Erma Kyriakos plays a goofy and out-of-touch Devil, one of the primary antagonists of Hell. She’s also a talented singer, songwriter, musician (she plays the violin for heaven's sake!), and actor. You may have seen her perform around town, or maybe even in Cuba, as Miss Erma. Here are some words that are all about her.
You’re a singer! Tell me about that!
OK! I’ve always sung in the shower since I was little, but my mom started me on piano. So to everybody else I was a pianist or a violinist, but I always really liked to sing. I didn’t start to sing for people until I went to college, though. I had some friends who were singing at an open mic, so I played one of my songs, and that’s when I really started to do that. From there I joined a Jazz Combo, and I would also sing with my friends who weren’t in the music school who just liked to drink and have fun and get together and play music. That to me was like, where it’s at. That’s what music is for, playing with other people and enjoying yourself.
How’d you end up in San Francisco?
I graduated college and was living in Miami — which I did not like it at the time — I like it now, didn’t like it at the time. My friend was moving out here to go to the Conservatory of Music and she was like you should just move over here, what do you have to lose? You’d fit right in. And without ever having been here before I was like, “OK! Let’s do it!” So we did and I’ve been here for about six years, singing my heart out.
Did you already go by Miss Erma when you moved?
That took me awhile to figure out. Miss Erma was something I was first called in college, in the Jazz Combo actually. They were calling me out on stage for my debut performance as a jazz singer, and the drummer forgot my last name.
“And now our vocalist, Miss... Miss... Miss… Erma!”
And that was it, you know. That stuck, so people called out “Hey, Miss Erma!” in the hallways. Then I came here and started teaching and the kids call me Miss Erma, but I was so fickle about it- “I don’t know, is it too much like Cher if I just go by Erma? Or do I need the Miss? Is that like, pretentious or what?” It kind of just settled in.
When did you become interested in acting?
Well, when I was eight, my mom put me on a bowling team with my sister. My sister’s older than me and all the other kids on the team were older, probably like twelve. I was really bad at bowling and they were really trying to get ahead on the bowling board, I don’t know what you call it. I once bowled an 8 in a game- that’s really low. So they talked to my mom and told her that maybe I shouldn’t be on the team. But she didn’t tell me that, she said, you know what, let’s try something different.
She put me in acting classes and at the end of this three week summer camp we had a performance and I was chosen to be Calamity Jane. My mom had no idea, I didn’t tell her anything, she just dropped me off at this acting camp. She came to the show at the end of the three weeks and here I am in this really blonde wig, my brown bangs still sticking out the front, singing “I used to be a plain Jane.”
So here I am singing as Calamity Jane and I look out in the audience and my mom was balling, she was crying and I remember thinking “stop it, what are you doing!?!” So that was the first time I acted and I really fell in love with it.
And you’re good at it, watching you on stage, you and Jamie both. I mean, there’s two types of acting: good acting and bad acting. And you do the good kind.
There’s also levels within that, and I think, if you can tell someone is acting it can be good sometimes but it’s leaning towards the bad acting I just mentioned. But you never seem to be acting, you’re just your character.
It is! What’s the part of Hell that you’re most excited about?
Actually it seems like kind of a drag. Hahaha.
No, I’m really excited about Hell! What am I most excited about though? Working with everybody, I think it’s gonna be really fun. Having worked with Jamie before, we just kinda crack each other up. He’s someone I can be completely dumb around and go to a silly, silly place and he thinks it’s funny. It seems like you and George are the same way, so I’m really looking forward to working together with you guys.
And we are looking forward to the same thing! Now let’s celebrate the end of this interview with one of your songs: