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Willy Wonka’s Unknown Lands a New Acting Gig in London

On one chilly evening in March, after the sun had set and when most school-aged children were begrudgingly starting their homework, Felicia Dawkins, 16, enthusiastically hopped on the phone from Scotland to share that her life had changed — for the better.

She introduced herself with the kind of bubbly energy and giddiness that only a teenager can radiate. It is the same energy that drew millions of viewers to her TikTok account, where she unveiled herself as a key participant in a Willy Wonka-themed event that had gone so poorly that its memes briefly took over large portions of the internet and international news coverage went on for days.

That event, in Glasgow in late February, failed to create the dazzling experience it promised. The fallout — in true internet fashion — was swift and brutal. Organizers quickly shut down the event and promised full refunds to disgruntled families.

In the aftermath, the internet latched on to one of the event’s more inexplicable characters, known only as “The Unknown,” played by Felicia. Footage of her performance as an evil chocolate maker who lives in the walls of the factory, which included emerging from behind a mirror to the cries of children, spread widely online, kicking off the teenager’s 15 minutes of fame.

She’s capitalizing now, taking her scaring talents south for a guest appearance at the London Dungeon, a theatrical thrill attraction in the shadow of the city’s London Eye, this weekend. The company reached out to Felicia shortly after her viral moment to invite her to train with the performance team and appear in the attraction. “We could see she has a real passion and talent, for theater and interactions with guests,” Richard Quincey, the head of performance at London Dungeon and South Bank Attractions, said in a statement.

Felicia’s mother, Janet Dawkins, said she had mixed emotions about the Wonka event failing so miserably, and so publicly. “Everything led to her getting all of this, all these opportunities,” Ms. Dawkins said. “So, I can’t really say that I’m mad about anything that went down, if I’m honest.”

Ms. Dawkins said she was “very, very proud” of Felicia and that her family had been closely involved in helping the young actress find her footing amid all the attention.

Felicia spoke with The Times about her brief time at Willy’s Chocolate Experience, her love of all things frightening and her acting ambitions. The following is an edited and condensed version of that conversation.

What was your life like before Willy’s Chocolate Experience?

I was just attending school as normal. I was preparing for my highers at school, which is basically just exams. And my favorite subject in school — I really love drama, which is very cliché. I like P.E., as well. I’m quite physical. I’m a Scout as well, in my free time.

What kinds of things do you do in Scouts? I want to see if it’s similar or different to the Scouts in the United States.

Some weeks we’ll just do games, some weeks we’ll learn about badges, and then we go on camps quite often as well, which is really fun. I actually got selected to go to Norway this year from Scouts, which is why I took the Willy Wonka Experience job as well, to pay for that.

How did you land the opportunity to participate in the Willy Wonka experience?

Basically, just someone from House of Illuminati [the organizer of the Wonka event] was talking to a family friend about this massive Wonka experience. And then my name came up in conversation that I would make a good Wonka because I love acting in real life. And they’ve seen me before, because I go to theater school here as well.

Were you paid for the Wonka experience?

I was paid, yeah. I wasn’t paid the full amount, but I got paid 250 pounds [about $315].

And how much were you promised?

£500 [about $630].

Take us back to the day of the event. What was going through your mind, and did you think the event was going well or did you think it was disastrous?

When I first got there and I seen the set, I thought, “Oh, this is going to be a disaster.” But when people started to come in — like the first, I’d say, 45 minutes went relatively well — like, people seemed to be enjoying it. But then after that, it just lost all the organization, and then it just went completely downhill from there. And I just thought, “Oh my gosh!”

As an actor, when you’re in that situation and you’re given a script that you have to learn right away, what sorts of emotions come up?

I was so, so nervous about it because I’ve done, like, shows before. I’m quite good at learning lines. But seeing that, I was like, there’s no way I can learn this in, like, a night. And because the script was A.I. generated, most of it didn’t even make sense. So it was harder for me to learn, so I just had to improvise it.

Why did you decide to reveal yourself on TikTok after the experience shut down?

Nobody knew, really, that I was The Unknown. I told a couple of my close friends, but when people on TikTok started to come forward and say that they were The Unknown, I was like, “No you’re not, because I’m The Unknown.” And more and more people started doing it, and they were getting loads of the likes, and loads of clout, and loads of money from it. So I was like, I just have to come out and show that I was the 16-year-old girl that did that.

Some of your TikTok videos have received millions of views. How are you handling your newfound fame?

It’s a complete wild one, but I have to say my family — they’ve been so supportive during this. They’ve been helping me through all of that. They’ve been managing my TikTok, like, looking for new opportunities for me to do. I have to say, it’s like my family, they’re helping me through it all.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by it, or are you enjoying the limelight?

I’m definitely overwhelmed by it, but I still like it because I put a smile on people’s faces. Like, I make people laugh. That makes me really happy.

What have been some of the highlights?

I’ve been getting sent loads of fan art and loads of merch. That has to be like the number one thing — that people are taking time out of their day to make stuff for me and sending it to me.

I’ve read that you want to be a full-time actress. Tell me more about that goal, and what would be your dream job?

After I did “Elf” the musical [a production she starred in a few years ago and played the lead character, Buddy], I said to my mom, like, “I really want to take this further.” And she got me into an acting school. So that helped me get into so much more, like, productions and stuff. So I think just trying to get more opportunities. That would be the best thing for me because it’s just so much fun.

You’re heading to London to be a guest performer at the London Dungeon on April 7. If you can tell me, do you know what your role will be?

Yeah! I’m so, so excited. I think I’m just going to be The Unknown at the event. I’m not quite sure, though, but I think that’s who I am.

How are you preparing for it?

Watching lots of horror movies.

Which ones are you watching?

“The Grudge.”

Are you easily scared? I guess you can’t be if you’re into horror, right?

I used to be scared when I was younger. But now that, like, I love it, I’m not really scared anymore.

Would it be accurate to say you enjoy haunting and scaring people?

I like giving people very strong emotions. Like in school and last year, we had, like, this Halloween event and you were acting and my character was, like, a deranged doctor and scaring all the little S1 and S2s, which is like 12 and 13 year olds. And that was really, really fun.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Hopefully, on the stage one day.

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