Raleigh native Evan Rachel Wood has been a major star for almost half of her 31 years, since her breakthrough role in 2003’s “Thirteen,” the film that put her on the map at the age of 16.
She has since gone on to a highly respected career in film and television, lately including an award-winning run on the HBO series “Westworld.”
Wood also has emerged in recent years as an activist, testifying before Congress earlier this year on behalf of sexual abuse survivors. Reports of families seeking asylum in the United States, only to be separated at the border, also drew Wood to Texas this summer.
On Nov. 20, Wood is coming back to where she started — Raleigh’s Theatre in the Park, where her actor father Ira David Wood III is executive director. She’ll perform as half of Evan + Zane, a musical duo with singer-songwriter Zane Carney. Billed as a show with the theme of “Jealousy,” it’s a benefit for Theatre in the Park.
We talked with Wood and Zane by phone this week. The conversation has been edited for clarity.
Q: Is this a concert, a theatrical performance or some combination?
Evan Rachel Wood: Our shows are different. There’s definitely a performance element to it.
Zane Carney: It’s less a concert than a musical event. It’s not a loud rock show, just two voices and a guitar, intimate and intense. It expresses new emotions, the kind of music that helps us process things. It’s covers, but you might not know these are non-originals because most of the songs are not well-known.
Wood: They span 80 or 90 years, from every era and genre. The main thing is connecting people with music, no matter who they are and what they believe. At a time when everyone is so divided and at each others’ throats, can we all just sit together and listen to some music?
Q: You sang in the 2007 musical “Across the Universe.” How much singing have you done over the years?
Wood: I’ve been singing as long as I’ve been acting. I started in musical theater, and Theatre in the Park is where I grew up — the first stage, where I learned to sing. I also had a band for a couple of years. It was not exactly what I wanted to be doing, so it ran its course, but it was a good learning experience.
Carney: I really think Evan is one of the greatest singers of our generation. There’s so much depth and commitment there. It makes sense why everyone respects her so much and wants to work with her. She’s so good at tapping deeply into truth.
Q: How often do you get back to Raleigh?
Wood: Not as often as I’d like, maybe four times a year. I do have a house on the East Coast now. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to make sure I had a place to go that was not just L.A. I’ve always felt such connection to Raleigh and the South.
I miss the way it smells, the air, trees, birds, people. It’s a different culture and a completely different way of being. I love L.A. and it’s great to get a lot of work done at a fast pace, but it can be overwhelming. I still love coming back and getting back in touch with my roots, whether it’s nature or family.
Q: Speaking of nature, have the wildfires in California affected you at all?
Wood: It’s been intense. I have some friends whose houses have burned down, but everyone is safe for now. Part of the “Westworld” set burned down — the part of it we didn’t build, weirdly enough. But it was very sad because it’s been there for years with so much history. I don’t think the show will be affected by it.
Q: There have been reports you’re going to be in the Disney “Frozen 2” sequel.
Wood: I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about that yet, but what an interesting rumor you’ve heard! No, I can’t say anything. If I were to be doing it, I cannot say anything until I’ve been told it’s OK, and I haven’t.
Q: What was it like testifying before Congress about sexual abuse?
Wood: It was pretty life-changing, one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done. But it felt like I’d been tapped to do something important, so I took a deep breath. Honestly, it was freeing and healing. With everything that’s happened to me on my journey, it’s an ongoing thing for me. I deal with it every day in different ways.
Q: More than a year into the “Me Too” era, have things really changed?
Wood: Yes. I have seen things and had conversations I could never imagine a few years ago. People are opening up to these ideas in different ways and we’ve all been woken up a bit. But there’s still a lot of work to do on the ground, of course, new things to put into practice. A lot of people are working tirelessly on that, including myself.
Q: What was it like when you went to Texas to volunteer with immigrant families?
Wood: It was devastating. I’ve been asked if it opened my eyes, but it was what I expected. I really went to learn, see what I could do to help. I got to hang out with kids at a processing shelter, and it was sad. I definitely saw children who seemed absolutely traumatized, scared and quiet.
The role I was assigned was to play with kids, basically. No one wanted to move, so I started kicking a soccer ball and one joined in, then another. They were shy at first but it ended up a full-on soccer game in this church. It was nice to see them smile and act like kids, even if only for a moment. I’m a mom, so it would be hard not to go check in.
Who: Evan + Zane: Jealousy tour concert, a benefit for Theatre in the Park
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20
Where: Theatre in the Park, 107 Pullen Road, Raleigh
Details: 919-831-6058 or theatreinthepark.com