has kind of turned more into gameplay and entertainment talk, I guess.
Then from there, I was auditioning in L.A. and getting hosting work and booking acting work, et cetera.
How do you fit your love for geek culture and all of these things that you enjoy into your everyday work?
I have to say that I've gotten a little lucky when it comes to that. I was watching people on YouTube try to fit into a mold because they thought it was popular, and my goal when I started was "I'm just going to share the things that I grew up with. I'm going to share the things that I love, and if people find my videos and like the same things then those are the people I want watching me."
And so I kind of just started out with talking about what I love, and then an audience grew from that. I think I've just been really lucky.
Who introduced you to nerd stuff?
My dad was a huge sci-fi buff, so I pretty much get my love of sci-fi movies from him. Like Stargate is one of the best movies of all time in my book. He was really big into Star Wars and Star Trek and all of that. All of the good stuff. Both of my parents are movie buffs, really, and I became one and then I got into TV and now I will watch the most epic of shows to the trashiest of reality television. But I will watch it all 100 percent.
What else besides your parents’ love for movies and science fiction influenced you? Who did you want to be when you grew up?
Oh my gosh, that's so difficult. Well, I'm a huge Xena: Warrior Princess fan, so I always really looked up to Lucy Lawless. I love that she always did fun genre shows. I always wanted to do something along the lines of Xena, so, as a kid I took horseback riding lessons, I took sword-fighting lessons, I took archery. I just wanted to be Xena.
Didn't we all want to be Xena, though?
Yes, yes! Who, who wouldn't want to be Xena?
So I definitely take that into my nerddom today. I still do all of those things, the fighting and the stunt training. I just love the epicness of it.
Being a really big nerd about fantasy, sci-fi, and video games, and television, and just entertainment in general, I think that it's just putting your love and passion first. That opened the door for opportunities. And you know, obviously getting to work with SYFY is a freaking dream come true. I've loved SYFY's shows since forever. And now I get to talk about them and I get to host the official Wynonna Earp podcast for SYFY and I get to go to San Diego Comic-Con and all these cool conventions with SYFY. It's awesome.
Passion is important. Being the most enthusiastic person in the room is always fun.
I like to call myself a professional fangirl.
What else are you a big nerd about today? What are your fandoms?
I'm huge Game of Thrones fan. Huge, huge, huge.
It really fits into, as you said, the fantasy and all of that. The medieval-ness of it.
Yeah! Pretty much anything that was medieval fantasy, I've been a fan of. Legend of the Seeker, I loved that show. I’m still a huge Harry Potter nerd, [and I was] as a kid. My cousin and I used to make Harry Potter fan videos for our family, like home movies.
They were so bad and so embarrassing.
Do you have those somewhere?
I'm going to tell you no, but the answer is yes, they are somewhere, and hopefully they never get seen. They're ridiculous!
[I love] Lord of the Rings, too. Right now, I'm just super into Game of Thrones and I'm just a really big TV buff. I always really connected with stories with characters that I could continue to watch. Unlike a movie, how, you know, you get one, maybe a trilogy. But with television I really love the character development and getting to see what my favorite characters are going to be doing the next week. So I watch a ton of TV.
Who's your favorite Game of Thrones character?
Oh my gosh, why do you do this? I feel like everyone probably says Daenerys, but it's true. I love her. I'm also a really big Cersei fan and I love Margaery.
And I would fight — I want to debate someone one day that Cersei is the most relatable character in the whole shebang. She really is. So I love Cersei, but I'll go with Daenerys because she does have dragons and you can't really beat that.
It’s all the best women! So often, genre is stereotypically thought of as being a very male-centric space. A lot of the time when I speak with women who are involved in genre culture, they still do get a lot of hate, even though there are so many women in fandom.
That's so true. And I used to see a lot of that I would say like a couple of years ago, but I honestly think that I've got so lucky with the viewership that I have, and the people who follow me truly love the same things as I do. And so instead of seeing it as "That's a girl playing video games, girls shouldn't play video games or shouldn't like Game of Thrones" or whatever, I instead I have a group of people who watch me who just love to discuss stuff and want to. It's basically like a community of people, and I've just gotten really lucky. I mean occasionally you'll get the dumb comment from someone, but you know, that's the internet.
They'll watch one video and be like, "This girl's never seen Game of Thrones in her life." I was like, "Well, actually I've read the books."
"I probably know more than you do."
Exactly, exactly. The best example I have is, I was wearing a Legend of Zelda shirt — specifically from this one game, Ocarina of Time, and it had one of the songs on it — and I was in a game store and this one guy looked at me and he's like, "Ha ha, that was the best game for GameCube." I didn't say anything, but I was like, "That game was never released on GameCube, so I don't know what you're talking about.” [Laughs]
What was your first console?
A Nintendo 64.
You do a lot of gaming videos. What's your favorite video that you've done recently?
I did a Tomb Raider fan film, which I did it in promotion with the new Tomb Raider movie that came out in March. On a whim, I decided to put together a fan film, and my friends and I made it from conception to actually making the video. Preproduction was 24 hours and [then] we were out shooting it. It's actually my highest-viewed video on YouTube and is probably going to be my first-ever video to hit a million views. So I'm really excited about that. I'm hoping it does. I mean, it's at 700 and something thousand right now, which is insane.
Had you done fan films before this?
Yeah! One of my favorite things to do on YouTube is to make epic videos, whether it be a fan film or a short film or a sketch. I just love including an element of epicness, especially when I'm doing any sort of narrative work or scripted anything. I like it to have an element of being this epic production. So I have done a couple of video game in-real-life things on my channel. I've done music videos, silly sketches. So I've definitely done stuff like this before. I would love to do more of it.