With two hit shows and a much-anticipated xavier dolan film set for a 2017 release, Emily Hampshire is set to become Canada’s next big star.
With two hit shows and a muchanticipated Xavier Dolan film set for a 2017 release, Emily Hampshire is set to become Canada’s next big star.
When we last spoke with Emily Hampshire, she was sporting the latest styles for a fashion shoot for our Fall 2014 issue. Two years later, the 34-year-old Montreal-born actress, who appears on this issue’s cover, is the star of not one but two Canadian TV shows. On the hit CBC comedy Schitt’s Creek, she plays sharp-tongued hotel receptionist Stevie Budd, while on the SyFy series 12 Monkeys, she plays the intelligent yet unstable Jennifer Goines. Now, the brunette beauty’s latest role sees her stealing the big screen in Montreal filmmaker Xavier Dolan’s upcoming film The Death and Life of John F. Donovan. As Amy Bosworth, she embodies a role that was especially written for her by the talented Dolan. It is the first English language film for the acclaimed director, who is also a close friend of Hampshire’s. With a highprofile cast that includes Natalie Portman, Jessica Chastain and Susan Sarandon, the movie is sure to set Hampshire’s star on the rise on the international stage. Real Style spoke with the exuberant, laidback and proudly Canuck star about working with Dolan, her two shows and the thing about dramedies.
Real Style: Last time Real Style caught up with you, we featured you in a photoshoot for our Winter 2014 issue! Since then, you’ve starred in Schitt’s Creek and 12 Monkeys. How have these roles changed you as an actor? Emily Hampshire: Gosh, the combination of Stevie and Jennifer (the characters I play in Schitt’s Creek and 12 Monkeys respectively) has truly been the greatest gift I could ask for as an actor. But also as a human being, I love and admire these characters so much that I am grateful to have them in my life. I often feel as if the characters I play are like those significant people who enter your life and shape you, make you see the world differently by opening your eyes to things you otherwise would never have paid attention to.
On a more practical level, doing Schitt’s Creek has really taught me to let go. I’ve learned that I’m sometimes better on the show when I’m just enjoying myself and trusting my instincts. It’s truly the best job in the world. I mean, most of the time I’m sitting behind the desk playing Sudoku and getting to say the things we’d all like to say to members of the Rose family. I’ve learned that just because something is fun and easy doesn’t mean it’s not good. In fact, I now think that having so much fun shooting the show is one of the ingredients that makes it great. RS: Tell us more about starring as Jennifer Goines on 12 Monkeys. EH: 12 Monkeys is probably the hardest job I’ve ever had, but the rewards of getting to play Jennifer Goines are endless. She is the part that keeps on giving. She’s like those matryoshka dolls: Every time I open her up and think I know what makes her ticks, I find another Jennifer inside just waiting to come out and play.
RS: Can you identify with Jennifer in any way? EH: Yes. I identify with the way she always sees the truth in situations. I feel like I have an overactive radar for what is really being said behind the words or in the silences in conversation. Jennifer has that too –to a different degree. But she’s better than me—I admire her because she says it! She always points out the true thing in a situation and doesn’t let anything slide for social conventions. I wish I could be that brave. But maybe that’s what makes her seem crazy and lets me get away with seeming sane?
RS: Xavier Dolan is directing his first English-speaking movie, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan. What was it like to work with such a renowned young Canadian director? EH: I just wrapped and it was truly one of the greatest experiences of my career thus far. Xavier is an old friend of mine and we’ve wanted to work together for a while so my expectations were high in gearing up for this film. There’s also the fact that he wrote this role for me four years ago, which made the anticipation even greater, but working with him exceeded all my expectations. Just watching him work is a master class in being an artist. His taste is impeccable, he is uncompromising in his vision and his radar for truth is razor sharp. He is truly the most authentic human being I know and that’s something special just to be around—it’s catchy and inspiring. He raises everyone’s game.
RS: How was the experience of working with a cast of high profile stars like Natalie Portman, Jessica Chastain, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates and Kit Harington on that film ? EH: So wonderful. And I think mostly because the environment Xavier creates around him and on set is one where the work is king. There are no “stars” or more or less famous people on set. The biggest star is always your work, and if you do well you are celebrated, and if you don’t bring it, well, lemme put it this way: You don’t want to disappoint Xavier when you’ve witnessed the joy he exudes when he’s pleased. The drug I think we were all chasing on set was to make this beautiful boy behind the monitor scream and jump up like he’s a 13-year-old girl who’s just been proposed
to by Justin Bieber. So it was such an amazing experience to be working with these high-profile stars as an equal.
