Cricket Wampler chatted about playing Samantha “Giggles” Fickman on Disney+ dramedy Big Shot, opposite John Stamos and Jessalyn Gilsig.
On the show, Cricket’s character Samantha (“Giggles”) is a member of the Westbrook School basketball team, where she plays Shooting Guard. Cricket is also one of five cast members on the fictitious team who is a series regular and credited as part of the primary cast.
It’s entirely possible that Big Shot is not the first time you’ve seen Cricket Wampler on screen. Her previous credits include episodes of About a Boy and Mr. Robinson.
Check out Cricket’s conversation with us about Big Shot and more below!
Welcome, Cricket and thank you for taking the time to do this.
Cricket Wampler (CW): Thank you, Conor, for having me! I’m excited to be here.
Before we get into chatting about your show Big Shot, I have to ask about the name “Cricket”. Is there a story behind why you were named that?
CW: I love that you asked! I get this in my personal life a lot, but I haven’t had an interview ask it yet, so I’m happy to answer. It is actually just a nickname. It’s a nickname I’ve had, honestly, since the day I was born. My full name is Christina. My family started calling me Cricket, I don’t really know why. I know on a show there was a Christine that was called Cricket, so they might’ve gotten it there.
I’ve always just been ‘Crick’ or ‘Crickey’ growing up. So yeah, it’s just a nickname and it just happened to start really sticking. It wasn’t really a question when I started acting, it was ‘this is what I go by’, so I kind of just went with it. It’s funky, but I have fun with it.
How did your journey into acting start? Was it a hobby at first, or did you always want to pursue it professionally at some point?
CW: Great question. Yeah, it was a young passion, but it was a young passion I didn’t know I would have or would never have done if I didn’t have my older siblings. They started taking acting classes locally. Of course, my parents asked me if I wanted to but I was just too shy. I was pretty shy. I was like, ‘Okay, but no thanks’, about seven or eight years old at this time.
Then, my older brother and older sister did an Expo in Dallas and started meeting with managers that way, or whatever. They got representation and started going from Ohio, which is where I’m from to LA, going back and forth. One of the trips when they came to visit, we were at dinner with their managers, they were like, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to try acting?’, which my family had asked me so many times.
I was like, ‘No, I think I do want to try’ so I really just never looked back. I started coming out with them whenever they would come out to LA. Started in commercials and just literally never looked back.
As of now, you’re playing Samantha “Giggles” Fickman on Big Shot. How was the audition process for landing your role? Did you read encounter anyone else who ended up being cast?
CW: Great question, Conor! Yes, I love talking about this, it’s so much fun. Funnily enough, everyone who is on the show auditioned for the role of Louise, Maybe the exception of Sophia Mitri Schloss [Emma Korn], I’m not sure about her. All the basketball girls auditioned for Louise. So, my sister had the audition and she was like, ‘I wonder why my sister’s not going in for this? She kind of fits it more.’
I got the audition, we all audition for Louise and then at the callback, they didn’t call that many people back. They might’ve, but in the waiting room, I was literally sitting there with my sister who happened to get called back for the role of Olive, like I did. I didn’t see Monique [Green, Olive] there, but I was there with Tisha [Eve Custodio, Mouse], Tiana [Le, Destiny). Nell [Verlaque, Louise] was not there because she was in New York. So, I guess it was just the three of us, but it was a lot of the girls we ended up testing with.
We tested and by that point, it’s four roles – Olive, Destiny, Louise and Mouse. Eight girls testing for any of those roles. I was testing with Monique, for Olive. We were head-to-head, if you will. There was a basketball test; we had to do our basketball skills one day and acting the next day. All those eight girls who were testing for the four roles, we were also testing for this unknown “Giggles” role. No one knew a thing about this character and we were all like, ‘Who is this?’ She was just in one scene, to set more of a group dynamic. At that point, she was not even for sure a series regular.
I got the call a couple of days later, ‘You’re not in the running for the role of Olive anymore’, which I kind of had a feeling about. But they were like, “You are, however, in the running for the role of Giggles, who has a real name, Samantha.’ Yes, we definitely all went through the casting process together and I was so thrilled when I found out I was potentially going to get Samantha. So many steps, but it all ended up playing out how it played out, so I’m pretty happy.
