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She went viral playing an Oompa Loompa. Now, she's bringing Wonka to L.A.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (As Oompa Loompas, singing) Oompa Loompa, do-ba-dee-doo (ph).


The Willy Wonka experience in Glasgow, Scotland, went viral earlier this year for all the wrong reasons. Organizers charged up to $45 for an event they marketed as a place where dreams come to life, but families were furious after finding a sparsely decorated warehouse with a pair of women wearing green wigs, apparently meant to be Oompa Loompas. It was a flop, and now the Willy Wonka Experience is coming to Los Angeles. One of Glasgow's sad-looking Oompa Loompas, Kirsty Paterson will be there, maybe turning lemonade into lemon drops. She joins us now. Welcome to the program.


RASCOE: Take us back to that warehouse in Glasgow. At what point did you realize things were going pretty badly?

PATERSON: I had a bad gut feeling as soon as I went there. It was advertised as circus performer, so when I applied for it, I thought it was maybe going to be, you know, a fine performing job (ph). But I've done kids acting and stuff before, so I just kind of took on the challenge. But something just felt off.

RASCOE: But you went ahead with it. And then you're in there, and it's not looking like "Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory" (laughter).

PATERSON: Oh, gosh. It was the complete opposite.

RASCOE: (Laughter).

PATERSON: It was absolutely shocking. Normally, you have people doing your makeup because if you're playing a character, you need to look the part.


PATERSON: So when they said there was an Oompa Loompa, I was like, how do you want me to do this? This is 10:00 the night before. I can't run to a makeup shop and get orange paint, you know? They're like, oh, just do whatever you want.

RASCOE: And what were the reactions from the kids and the parents when they saw this warehouse that is not a different world?

PATERSON: So it was quite hard because it all was quite a fast turnaround for me getting the cheap outfit. The kids and the parents were all coming in, and the kids were all dressed up. So you can tell a lot of energies went into this from the parents to make their kids happy. It was very mixed. There was people who obviously just found it really funny and were coming up to me and being like, I feel so sorry for you.

RASCOE: And that picture of you dressed as the sad-looking Oompa Loompa has now become a meme. How's that experience been for you?

PATERSON: At first, I didn't take it well at all. It was far too much to process. I was worried at the start I wasn't going to get work ever again. But it's positive. Now I can't complain, not at all. I've been very lucky and blessed that it's turned out the way it has.

RASCOE: So how did you feel when you heard you were going to LA to be a part of - I guess to really do it kind of the way it was supposed to be done?

PATERSON: I'm still in shock by it all. Like, it's such an amazing thing, and it's an experience that I never thought I would ever get in my life. It just doesn't happen to people like me.

RASCOE: The details of the show in LA, I understand, are still being worked out. Are you still going to be a Oompa Loompa when you're over there? Are you just going to see it?

PATERSON: So the event is for mental health charity. So that's kind of why I'm going over because I've done a lot with mental health in the past.


PATERSON: So I will be dressing up as an Oompa Loompa while I'm there.

RASCOE: (Laughter) But it should be so nice to see it. I'm glad that it has come full circle for you.

PATERSON: Oh, I know. I'm really excited.

RASCOE: That's actress Kirsty Paterson. Thank you so much for being with us.

PATERSON: Oh, no worries.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (As Oompa Loompas, singing) Oompa Loompa... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.

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