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Emily Tosta – Walking in a Willy’s Wonderland

Updated: May 21, 2023

Emily Tosta

Walking in a Willy’s Wonderland

By Kayla Marra

You know how in the old Scooby-Doo! mysteries, the bad guy would always angrily bellow after he got caught, “And I would have gotten away with it, too, if not for those damned kids.”

Emily Tosta is one of those kids.

Specifically, in the new Nicolas Cage thriller Willy’s Wonderland, she is stuck in a spooky carnival fighting off a bunch of killer animatronic mascots, like blood-thirsty versions of Charlie the robot from Scooby-Doo’s carnival episode or maybe something out of Five Nights at Freddy’s.

Tosta is a 22-year-old Dominican actress. She began acting at the young age of eight, performing in local theater productions, then being featured in commercials. Over the next few years, Tosta and her family packed up and moved to LA to continue her acting career.

During her time in the film and television industry, Tosta has been featured in numerous releases including the television shows Party of Five and Mayans M.C. and films Vikes (2017), Selfie Dad (2020), and now her first starring role in a feature film alongside Cage. Willy’s Wonderland is going to be released February 12th, 2021.

The movie was directed by Kevin Lewis and stars Cage, Tosta, Caylee Cowan, Jiri Stanek, and Christian Del Grosso. The film centers around a janitor (Nicolas Cage) whose car breaks down in a small, run-down town. Unable to pay off his car repair, he is given the overnight job of cleaning an old amusement park called Willy’s Wonderland. Little does this janitor know, Willy’s Wonderland has a dark secret.

We were lucky enough to sit down and chat with Tosta via ZOOM and chat about Willy’s Wonderland and her character Liv, what it was like to star in her first feature film, what it has been like working during quarantine, and much more!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am an actress and an activist. I started acting in the Dominican Republic, which is where I was born and raised. I moved to this country to continue to pursue my dream when I was twelve years old with my mama, and here we are in LA!

You started your acting career in the Dominican Republic as young as eight in theater productions. What made you want to start acting and would you say it has always been a passion for you?

Acting has always been a passion for me. When I was little, I would always make my family sit around the living room. I would act out plays, and be like, every character in the play. My family knew that every time someone came over to visit that they were going to be forced to sit in the living room and watch me act, dance, and do all these things. Ever since I was little, my mom always thought that I had a passion for acting. She’s always been super supportive, so she started taking me to auditions over there. I started doing commercial work, then theater, and that’s how I started.

So you really have been acting your whole life. It’s amazing and you have come so far. Is there anyone – a family member, or an actor – who inspired you to really get into the film and television industry?

I have a mixture of inspirations for very many reasons. First of all my mom has always been such a huge inspiration. Not because she is in the entertainment industry at all, because she’s not, but because she has such much resilience and so much strength, and so much power. She has just always been so supportive of me. She is just such an inspiration for me for everything I do every single day.

I’m sure.

Aside from that when it comes to more of the craft side of things, ever since I was a little girl, I would always see American television. I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, so my first language has always been Spanish. I learned English when I came to this country – so I would watch American television over there that, by the way, was voiced by Spanish actors so their mouths would be moving in a different way, so that was interesting.

I can imagine.

But aside from that, I would always see that there were not a lot of girls that looked like me. The first woman that I saw that looked like me on TV was America Ferrera. Ever since I saw her, I was like, “Oh my gosh, maybe if she’s doing it, I can too.” That was so important for me as a little girl growing up watching TV. That’s the reason why I always want to embrace my culture, for other young people that are watching TV and film. If they are to have a dream or are inspired to do something, they can see like, “Okay, she’s doing it. That means I can do it, too.” That’s exactly what happened to me with America [Ferrara].

While you’ve worked on both movies and television shows including Vikes, Rosewood, Mayans MC (season three is coming out soon which is so exciting) and now Willy’s Wonderland coming out on February 12th (which is also super exciting). What would say are major differences in filming a television show vs a film?

There are a lot of differences. Even when it comes to the technical side of things such as camera placing and how they do certain takes, there are a LOT of differences. Another thing [is] when it comes to character work. For example, now we’re on to season three of Mayans [MC], so my character has been developing for three years. Hopefully, we get even more seasons. When it comes to a film, you only have two or three months with a character. That’s so nostalgic because you have such a short amount of time to work on this character and to build this life and step into these shoes. Then you just drop it and never come back to it again. I would say that those are probably the major differences.

Do you prefer filming one over the other?

I’ve been asked this question before so many times by my friends and family. It always makes me think about if I had to choose one to do for the rest of my life. I’m always like at a stop and I’m always like, “I don’t know!” I love TV and I love film. I have different reasons why I’m so passionate about both. So, can I pick both?

Yeah, of course! Obviously, you get to develop your character more in television, but they’re both such different experiences in their own way. Speaking of Willy’s Wonderland, tell us a bit about the film and your character Liv.

Willy’s Wonderland was such a fun film to make. I got the honor and blessing to work with someone like Nicolas Cage, who is an Oscar-winning actor. That was just such an amazing experience – he was so wonderful. Everybody else in the cast and crew was absolutely wonderful, as well. My character’s name is Liv Hawthorne. She is a little bit of a troublemaker. I keep getting these troublemaking characters! She has this very strong dream of leaving this town because the town – without spoiling too much – has kind of been poisoned by very bad people, if we want to see it like that. She has this group of friends and she has this mission of leaving this town. Then she encounters the janitor, who is Nicolas’ character, and they definitely take over Willy’s Wonderland.