RS: You’ve played both comedic and dramatic roles during your career. Which do you prefer? EH: Dramedy. I don’t believe that one can be truly good without at least a bit of the other. I believe that in life too. I’ve always felt the need to deflate a heavy situation by making fun of it in some wa y, and the only things that make me belly laugh are the unspeakable truths that get released in a joke. I feel like both Schitt’s Creek and 12 Monkeys are better shows because they know that. Schitt’s Creek humour comes from these characters taking things very seriously and it’s also got a huge amount of heart, and 12 Monkeys has some of the funniest moments I’ve ever got to play as my character is often the comic relief in the show.
RS: What’s your dream role, if you had to choose just one. EH: Sally Bowles in Cabaret.
RS: You won a 2016 Canadian Screen Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Supporting Role, for your role in Schitt’s Creek. What was that like? EH: Oh boy, honestly, I had no idea I would feel so emotionally affected by it. It felt so much bigger than just winning an award for me. When I got on stage, I looked out at the audience and saw all these faces that had in one way or another helped me along the road to this moment. I saw Rick Mercer , whom I did my first TV series with, and who taught me so much about comedy. And Karen and Dani, my first agents, whom I’m still with today . I was struck by the memories of living in Karen’s basement when I was a kid and booking my first job with Dani and both of them talking me down from the ledge when I didn’t get some part I wanted and they believed something better would come along, and it did. I could just go on and on about that audience of people whom I realized in that moment had all had some hand in raising me. It was so moving to me that I have no idea what I said and I can’t talk about it anymore because it makes me cry.
RS: What are some of the biggest challenges of working in the Canadian film industry? EH: I actually think there are more advantages than challenges. I think it’s easier to hone your craft and climb up the ladder of both success and—more importantly—experience in a smaller pond. I have a lot of great actor friends in L.A. who haven’t worked a quarter as much as my actor friends in Canada, and I think that’s partly because we don’t have a “star system.” In Canada I’ve been able to be the lead in tons of movies—albeit ones that nobody saw, but it allowed me to work and become an actor who is ready for their “big break” on the world stage. Whereas my actor friends in L.A. are all fighting for the bit parts because the “name” actor s are cast in the lead roles. I mean, this is just a small angle in response to this question—there are definitely arguments for both sides— but I rarely hear the advantage of being part of the Canadian fi lm industry and I actually think there are a ton of advantages. My entire career is based on them.
RS: What originally inspired you to pursue acting? EH: I saw Les Misérables and I felt like I left the earth. I wanted to be Éponine.
RS: How do you psych yourself up for a new role and get into character? EH: I think you’ve touched on my favourite part of my job. When I get a new role, I find that instantly everything I do and see and experience in life suddenly informs it. It’s like I’m seeing everything through a new filter. It’s kind of like when you’re shopping for a car, suddenly all you see is cars. Anyway, I read books that relate in some way to the part. I seek out music that I think speaks to my character or the project in general. I make character playlists, sometimes scene playlists. The main thing I do is go through my “character box” (which is a slightly embarrassing thing to admit I have made and labelled as such), which is a huge file box of magazine tear outs of images that I find interesting in some way and have filed into categories like hair/makeup/faces/ wardrobe/poses. I pull out anything I feel inspires this part a nd I make a little book out of it. However, I’m starting to transition over to Pinterest.
RS: What upcoming projects can audiences expect to see you in? EH: I’m about to start shooting 12 Monkeys Season 3 and then go right into Schitt’s Creek Season 3, so those will be coming out in the new year. Also look forward to The Death and Life of John F. Donovan— a super movie that is so huge I signed an NDA and can’t talk about it yet. Which kills me because I really want to tell everyone!
RS: Describe your perfect day off. How do you unwind and relax after spending time on set? EH: Morning movie; like a 10 a.m. show at an empty theatre with birthday cake flavour (anything really) popcorn. A suuuuper long massage. Bobbing in the waves in Miami and napping. All day, but with breaks so it doesn’t turn into sleeping.