It's fair to say that since April of 2005, we've all paid a bit more attention to Mercury. While the marque's products have steadily improved along with those of parent company Ford, it's been the brand's spokesmodel that has made us sit up and take notice. Quite simply, we have put Mercury 'on our list' because the Blue Oval has put actress Jill Wagner out in front of its wares.
A Winston-Salem, North Carolina southern belle at heart, we had heard through the grapevine that Mercury's stunning spokesmodel was also something of a down-to-earth car gal. We wanted to find out for ourselves, so Jill was kind enough to make some time to speak with us as she geared up to start filming another round of ABC's Wipeout, where she is in her third season as co-host of the obstacle course reality tv series.
JW: Right – my father has a tire shop in North Carolina – he was always kind of a wheeler and a dealer. I'd come home and he'd have old Cadillacs that he'd bought – cars that he'd fix up and sell. He'd always have a new car every week that he was trying to sell. I was always at the tire shop answering phones and stuff, messing around with the cars, so yeah, I have a love for cars.
AB: So the Mercury campaign was a natural fit for you then?
JW: It was funny, because in the audition, they have this chair, and they sat it in the middle of the room, and they were like, 'Okay, that's your car – walk around and talk about it.' And I think by the end of the audition, the woman was like, "Okay, I have no idea what a carburetor is, I don't have any idea what you're talking about, but it sounds good." It was meant to be.
To continue reading our interview with Jill Wagner, click on the jump, and be sure to check out our high-res gallery of Jill below (as if we had to tell you that!).
[Source: Jill Wagner Official; Image: Stephen Shugerman/Getty]
JW: Yeah, it's been five years.
AB: That's a long time in this business.
JW: That's what I always hear! Everyone comes up to me and says, "We can't believe you've been the spokesperson for that long, and I'm like... I guess if you look around, there aren't that many people that have been spokespeople for that long. (Laughs)
AB: Coming from the 'car guy' point of view, Mercury is a car brand that has had trouble finding a real brand identity among the buying public. In fact, we've heard from some that you are actually more recognizable than the brand you're selling.
JW: Right. I'm pretty excited about that – the thing is, I love the fact that people will say 'I never really knew about Mercury before I started to see your commercials' – and I'm glad I could do that for the company. Especially since Mercury is All-American.
AB: So do you have one yourself?
JW: I do. In fact, it's pulling up right now, I'm leaving the dentist right now. It's pulling up (laughs). I have a Mariner Hybrid.
AB: Do you have any other cars too? Are you a classic car person at all?
JW: I do. I do – but I'm not allowed to talk about any other kinds of cars, just because obviously I'm the spokesperson for Mercury. But I will say this – I'm a big, huge lover of vintage cars.
AB: I understand from your Twitter feed that you've been auditioning for the forthcoming A-Team movie, is that correct? That's something that's sort of tangentially automotive and interesting to a lot of our readers.
JW: That is correct, yeah... and of course it's got Bradley Cooper in it, so I'm assuming it's going to be funny. You know, that's all really up in the air, but I know I've been in three times now for it, so it could... maybe it could happen, I don't know... (laughs) it's all up in the air but I would love to be a part of that – just to work with Mr. T! (Laughs)
AB: (Laughs). Is he actually signed on to the project?
JW: Oh, no. (Laughs)
AB: You never know, remakes often have cameos with original characters like that.
JW: You know what, though? He may be, I'm not sure... I'd love to know, but I don't think they've even cast that character yet.
AB: He's probably looking for work, right? He's got a couple of commercials...
JW: (Laughs) I would think so...
AB: And how's Wipeout going?
JW: Wipeout's great – we're just gearing up to start the third season. It's always a laugh. It's kind of crazy that my job is going and having fun and being a kid the whole day. I'm a very luck girl.
AB: I can appreciate that – as car journalists we get to go beautiful places and drive cars
JW: Right, you understand – you love your job.
AB: I do! But getting back to you, can we go back into your childhood a little bit? What was your first car or your first car memory?
JW: Oh, God,... my dad had this old, beat up, brown – I don't even – I think it was a Ford – all I know is you could barely even tell it was a truck, it was so beat up... he used to haul tires in it. That's my first memory – that's pretty much what he took us to school in every day. It was just a little beater, y'know? Of course, my dad has a love for speed, so he was always into the Corvettes. He had a yellow Corvette, which I think when I was 15, I stole, and I drove it down the road. Of course, with this big, bright yellow Corvette, all the neighbors saw that I was driving the car, and so of course he got five phone calls! (laughs). It was literally cars everywhere...a lot of Cadillacs made it in and out of my household.
AB: That's a great story. What was your first car?
JW: My first car was a Trans-Am. A T-top Trans-Am. I think it was an '89 – red. Of course, then I crashed it into a tree going 90 mph.
AB: You know, if you're going to go, you might as well go big.
JW: Right. Exactly. Well, I did!
AB: I don't imagine you have much time to get dirt under your fingernails and work on cars these days, but do you have time to drive now? Can you drive stick?
JW: Oh, God yeah. You know, the Mariner is an automatic, but if I'm going to have a sports car, it's going to be a stick. Period. (Laughs). Period. That's it.
AB: It's nice to hear that you're passionate about cars considering your job.
JW: Definitely. Everyone at Mercury has been really cool – they're kind of like family – they let me have a lot of input and let me do my own thing, so I don't feel so 'spokespersony' – they try to bring a lot of Jill into the commercials, which is really cool.
AB: You've been doing this since 2005 and it seems to be what people know you – maybe not most – but quite a bit for. Has that been something that's hard to overcome for the rest of your career? If you do one thing in Hollywood for too long, you can get pigeonholed or typecast, right?
JW: You know, I hear that all the time, and I kind of just go with the flow. It's nice – I appreciate what Mercury has done with my career. If people have a problem with it and they just think that I'm the commercial girl, so be it. I think that in the long run, you just have to show people you've got the talent and that you're not a one trick pony. That's what I'm out to do. People are going to believe what they're going to believe and have their ideas, but I don't buy into all of that.
AB: What does Mercury stand for to you... what does it represent?
JW: I think Mercury stands for All-American. You know, just a good, American product. Which, if you were raised in the Wagner household (laughs) that tends to be a pretty important thing. My dad always tried to buy American. It's good – I'm driving one right now, and it's an amazing car – and I'm not just saying that (laughs). They're great vehicles. The hybrid is amazing because I'm out here in L.A. and I'm constantly in traffic and I'm never getting gas.
AB: It's sort of hard to be a car fan in L.A., although everybody seemingly is. You're stuck in traffic all the time, although I suppose that's probably great for your hybrid.
JW: You know, it's so funny because I'm talking to my grandmother while I'm driving in the car and she says "Oh, no! Don't talk to me on the phone, you may get into a wreck." And I say, "Grandma, I'm not even going 20 mph, I'm stuck in traffic."
AB: We know you've got to get going, so thank you so much for your time and for answering our questions. We wish you all the best, and perhaps we'll see each other at an auto show down the road.
JW: You need to come up and say hello!
AB: We will do that – we will definitely do that.