Not only is Big Shot on Disney+, Emmy Award winning writer David E. Kelley (Big Little Lies, Ally McBeal) co-created the series. Were you aware of this information when you were auditioning? Were you familiar with David E. Kelley?
CW: It was familiar to me, considering he’s kind of an icon. My sister had a small role in Big Little Lies, so I had known some of his other shows and loved Big Little Lies. I was pretty familiar with his work. I do believe I knew it was David E. Kelley Productions, but at the same time, I had no idea what Disney+ was. For some reason, I was under the impression it was about a half-hour comedy and all of a sudden, I’m like ‘Wait, this is an hour long dramedy!” So different than what I thought I was auditioning for.
It definitely wasn’t what I expected and John [Stamos] wasn’t attached yet, so I think that might have been part of the reason why I ended up booking it. I definitely psych myself out or get too excited about things. It was kind of helpful that I didn’t really know too much of what was going on, or what it was going to turn into.
Most of the drama away from the court centers on Coach Marvyn Korn (John Stamos), how much thought have you put into Giggles’ home life? Do you have a backstory in mind or just playing the part in the moment?
CW: Yes! So, in Season 1, Samantha has some cute little storylines going on but I wouldn’t necessarily say you learn a whole lot about her personal life. However, I’ve personally come up with a lot of things because I feel it’s important to know your character and know who she is. I know how many siblings she has, what kind of dog she has, her parents’ relationship, all this stuff. If the writers threw something at me, I’d be like: ‘That wasn’t Samantha’s life! You don’t know!’
They didn’t give me those things to go off of, so I definitely felt like it was necessary to create it for my own reality. Mid Quarantine, my family and I took a trip, it just happened to be to La Jolla. Just driving there, my five family members and my dogs, we didn’t see anyone when we were there. Going to La Jolla, which is obviously where the show takes place, I had never been. I’d been to San Diego, but not specifically La Jolla.
That helped me so much. This is where Samantha lives; I was picturing everything play out more and I really feel like I was very in-tune with my character when I went there, because I had the time to do it. I wanted to really dig deeper onto who Samantha is and figuring that out. That was really fun, because when we came back to Episode 5, I really felt like I had a grown a lot in my character in the months we had taken off.
In the episodes that have been released so far, your character has had some hilarious one-liners. Are you a naturally funny person in real life?
CW: That is so funny, Conor – I mean this in the most random way possible. Samantha/Giggles did not have a great description. I think it said ‘sunny optimist’, which was about all we had. All the other girls had paragraphs about who they were, Giggles just didn’t. When they wanted me for the role and they told me this now. Everyone in the creative process has mentioned it now that it’s been a while that I’m in the role, they were like: ‘We wanted a fifth girl, we wanted you. We had no idea where we were going with that. So, pretty much whatever you did with Samantha, we went with it.’
I would say I’m a very silly, random, off-the-wall hyper person. I don’t know about funny, it depends if someone’s got my humor. Yeah, I do laugh when they give me some funny one-liners. This is good stuff, but I’ve gotta give the credit to the writing because it’s definitely them. I like to be able to bring those little funny tidbits to life and hope the right audience catches them.
As it wasn’t shown on-screen, how do you think Giggles reacted when she found out about Marvyn Korn coming to coach their team, as he has a sense of infamy coming with him to Westbrook?
CW: I think just about everyone felt pretty skeptical. I have to say Samantha personally doesn’t always have the most original ideas. With the exception of Mouse – Tisha Custodio’s character who was the most optimistic about it, Samantha is an optimist. She was definitely feeling a little sketchy about this too. I think that could partially be if the main girls on the team were like, “We don’t think we’re going to like him”, or “We’re feeling this way about it…”, I think Samantha was just kind of falling in line with that. She needed him to prove himself, that’s for sure. I think that was the main thing.
When I spoke to Jessalyn Gilsig, she discussed her experience working with the girls on the team. To flip that question, how did you find working with Jessalyn, John Stamos and Yvette Nicole Brown?
