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A bunch more pics of Emily at the GQ Men of the Year party have been added to the gallery.
Also, I came across a new Q&A interview with Emily. She talks mostly about ‘Norman,’ but also a little bit about ‘Revenge.’
Emily VanCamp 1:1 – Moving Gracefully Into Adulthood Both Onscreen and Off
By: Debbie Lynn Elias
It feels as if we’ve known Emily VanCamp forever. Gracing both the big and small screens for more than a decade consistently working since the tender age of 14, VanCamp has played everything from a young Jacqueline Bouvier (Kennedy) to Amy Abbott in fan-favorite ‘Everwood’ to the biblical heroine Esther in ‘Ben Hur’ to Rebecca Harper in the acclaimed ‘Brothers & Sisters.’ Seemingly on a never ending roller coaster ride with back-to-back tv series interspersed with films, VanCamp has, thankfully, never wanted for work. And now, as Emily Harris in the lovely indie film ‘Norman,’ she says goodbye to her own youth while stepping into adulthood as Emily Thorne in the riveting ABC drama, ‘Revenge.’
In ‘Norman,’ a charming little indie film written by Talton Wingate and directed by Jonathan Segal, VanCamp plays Emily Harris. The new girl at school, she is sweet, sincere, kind and thoughtful with a smile that just illuminates the place, no matter where she’s at. On the other hand, Norman (an outstanding performance by Dan Byrd) is somewhat of a geek. Having had a rather hard time the past few years, his mother was killed in an auto accident while his father is now dying of stomach cancer. Already somewhat chastised and ousted by his peers, Norman has elected not to disclose his father’s illness or the amount of time he has been devoting to caring for his dad. And we all know how hard keeping secrets can be on a person. But Norman’s life gets a bit more confusing with the appearance of Emily. Immediately smitten with her, his dream is to have her go out with him. But while Norman frets over his love life and home life, a series of confusing events involving his best friend occur, leading everyone to believe that Norman has cancer. Electing to ride the wave of newfound concern and popularity, and seeing it also as a way to “get the girl”, Norman goes along with the misleading story and pretends to have cancer. Mimicking the symptoms and suffering of his father, Norman not only gets closer to Emily, but his father as well. But at what cost?
In the ABC drama/thriller ‘Revenge,’ VanCamp plays yet another Emily, Emily Thorne. Set in the lush life of the Hamptons, Emily Thorne seeks revenge on all those that caused the separation of her parents when she was child. Harboring hatred and resentment for years, Emily has returned to the Hamptons and sets out to exact revenge one by one on everyone who affected her life and destroyed a happy childhood.
In an exclusive interview, I recently spoke with Emily VanCamp about not only ‘Norman’ and ‘Revenge,’ but moving from childhood into adulthood both on and off screen.
Emily: Hi, Debbie!
Hi, Emily! How are you?
Emily: I’m great. How are you?
I’m fine. Well you are just one busy little bee lately, aren’t you?
Emily: [laughing] Oh! It’s crazy. When it rains it pours.
I’d rather have it pouring in a case like this with you.
Emily: Absolutely! I’m not complaining. I’m so happy.
‘Norman’ is an absolutely charming, charming movie. I was mesmerized when you first appear on screen and you’ve got this great smile that just lit up the whole screen.
Emily: Aww. Thank you.
You really set the tone for the innocence and the kindness of the film. It was refreshing to see it.
Emily: Aww. Thank you. She [Emily Harris] was such a wonderful, beautiful character to play. That’s really what’s so appealing about her; that youthful openness about her. That’s such a great time of life and you are so open to everything around and just taking everything in. I really wanted to give her that quality of vulnerability and openness and charm and thoughtfulness and kindness. She was like a little butterfly. She kind of floats around and was such a sweet girl to play.
How much of you, Emily, is in the character, Emily?
Emily: Oh goodness! I think inevitably we bring elements of ourselves to every character. I was a little bit older when I played her. I knew that was the last time I was going to play a teenager and so I wanted to take that sweetness to an extreme with her. The film needed it and it’s a very dark story and I wanted her to be a breath of fresh air. Also, you really need to believe her honest love and connection with Norman. And when he’s such a dark tormented character you really need to couple that with the other extreme.
Definitely. Did you have any qualms about doing this film given the subject matter? Here’s somebody who, in one sense, you can argue that he’s faking cancer, and in another, you can view it as Norman taking the burden of his father, trying to connect with his father and living this aspect of his life?
