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‘Conjuring’ co-star Paul Wilson: A sturdy branch of the family tree

Bill DeYoung

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Paul Wilson, actor, writer, musician and the founder, president and CEO of Wilson Media. Photo: Bill DeYoung.

It’s quite likely that Paul Wilson is the busiest guy in St. Pete. As founder and president of Wilson Media, he oversees a mile-a-minute advertising, marketing and public relations firm with an emphasis on creative development and production. So he’s got his hands full juggling dozens of satisfied corporate clients around the globe. He also produces documentary and industrial films.

“An advertising agency without any fat, and a PR firm without any BS,” he calls it.

He’s also a rock ‘n’ roll singer, out in front of a band that includes his two younger brothers, an outfit that’s helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity under the Wilson Family Foundation umbrella. He sings Big Band music, too, when the mood strikes him and the horn section is smokin.’

Paul Wilson also has an impressive theatrical resume, and has appeared in a dozen feature-length films.

He has a primo role in The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It, opening Friday. The third installment of the Conjuring horror franchise re-teams Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.

Patrick – star of Broadway and silver screen – is Paul Wilson’s brother, the youngest of three Wilson boys, all of them raised right here in St. Pete. Middle brother Mark has been a news anchor for WTVT/Fox since 1997.

Their father, John Wilson, was the WTVT anchor for three decades, and is something of a broadcast legend, not just in the bay area but all over Florida – and the country.

“Mark locked right in on television,” Paul Wilson recalls. “He studied media and broadcasting at Florida State, and did it, right there. And so that was it.”

As for Patrick, “I think early on he figured out ‘This is all I want to do.’ I think that’s the real difference. And he really shined in college, then he was gone. We always referred to him as the eagle that got just big enough to fly away and he’s gone. And now he’s soaring.”

Paul himself was never so easily pinned down. “I’ve always fancied myself as a bit of a walking hat rack,” he says. “I’m a graphic artist, and a writer, and I grew up around television, so to me video was a lot of fun … I had a lot of modalities that I enjoyed.”

Paul Wilson wanted a little bit of everything. After studying acting in London, he enrolled at FSU – that’s where all the Wilson boys went – pursuing radio, media and theater, all of which he went after vigorously. Through a friend, he was offered a summer job, in St. Pete, wearing a jacket and tie in an advertising agency.

He loved the work, and he loved the challenge … and it all dovetailed nicely with his waning interest in the day-to-day grind of covering the news.

He transferred to the University of South Florida, where he earned a BFA in theater. He appeared onstage locally, working on two seasons of Shakespeare in the Park with American Stage, and threw open the doors of Wilson Media in 1999.

Paul Wilson is a homebody – he loves the idea that he can submit video auditions, from St. Pete, without having to attend cattle-calls in Atlanta, New York or L.A.

“Hollywood,” he says, “was so far away. I never wanted to do the bus-and-truck touring, or go to New York and leave my family. I always wanted a house; I always wanted a dog.”

The Wilsons: Mark, left, Paul, Mary K., John and Patrick. Wilson Family Foundation photo.

This yearning for a permanent, longtime home came from his early years as the son of a professional TV news journalist, by necessity a nomadic lifestyle. Although the brothers were all born in Virginia, they got used to moving often, as their dad’s job dictated.

The Wilson family resided in Richmond, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Charlotte and St. Louis before settling in Tampa Bay in 1983.

“I think what it did was create a very strong bond between the five of us,” Wilson says. “And our dogs, of course. That may be the hallmark of the Wilson family, because we were so reliant on each other, for emotional support and artistic support.”

That doesn’t mean it was always easy.

“That’s one reason Patrick and Mark and I are so tight, because it was always ‘us.’ And I think the emotional oak tree that my parents provided us gave us that strong base, and that strong sense of self and family. I still have conversations with my friends in St. Louis; we were there briefly.”

Still, “we cried and cried and cried when we left St. Louis. And Charlotte.”

In the 1980s, he explains, John Wilson was offered the co-hosting position on ABC’s national chat show Good Morning America, replacing the outgoing David Hartman. “And he refused to do it, because for little country boys 8, 10, 12 years old, New York City would be a shock.”

That particular apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Paul was adamant that he would raise his own kids in one place, in St. Pete. And he did.

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in “The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It.” Warner Bros.

In The Conjuring 3, Wilson plays Carl Glatzel, whose young son endures a terrifying “demonic” episode at the beginning of the film, leading into the main plot involving Ed and Lorraine. The movie is based on an historic legal case – the first “not guilty by reason of demonic possession” defense (from 1980).

It was shot in Atlanta in 2019, and held for release until the pandemic had begun to subside. “I don’t think you really have to be a devotee of the franchise to enjoy this movie,” Wilson says.

“A lot of the classic horror movies, even classic science fiction, require you to really fear the bad guy. It’s always centered around the antagonist. This is not about that.

“This is really about the couple, Ed and Lorraine, and their true love story and how they’re trying to help people. And to set it against the backdrop of this historic legal case maybe makes it a little bit more … authentic? And it’s not the typical kind of haunted house story. Certainly some of that happens in the Glatzel house, but then it moves into a different plateau.”

He’s been acting alongside his brother since they were schoolboys at Shorecrest Prep. “Certainly, it’s great to see him now, flourishing on the level he’s at,” Wilson says. “And he’ll direct soon.

Paul Wilson and Eugenie Bondurant. Photo: Kerry McNally.

“With the experience he’s had, that’s fun, as big brother, to show up and watch him with them. Because that’s really where the pride comes in. To see him among these great artists. He knows what he’s doing.”

Also co-starring is St. Petersburg’s Eugenie Bondurant, a Wilson family friend. She plays “The Occultist” in The Conjuring 3 and, according to Wilson, early test audiences loved her – so her role in the film was expanded, requiring last-minute re-shoots early in 2021.

 

Wilson Van (with a cameo from Dad). Photo provided.

The Wilson family tree has roots that go in all directions, but it’s their frequent overlap that makes them unique. John Wilson, who retired from WTVT in 2014, is Senior Vice President of All Media Operations for Wilson Media.

John and his wife of 50 years, Mary K. Wilson, head the board of the Wilson Family Foundation, which helps veterans and first responders, and children with special needs, and produces programs for the arts (she was trained as an opera singer and is a longtime Tampa Bay vocal instructor).

Music, in fact, has been a constant in the Wilson sons’ lives since those early days in Virginia. Their band, Wilson Van, performs ‘70s and ‘80s rock, with Paul on lead vocals, Patrick (when he can get back to town) on drums. Their friend Bill Malik plays bass.

The band was originally called Van Wilson, as a less-than-subtle nod to one of the brothers’ biggest inspirations, but they changed the name to cancel out any references to it as a Van Halen tribute band. Which it most definitely is not.

That familiar bond of support, awe and inspiration extends to the band. “Mark was playing violin as a child, and then of course Eddie Van Halen arrived, and he put that down and picked up the guitar Exquisite. Taught himself how to play. He builds his guitars to spec.

“I cannot tell you how many times I’m onstage and I get lost, watching him play. It’s genius-level work.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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    Laura

    June 2, 2021at10:43 pm

    What a great story and a inspiring local family! Well done!

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