CW: Yes! I love this question, I love talking about them. We are absolutely so lucky to get to work with such amazing, amazing actors. As well as Richard Robichaux, who plays our counsellor, we don’t have as many scenes with him. All of those adults, their comedic timing and experience, they blow me away. I will say, Jessalyn… I have so much respect for all them, but she really has taken the time, a couple of times. I remember in the Pilot, I was saying it out loud, “I don’t really know who Samantha is. I don’t really know why I’m here, I just have little one-liners.”
Obviously, by the end of season that’s not the case anymore and you can’t cover everyone in the Pilot. That’s why it’s a Pilot. Jessalyn really sat me down and was like, “Maybe this is your time to find your camera angle. You can learn so much by not having the spotlight be on you right now.” I absolutely was so grateful she said that, took with me and we’ve had multiple different chats now about concerns or random things.
I have to say, I don’t mean to be dramatic, I consider her a genius in the acting field. I have learned absolutely so much from things she’s said to me, but also watching her in action. I think the dynamic is so great and she wants to help us so much, which we appreciate. She’s just so incredible to be able to work alongside.
Jessalyn also discussed how the ongoing coronavirus pandemic affected filming for the show. When you got back from the filming break, how difficult was it to get back into character?
CW: That’s a good question. I would say, the characters as well as the writing all matured over the giant break we had. So, I feel like it was for the better, personally. I cringe watching anything that happened before corona; I haven’t seen a lot of the episodes from after it. I’m actually so weirdly glad we had that time. Like I said, I took the time to tune into my character more and stuff like that, I think it really helped us.
Storyline-wise, occasionally we had a little… you have a problem in an episode and solve it in one way, shape or form. I think because I personally didn’t really have an ongoing storyline, it was pretty easy to pick back up. It was like, “What’s my new problem?” instead of a carrying on feeling, problem or issue. I definitely think it was for the better, in the weirdest way possible.
What have you most enjoyed about your experience on Big Shot to date, have filming the entire first season?
CW: I feel like we all talk about our chemistry…. the whole cast, I feel, has a very strong chemistry. Of course, you’re going to be like family with probably any cast you work with. Because we got to work with each other so closely for so long on this very first season, I think that is an undeniable chemistry. Definitely, one of the random positives that came out of this is that we got to get know each other so well and care about each other so much.
In Corona, we talked quite often. We have a group chat we were all chatting in, calling, catching up with this person or whatever. Normally, we could have filmed three seasons in this timespan. I think getting to experience in all that in one season is definitely a positive we weren’t expecting.
Professionally or personally, what do you hope to accomplish with the rest of 2021?
CW: Oh dang, that’s a good question. Well, I guess it kind of depends on if there’s a Season 2 or not for Big Shot. I am always down for a new opportunity. I think just anything new and exciting, I’m not opposed to… if a modelling thing came up, sure. If a movie comes around, I’ve never done a movie, that could be fun. I don’t have a specific goal, but I think something new and something exciting just while I’m on pause with Big Shot. You never know what’s going to happen in this business. New things, exciting things, random things are so much fun to take on.
To round this off, is there anything you would like to say to fans of Big Shot about what’s ahead?
CW: I’m just going to go ahead and say thank you to everyone who’s watched. You guys have no idea how much… I’m going to speak for the whole cast, but especially me, I love hearing from anyone and everyone who’s been watching it. The feedback we’ve been receiving is absolutely overwhelming with how much love it’s been getting. We appreciate that so much and it’s been such a crazy journey.
Knowing that all this time and hard work has been paying off and people are really connecting to it, that’s the main thing. When people are like, “I feel Destiny because of this. I’m not Destiny, but I could literally die of happiness hearing that.” Hearing people vibe with each character, feeling it. I don’t know how many people relate to Samantha necessarily on crazy levels because I haven’t dug that deep yet. It still means the world for us to hear that, or at least to me, speaking for myself.
It’s just been incredible so thank you to anyone who’s watched any of it. Personally, I might be a little biased, I think it just gets better as it keeps going. I love this series myself. I definitely would be a watcher if I wasn’t in it, so I feel like that means it’s a good show, but that’s just in my opinion.
Thank you again for taking the time to speak with us, Cricket! Take care and stay safe.
CW: Thank you Conor, really enjoyed this, of course!