Would you say you are more similar to or different from Liv? What do you like and/or dislike about her?

We definitely have some similarities, but also some differences. She is very strong and determined, which is something that my mom has always taught me to be since I was a little girl. I would say that’s how we are similar. When it comes to differences, there’s a lot of differences! For example, her will to kill people, not people but animatronics, that’s different! There’s a lot of differences. It’s fun to experience those differences within characters because you get to see things from a different perspective. That’s why I love acting so much – because you get to step into different people’s shoes. You get to see life through their lens. It’s such an interesting thing because it gives you a lot of perspective on different people.

What would you say is the biggest challenge about taking on this role, specifically your first motion picture leading role?

That alone was a huge blessing in itself. It was so amazing that my first leading role in a film was opposite Nicolas Cage. Every time I think about it, I’m like, “Woah, that really happened.” I would watch him when I was a little girl when I didn’t even speak English, just watching him on TV with all of his work. Then the next thing I know, I’m in the States, speaking English and working with him on a movie. It’s just crazy. Obviously stepping into the shoes of being the female lead in a film is a huge deal. But I was very blessed with wonderful people and a wonderful crew. It was a very supportive environment, especially from Nicolas himself. Aside from that, it was just a very different project than anything I’ve done. Obviously, there was the concept of horror involved in it which is something I had never done before. There was also a lot of action, movement, and stunts which were really fun to do. There were a lot of things that were very new for me. It was really exciting.

What has it been like working on the film with the coming pandemic?

It was actually crazy because we finished filming right before the whole country shut down. It was the craziest timing. We were in Atlanta and we just finished. I remember we had our wrap party. We actually went to a PUBLIC place filled with people, which is insane to think about nowadays! I fly back to LA. I was actually supposed to leave for New York for work, and I’m packing and the next thing I knew, it’s all over the news that the whole country is shutting down. I was like, “Well, here we go! I don’t know what this is going to be about.”

None of us did.

It was at the beginning of everything, so it was really crazy timing that we were able to finish the film right before everything, working pre-quarantine. Now working today during-ish and post-quarantine is such a crazy difference. We are now on set with all these guidelines and all these things you have to do. Just looking back and seeing that my last project pre-all of this was Willy’s Wonderland and how everything was done, it just makes me think, “Wow! We are really living in such different times in such a short amount of time.”

For sure! It’s been less than a year and everything has changed.

I know! Everything has changed. It's crazy!

What would you say some major differences are between filming pre-COVID and during COVID?

I would say everything, even how the cast and crew are divided into “Zone A” and “Zone B.” “Zone B” can’t come to “Zone A.” Then the fact that you have to get tested. I have to get tested three times per week for work. There are so many rules and guidelines for everybody’s safety and security, which I completely agree with. There’s definitely a lot of differences. Before we would be roaming around, talking with everybody, sitting with everybody, eating with everybody. Nobody would eat in their trailers when we were filming the movie. We were all such a cute little family, we all wanted to eat with each other. We would all just sit around, mess around, and play. That’s not something you can really do anymore, which is so sad. Hopefully, the world gets back to normal at some point.

As long as people listen and hopefully everyone starts getting vaccinated so we can get back to real life.

That’s the biggest thing, too, just people listening to everything that we have to do.

What is one thing you hope the audience will take away from Willy’s Wonderland and talk about on their ride home?

I really hope that they just have a fun experience. All of these characters are so different from each other. Every single character is going on their own journey throughout this movie. You’re definitely going to be able to relate to somebody because everybody is so different. It’s like you have a little piece of every personality throughout the movie. I hope that they just have a fun time. I hope they get scared. I hope they laugh. I hope they smile and cry and get sad and upset. I just want them to go on this journey with us because it was such a fun journey to film and to make. Hopefully, that can [be] portrayed onto the screen and the audience can feel that as well.

Do you have anything you’d like to say to any fans, family, or supporters?

I would like to say thank you so much for supporting my craft and allowing me to do what I do. If it weren’t for the people watching my projects and watching our films and our TV shows, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. I’m super grateful and thank you so much. At the same time, I want to let them know that if there’s any dream they want to pursue and if there’s anything they want to do, don’t give up. I came to this country with nothing, and where I am now is beyond where I ever could’ve imagined so I want everyone listening to know that if I was able to do something, you can do it too. That’s one of the most important things I want to do throughout my career, to be able to inspire others. To be able to encourage everybody that if there’s something they want to do or something that they’re passionate about, they just have to have faith, perseverance, and determination. Just work hard and focus on yourself, and stay positive.

Be sure to check out Willy’s Wonderland, Emily’s first leading role in a feature film, available to watch in select theaters and to stream on Vudu, Amazon Prime, and on-demand February 12th!

Copyright ©2021 All rights reserved. Posted: February 14, 2021.

Photo #1 ©2021 Ryan West. Courtesy of Strategic PR. All rights reserved.

Photo #2-4 ©2021. Courtesy of Screen Media Films. All rights reserved.

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