Emily: I had no qualms about [the subject matter]. I thought it makes perfect sense, having lost his mother, having been through so much darkness, and also, school is not easy. We all know that bullying exists. High school is difficult. So to have all of these dark elements and you’re not living a very satisfying or easy existence as a teenager, often you turn to other things. In this case it was harming himself. He was on a path of destruction. And I do believe also that it was a path of connection to his father to play out the cancer. I also think it was somewhat of an experiment, and a sort of “screw you” as well to the kids at school. I think it’s a really interesting topic to discuss and an interesting debate.
You’ve now moved on from your teenaged roles and you’ve got ‘Revenge’ going on.
Emily: YES! [laughing] A completely different Emily.
A very different Emily from anything we’ve seen before! It’s hard to believe this is the same fresh-faced girl that played Jackie Kennedy as a little girl.
Emily: [laughing] I am just have so much fun with the character. It was time for me to do something that was completely outside the box and completely different. As an actor, the best thing you can ask for is to just constantly be reinventing yourself, trying different things and taking on new roles. It’s so juicy and so much fun and I get to really sink my teeth into this character every day. I have zero complaints and am just really really happy.
I saw one episode already. You get to have this very dark side. You get to have this very mean side that we haven’t seen before.
Emily: Mmmm, mmm!
What is it that you draw on to elicit that kind of emotion in the character?
Emily: I think with this character it was less about bringing elements of myself to the character and more about building the character and really trying to understand where she’s coming from and understand why she is the way that she is, what happened to her in her past that made her this way. Obviously none of these things happened to me and I don’t really relate to her on any level. It was a totally different exercise in acting for me to achieve this character as opposed to some of the other characters that I’ve played. I couldn’t draw on personal experience. It’s very much about making journals for the character and having endless amounts of pages of inspiration and discussing the back-story of the character at length with Mike Kelley and Phillip Noyce. Mike is our creator and Phillip is the amazing director who directed the pilot and our first episode. It was a very different experience for me but that’s what makes what I do so much fun. You always have to reinvent how you approach a character as well. It’s always exciting.
You are one of those rare actresses who has steadily worked on TV series, back to back to back. One ends, another one begins, one ends, another one begins. How do you handle the rigors of series shooting, especially hour long dramas, and then juggle and throw in some films in there as well. It’s such a continuous, arduous pace that you’ve been on.
Emily: It has! I was raised to work hard. We didn’t have much growing up. My parents worked their butts off for me and my sisters so I think I grew up with that, so it’s normal for me. I love to work. I get pretty bored when I’m not working. I love what I do, as well. I think when you find something that seems more like play than work, then you’re pretty set, because it feels to me like I haven’t worked a day in my life even though I have. [laughing] I love what I do. I’ve had moments of feeling really challenged and tired but that’s to be expected. I’m just really grateful, to be honest, to be working steadily as an actress for ten years. I just have to count my lucky stars.
And especially starting at such a young age, too. You seamlessly made the transition.
Emily: Yes. A couple of people have mentioned that to me, and it’s funny, because I haven’t really thought about it because for me it’s just all one long journey. It’s interesting when you say that because I guess that’s true because I am a grown-up now and I’m still working, which is great! [laughing]
And you didn’t have a vacation 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 years in between!
Emily: No, I didn’t! And I didn’t want one either. I think after ‘Brothers & Sisters’ I definitely took some down time because at that point I had a moment in my life when I really wanted to re-evaluate. What do I want here? Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing? What’s going on here? And I quickly realized that I was missing [acting] terribly and that’s when ‘Revenge’ happened.
Working as much as you have in both the television and film mediums, do you have a preference of one over the other?
Emily: That’s an interesting question. I don’t. I love doing film because it’s quick exploration of a character. You’re working for one, two, three months and it’s done and then you can move on and tackle many different characters. But what I love about television is that you get to take a character, if you’re lucky, on a very long lengthy journey and really dig deep into that character. For me, that’s just so much fun. I really enjoy that. I think that the lines are really blurred between television and film. With Revenge and with the other series that I’ve done, I always feel like I’m making a mini-movie every week. I love doing both. I really do.
Would you like to branch out into some more comedy work?
Emily: I would! I would! I think that’s going to be the next challenge. So, we’ll see if the right thing comes along. I’m definitely open to it.
You are really mastering the whole dramatic aspect of family situations and the whole nine yards. I would love to see you in some lighter romantic comedies or even outright slapstick comedies.
Emily: Oh, I would love that! I would absolutely love that. I think it would be just a hoot to do that. I’m definitely looking for something along those lines.
Emily, what is the greatest gift that you feel acting has given you?
