Sherrie Wills shares a wish with thousands of other 11-year-old American girls: "Ever since I was a little kid," she says while curled up on a sofa in her Annandale home, "I wanted to be a movie star. I said, 'Wouldn't it be neat to be on TV and have all my friends see me?'"
Well, Sherrie Wills is on TV, and all her friends can see her: last months she costarred in the made-for-TV-movie, "Heidi," and had a major role in an episode of "Wonder Woman." She has also appeared on "Rhoda" and "Friends" as well as other TV productions and advertisements.
Now she's up for a part that could catapult her to the front of the class: Paramount just put her under a year's option with an eye toward making her the star of a TV series based on the movie "Bad News Bears." If selected, Sherrie would play the role Tatum O'Neal made famous -- the only girl on a team of 14 baseball players. If she's selected.
"In the beginning, when I didn't know the business, I'd cry.fs.. I'd get tears in my eyes if I didn't get a part," she recalls. "If you really want a job, you can't think about it."
At 11, Sherrie is savvy about show biz. She says she hasn't seen "Pretty Baby" because it's "dirty." She seems unspoiled by the money she earns (more than $8,000 for "Heidi" alone). She has big blue eyes and dark brown hair. She looks you right in the eye when she talks. Her smile captivates producers and seems tailor-made for cameras.
Her first job was eating spaghetti in a local TV commercial for the Spaghetti Mill. That's a restaurant owned by her father, who also owns several Three Chef restaurants in suburban Virginia. Several years ago the Wills family moved to Los Angeles where Dad was part-owner, until it burned down last month, of a Long Beach disco. In 1976 Iris Burton, a Hollywood agent who represents children, spotted Sherrie in a Little Miss California Pageant and jobs in commercials followed.
"She's a singer like another Judy Garland or Ethel Merman," gushes Burton, who calls Sherrie "my baby."
Producer Charles Fitzsimons, who cast Sherrie in "Heidi" and "Wonder Woman," also notes a resemblance to Ethel Merman and adds: "Most kid performers, they become successful because they are kids. I think she's successful because she's a performer."
Sherrie maintains an Aminus average at a private school in Los Angeles that also has as students Ricky Nelson's twins and Vince Edwards' daughter. Her family maintains homes on both coasts, though Sherrie says her heart belongs in Virginia where her house overlooks a pond and her horse grazes in the yard.
"I'd like to live here and go back for filming. If you get famous you can do that. And if I don't become a famous person," she says cheerily, "I'd like to be a doctor."