(Reapers, Rednecks and Hippies: The Food Ditty is what happens when you take two up-and-coming actresses and let them sing about bacon and kale — that is, pure comedic genius.)
It’s 4:30 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon and everything around feels so ridiculously “Los Angeles.” For starters, it’s just the second week of August and already we’ve had not one, not two, but four not-insignificant earthquakes in the past three days. I had to beast it through at least an hour of traffic just to get here. And the weather outside has settled down to a cool 95 in the shade. Sitting across from me at the Intelligentsia Café in Silverlake — Macbooks and Chihuahuas in tow — are Emma Bell and Ellen Wroe, stars in such little things as the Walking Dead and Gary Unmarried and most recently, costars in the latest installment of the Final Destination franchise, Final Destination 5. Bell’s blonde-framed, Irish-skinned face is practically melting off as she describes to me her personal food philosophy. To her left, Wroe (or as her rapper alter-ego is known, E-Wroe) is laughing.
“My take on food is a little more extreme than ‘Everything in moderation,’ Bell (AKA Emma Bee, a self-proclaimed hippie-vegan-fairy-princess) explains, “I love food, very very much. I think food most importantly is there to nurture us, and — and now she’s laughing at me.”
I don’t even have to turn to hear it, which helps provide an early glimpse into the girls' ribbing, sisterly relationship — though who exactly is the big sis and who’s the little is hard to tell at this point. Maybe they alternate, maybe they’re both at the same time or actually neither one at all. But that might be getting ahead of things. It could also just be the heat talking. So let’s backtrack.
Right, so, it’s L.A. We’ve got that. It’s summer—got that too. Now, why, exactly, are we here? Could it be the fact that two young, attractive up-and-coming actresses want to spend their free time singing about food and somehow that’s kind of awesome? Or the fact that the Kickstarter campaign for their aforementioned food symphony ends in less than a week and could very well benefit from a few well-placed journalism plugs?
It might be a little bit of both.
The Food Ditty, our transitory raison d’etre, can be best described as a parody Jazz and Rap and song and dance battle between junk food rapper E-Wroe and vegan singer Emma Bee, and is also, incidentally, Wroe and Bell and director Brent McHenry’s summer video project -- who'd have thunk.
Set to include puppets and food trucks and magic carpet rides, the Food Ditty aims to mock the “dichotomous viewpoints of the American health food craze” and do so in something along the vein of the Lonely Island—that is, with music. And sexy people. And puppets.
A quick once-over and you can tell Wroe and Bell both strangely are and aren’t their characters. Wroe, the 24 year old, Texas-born brunette/gymnast/USC-ADPi alum, plays E-Wroe, former star of the popular Gatorade Rap and current hater and tormentor of farmer’s markets worldwide. Bell, the Jersey-born, 26 year old blonde, plays Emma Bee, whose own character belts out the wonders of kale and flowing armpit hair and having regular bowel moments three times a day. Neither of them is the “hero,” and — spoilers — neither of them really wins, but the two friends first met while filming Final Destination 5 and it was on that set in Vancouver two years ago that the smallest kernels of the Food Ditty first began to take root.
They tell the story of Wroe’s lowest food moment:
“It was on Final Destination 5,” Wroe says, “I play the gymnast in the movie. So then a day of training was particularly rough. I was hurt, I had all these bruises, my hands were ripping, and I was just not doing well. I was so mad and I decided I needed ice cream, so I left, and I went walking to find a Dairy Queen. Took me 40 minutes and I finally found one—”
“And on the side of a highway,” Bell interrupts, “It’s not like we’re in a city center. We’re like in the suburbs.”
“— Like the suburbs. Anyway, I knew what I was doing going into it,” Wroe continues, grinning, “I ordered a waffle cone and a Blizzard and I ate it. And then I ordered another Blizzard… ”
Bell breaks out the finger quotes: “—for a ‘friend.’”
Wroe laughs. “I said, ’Can I get a Blizzard for my friend outside?’ and they knew I was by myself. Anyway, I took it out and then I walked next door to a McDonald’s and got this really cool Oreo Caramel McFlurry they don’t have in America. And I felt fine.”
Watching the two of them go at it is a bit like watching another “Dis B*tch” .gif, except with more residual heat and more background traffic noises. “After that, I was like, ‘someone needs to reign this child in,’” Bell says, “and I tried to put her on an all-healthy, you know, vegetable, lean meat thing, just to cleanse her system. And I remember one day she’s like, ‘yeah, my stomach hurts again. I think it’s the apple. And I’m like, ‘yeah, I don’t think it’s the apple.’”
Both raised in homes with firm eating dogmas, Bell and Wroe also incidentally both have parents who dealt with cancer in their youth. When her mother was diagnosed with leukemia when she was seven, Bell explains, she completely overhauled their family’s diet, switched to vegetables, raw and healthy eating, and is currently alive and well after originally having only two years left to live. When Wroe’s father was diagnosed with lymphoma at age eight, on the other hand, he decided to have a milkshake “every day” (but is, incredibly, also still alive).
And maybe deep down, the Food Ditty can be read as a response to all that, some long-a-coming, Jungian result of years of childhood stigmas bubbling to the surface — or, as Bell jokes in the Kickstarter promo, maybe it’s just a testament to the girls’ undying commitment to being popular. In any case, both girls admit their end goals are to just do good, be good, and have a good time:
“I tend to play really sad, dramatic, crying characters, or I die,” Bell says, “so I thought it would be fun to do just a fun, light-hearted thing.”
Wroe, who started acting playing mostly male or androgynous characters in her high school plays, takes part of her inspiration from the young miss Rebecca Black: ““I saw her [video, ‘Friday’] and was like, ‘seriously? This is terrible. If she can do it, so can I.’”
When I ask, they tell me that almost everything is done. The song is recorded. The director is set. L.A.’s The Bun Truck will make a cameo, and the two of them are most excited about shooting the film’s final dance off sequence in the middle of a split-screen county fair/farmer’s market.
All they need left is the money to do it. For now though, as the sun goes down and the temperature keeps rising, the fair-skinned Bell has retreated to the shady part of the table, and the group of us has barely enough energy for a quick word association game (Subway: Gross; Foodbeast: Brilliant) before we just have to get up and go — E-Wroe, Emma Bee and Whimsy (Emma’s dog) to film a JBeibs spoof, and me to the sanctuary of my car for the two hour long drive home.
The Food Ditty Kickstarter campaign ends this Thursday, August 23rd, with filming set to begin in September.
And for an idea of what to expect, check out Ellen's previous food music video project, The Gatorade Rap:
[Pics thnx to Ellen Wroe]