By: Jaimz Dillman
Few roads from Amish Country in Oxford, Pennsylvania lead to Main Street USA, but that's the path Helaina Wize found. She says she quite literally stumbled into entertainment. Now she is portraying one of the nastiest moms in villain history for PattyCake Productions, but growing up, she attended dance classes in her town studio. After a trip to the happiest place on Earth in high school, Wize got the bug to work for the mouse. Once at Penn State, she found a place in the famous college program of Disney World, landing a job driving the trams. "People would tell me I'm such a ham on the mic to the guests, I should try out for entertainment. So I did," said Wize.
With her dance background, Wize was confident in the movement audition, which led to portraying various characters in shows and parades through the years. Being at Disney at the same time as PattyCake creator Tony Wakim means they were both in the same circles of people. "I dressed like Mother Gothel for a Halloween party with a dress from Goodwill, and a party store cape. Friends of mine referred me to PattyCake when they heard they were looking. Tony and Layne called me up, and made me an offer I couldn't refuse - and it's been a dream come true to play her," she said. Gothel isn't a character played in the parks, so thankfully, there's no conflict of interest. Wize is still at the parks, but now creating magic behind the scenes.
Leading up to the first episode of what became season one of The Villains Lair, Wize said she was a bit nervous learning lines. "Because my background is improv, it was a little nerve-wracking. But after that first video, I realized what a gift I had in them, and being able to stop and redo if we have to. Tony and Layne, I feel like I just stumbled into this amazing talented outlet. I also love how they don't abuse the villains. I feel they play to their strengths, and not weaknesses. It's always something new," Wize said.
Costumes and hair are definitely not skimped on, and being draped in Gothel's dress and fluffy hair was "transformative" for Wize. "Recently I got a cape, and I'm really looking forward to a dramatic moment with it," she said. Working with a bunch of other characters often brings input from the actors. "It's fun how they humor us performers. If there's something you want to do or try, it's so refreshing that you're in a safe space to talk about it and try it. Other places I've been at in the past you were just their minions," she said.
After recently bringing the whole cast back from a pandemic-induced hiatus, the first episode of The Villain's Lair - Season 2 - has wrapped. When asked what she hopes for the story this next round, Wize said, "I guess I just want to know where they're headed with it. I love kind of not knowing, and having it be revealed and go along with the ride."
We were left with a cliff-hanger in the YouTube series last year, and the story has picked up with some of the baddies setting off for a trip. Not too concerned with Gothel, Wize is interested in what's happening with the other ladies. "Finding out what's happening with Maleficent and where her story arc is going - and Cruella, if she gets seasick. I want to know if someone goes overboard," she said.
Upcoming projects for Wize include another secretive project that has her donning more costumes and wigs, but she doesn't know if she "can talk about that yet." Personally, she's looking toward continued education, going back to school for her MBA in sustainability. "I'm really into the environment, and I've been vegan for the past few years. [I'm] looking to maybe get into learning more about solar power. Living in Florida, I want to learn more about that."
See all of PattyCake's videos on their YouTube channel - and don't miss the first episode of The Villains Lair season two, set to be released on September 25!