Arts & Culture News

Amy Acker Went From Lake Highlands Student to Contract Killer on Person of Interest

Growing up in Lake Highlands, Amy Acker never imagined she would find herself anywhere near a comic convention, let alone traveling to cons from Canada to San Diego, greeting fans dressed up as characters she’s played on TV. But that’s exactly what she did this weekend at Fan Expo Dallas.

“I don’t think I even knew this existed growing up when I was in Dallas,” Acker says. “I started doing stage stuff primarily, so I never really saw myself being in any sort of comic con ethos, [or wearing] crazy costumes and killing people on TV and doing all that kind of fun stuff.”

And Acker has done plenty of fun stuff over her career. She’s portrayed everything from demon goddesses to murderous hackers on screen, and has waged merry war as part of Joss Whedon’s film production of Much Ado About Nothing.

After stints on cult classic shows like Alias, Angel and Person of Interest, a subset of pop-culture fans has dubbed themselves Ackerlytes in her honor. “I guess I’ve been really lucky that way, because I’ve gotten to do some many shows that have these kinds of almost cult followings,” say Acker. That’s a big step up from her days studying her craft in Dallas.

“I was really shy growing up, so I never really thought this would be something that I would enjoy so much, but I had such a fantastic theater teacher in high school,” Acker says. And after knee surgery ended her ballet hopes, she tread the boards at Lake Highlands High School’s Auditorium B, under the tutelage of Nancy Poynter.

The same school produced talented thespians such as the Golden Globe-nominated Morgan Fairchild, Halt and Catch Fire star Scoot McNairy and Mark Salling, the guy with the mohawk on Glee. (Although Salling is unlikely to show up for the reunion since he was recently indicted on child pornography charges.) 

“We did really interesting and challenging plays and [Poynter] basically prepared us for everything that I ended up learning at SMU,” Acker said. “Pretty much everything I learned was back in Texas.”

While in college Acker performed locally at Undermain Theatre and Stage West in Fort Worth, and she was nominated for a Leon Rabin Award for her role in a production of Therese Raquin. That's pretty heavy stuff for someone who zip-ties and tortures her future love interest (played by fellow SMU alumna Sarah Shahi), guns down a multitude of bad guys and becomes the virtual personality of a soothsaying computer system as Root on Person of Interest. But Acker says that role is the highlight of her career so far.

“My character has just been so much fun and it’s brought in a whole different fan base,” she said. “It’s been really neat to see all the different kinds of fans of different shows and how they overlap, and which projects are more important to other people and how different roles have affected different people.”

And what better place to connect with fans than a comic convention? Acker said her fans are exceptionally creative, gifting her handmade trinkets and drawings. One particularly creative fan even sets up elaborate puzzles for her to solve at shows.

“It’s kind of just a great way to spend a weekend, you get to sit there and meet really nice people to say really nice things to you, for the most part,” says Acker. “It’s a nice way to see different cities and meet all the different fans from the shows [I’ve] been on. People who watched Angel back when it was on originally have started showing it to their kids … It’s fun to just see how the fans change and how people kind of pass it on to their kids.”