Emily: Ooooh. Hmmm. That’s a really great question. I think it’s really taught me to be ever present in my life and observant of the people around me. It’s really encouraged me to really explore human nature and why people do the things that they do. I find that endlessly fascinating. In this profession you have to be constantly watching and observing and trying to understand behavioral patterns of people. It just makes every experience with another human being that much deeper and that much richer because you’re really trying to figure them out. And that’s stuff that I do for a living. I play characters. I think that’s probably the greatest gift it’s given me; and you have to be present to do that, and always be listening and just taking it all in.
Did you always want to act?
Emily: I didn’t. I grew up dancing. That was my creative passionate choice in the beginning. I went to a film set to see my sister, she was a dancer as well, and they needed a ballerina for the film and I just fell in love with what I was seeing. And I just started acting classes for fun and fell more and more in love with it and kind of started working and I never stopped.
So, with a dancing background, could we expect at some point when you get a breather, for you to pop up on ‘Dancing With the Stars’?
Emily: [laughing] I don’t think so! That’s doubtful. I think my dancing days to that extent are possibly over. But, you can never say never. I certainly would love to take a couple classes but I don’t know if I would do ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ [laughing]
Everybody says that they’ll never do it but then who did we see last year show up? Jennifer Grey.
Emily: Exactly, that’s true. Hey, I’m open to anything in life. I can’t say never.
Is there anything else that you’re working on right now or that’s coming up or are you all consumed with ‘Revenge’?
Emily: Right now I’m so much trying to get the word out about ‘Norman’ because I was really proud of that film and in the independent film world it can be really difficult to get your message across and encourage people to go see it. I’m so grateful that you’re doing this and I hope that people will go see it. It’s a really lovely film. And working on Revenge, that’s pretty much taking up every ounce of my time.
Speaking of ‘Norman’ and being a little indie like that, you only had one scene with him, but you’ve got Richard Jenkins who is probably the “king” of independent films.
Emily: Oh my goodness, he is so extraordinary in everything that he does. But in this film, he is so moving. And Dan Byrd (Norman) as well. Their performances and their chemistry as father and son is so wildly good. They are spectacular and I was so moved by their performance. If anything, see [‘Norman’] for that because it’s a beautiful relationship that they portray, and a really difficult one.
Equally beautiful is your chemistry with Dan.
Emily: Awww. I love Dan. He’s such a love and he’s so devoted to this part. He cares so much about the film and you really see that in his performance. We just had so much fun working together. He’s great.
What is your favorite memory of working on ‘Norman’?
Emily: Ohhhh. My favorite memory? Wow. That was two years ago. [laughing] I’m trying to remember even where we shot! [laughing] That was such a wild experience because I was shooting ‘Brothers & Sisters’ at the same time and so I had to go back and forth on the weekends to do ‘Norman.’ So the whole shoot was a bit of a blur because I wasn’t really sleeping. Just generally it was such a great experience. It’s always fun to get on location with a great group of actors and director and just play. That’s what it felt like to me. It was a great experience and it turned out to be a really lovely film, I think. Also, the score of the movie is brilliant. Andrew Bird did the score. And he is a phenomenal musician. The music was great. It just all came together.
The music really does enhance the story but it blends with it. So often scores overpower the story or they really don’t capture the emotion.
Emily: Yes. It captures the feeling of the film, which I love. He did a phenomenal job.
What did you personally take away from the experience of filming ‘Norman’?
Emily: I think it’s bittersweet because that’s when I was saying goodbye to playing teenagers. I had done that for so long since ‘Everwood’ and different films that I’d done. [‘Norman’] was the last one. It was bittersweet. It was such a great way to say goodbye to the teen years.
Emily, I can’t thank you enough. Again, a really beautiful performance. Your smile just lit up the whole screen. And you really gave a needed balance to the gravitas of the situation at hand.
Emily: Oh, thank you. Thank you so much. You’re so kind. That was what I was trying to do. It’s very nice to hear that you felt that. It’s just so moving, isn’t it? Just the story.
Extremely. But Richard Jenkins has to branch out. He just did another small indie film earlier this year and he died of cancer. James Keach directed him in a film with Blythe Danner and he dies of cancer.
Emily: Oh no!!! Enough with the cancer. He’s got to move on! [laughing]
Emily, thank you so much and much good luck on Revenge. I can’t wait to see what Emily Thorne does next.
Emily: It’s getting crazy. It gets crazier and crazier every episode. It’s a lot of fun.
And I want no spoilers!
Emily: Okay, good! I love it! Then I’m not going to tell you anything!