The Name to Know

TV’s in­die dar­ling EMILY HAMP­SHIRE is about to have a RE­ALLY BIG YEAR in film.


Mon­treal-born Emily Hamp­shire

is in­cred­i­bly busy th­ese days star­ring in two widely pop­u­lar shows— Schitt’s Creek and 12 Mon­keys— and she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I thought I never wanted to do TV, but now I love it,” says the 36-year-old ac­tor. “What I do en­joy about both shows is I feel fully sat­is­fied—I want to live all th­ese lives.” Her out­look and im­pres­sive act­ing chops have landed Hamp­shire in di­rec­tor Dar­ren Aronof­sky’s Moth

er!, one the most an­tic­i­pated films to premier at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val this month. Next Jan­uary, she’ll be star­ring in fel­low Cana­dian Xavier Dolan’s star-stud­ded fea­ture, The Death and Life of John F. Dono­van, where she plays Game of Thrones star Kit Har­ing­ton’s wife. Here, Hamp­shire opens up about what im­pacted her ear­lier on in her ca­reer, the year ahead, and how she plays po­lar op­po­sites so seam­lessly.

Do you re­mem­ber a per­for­mance that had a pro­found im­pact on you at the be­gin­ning of your ca­reer?

“My first real boyfriend was a di­rec­tor. He knew a lot about film history, and the 10 years that we were to­gether felt a lot like a film school. We watched all of John Cas­savetes’ movies, which were a huge in­flu­ence. One movie that was my own dis­cov­ery was Break­ing the Waves. Emily Wat­son’s per­for­mance set the bar for what I wanted to do. I love the du­al­ity of char­ac­ters in life and work—I can­not cry about a thing if I can’t find the funny in it, and I can’t find stuff funny un­less it’s tragic. There is a movie I did called The Life Be­fore This, and I think that was the first time I dis­cov­ered that kind of com­edy, or any com­edy at all. When I did that movie I played an over­weight ac­tress and I had to wear a fat suit. Do­ing that, I re­al­ized “Oh, I have to be funny now,” which is a very fe­male, very aw­ful thing to think. That char­ac­ter made me dis­cover play­ing more char­ac­ters.” The Death and

You’re star­ring in Xavier Dolan’s Life of John F. Dono­van. Did you know him be­fore sign­ing on?

“I met him on the set of a movie I did with my best friend, Ja­cob Tier­ney. Ja­cob had seen Xavier’s movies and thought he was bril­liant and wanted to cast him in the movie. Xavier had come to my trailer and told me he was mov­ing and was look­ing for a place to stay. I of­fered him to stay with me for the week­end, but he ended up stay­ing for about a month! We be­came best friends and he wrote this part for me—we’ve al­ways wanted to work to­gether. It’s a movie about star­dom, and I play John Dono­van’s wife, and the two char­ac­ters have been best friends since they were kids. It was fas­ci­nat­ing work­ing with Su­san Saran­don, Kathy Bates, and Kit Har­ing­ton. Be­ing on that set was about do­ing your best work and that made you a star— we were all equals the minute the take ended.”

There’s a lot of buzz around the movie Mother!. How was it work­ing with Dar­ren Aronof­sky?

“I got the call when I was shoot­ing Xavier’s movie and my agent said, “We can’t tell you what the part is, but would you be in­ter­ested in act­ing in Dar­ren Aronof­sky’s movie?” I said, “Yes!” At the time it was so un­der wraps—I couldn’t tell Xavier. Dar­ren made me do im­prov, and be­ing on set not know­ing what I was do­ing was in­sane—no one had a script be­sides maybe Jen­nifer Lawrence. When I was in wardrobe once, ev­ery­one kept say­ing, “It’s a re­ally in­tense set.” They kept us­ing the word “in­tense.” On my first day on set, I fi­nally un­der­stood why they were say­ing that. Dar­ren has th­ese ex­pec­ta­tions for ev­ery­one that are su­per high. We re­ally work hard to meet them and hope to rise above them. It’s not like he’s mean, he just ex­pects the best. It was fun not know­ing what my part was. It re­lieved this pres­sure be­cause, be­ing me, I al­ways over-pre­pare—at the be­gin­ning, I even tried googling what the movie would be about. It was kind of like work­ing with David Cro­nen­berg who was the first di­rec­tor that didn’t re­ally di­rect you: He casts the right per­son, lets you do it, and you move on. What’s good in that is it teaches you self-re­liance.”

Can you talk a bit about the evo­lu­tion of your char­ac­ter Ste­vie in Schitt’s Creek?

“At the be­gin­ning of the show, I thought I was just the girl be­hind the desk. But then I had this friendly re­la­tion­ship with David (Dan Levy) that I loved, be­cause I feel like I have that in real life—I have th­ese com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ships with all my gay friends. What I’ve re­al­ized is that Ste­vie is part of their fam­ily and be­com­ing like a daugh­ter to them. Work­ing with Johnny (Eu­gene Levy) gives her a sort of father fig­ure and she gives Johnny a dif­fer­ent daugh­ter fig­ure who is not Alexis (An­nie Mur­phy). I think Ste­vie is fas­ci­nat­ing be­cause she seems like the most nor­mal girl in the town, but you find out she has dif­fer­ent sides to her. She stands out to the au­di­ence.”

How did you pre­pare for your role in 12 Mon­keys?

“I felt like I iden­ti­fied with this girl who is in this so­ci­ety of peo­ple who deal with men­tal ill­ness and are al­ways the truth­say­ers. I felt like Jen­nifer at her core was the per­son who said the truth but ev­ery­one says she’s crazy. Be­yond that, I feel she is this pure love. I think a lot about how she grew up in a men­tal hos­pi­tal most of the time. In the script, a lot of her ref­er­ences are from movies—to me, Jen­nifer is al­ways liv­ing in a movie, she’s al­ways tak­ing on a new role. One week she’s the CEO wear­ing Louboutins and YSL, and the next she’s started a girl gang to do some heist. I love Jen­nifer and Ste­vie on dif­fer­ent lev­els. They are such po­lar op­po­sites and I feel like I couldn’t be com­plete with­out them.” Why do you think there is such a deep con­nec­tion to the show for fans? “I think the mythol­ogy of the show and time travel is so huge. And it’s very com­pli­cated: You have to be so ded­i­cated and smart to un­der­stand the sto­ry­line of time travel in this kind of show, which is ac­tu­ally quite ge­nius. The writ­ers link some­thing to an episode on sea­son 1 that adds up in sea­son 3—it’s bril­liant writ­ing. What is amaz­ing about our show in par­tic­u­lar are the char­ac­ters. They’re all so rich and hu­man, which is rare on a sci-fi show. I never thought I would like sci-fi be­cause I re­lated it to space and aliens. This show, though, is about th­ese char­ac­ters try­ing to form this makeshift fam­ily, which is in­ter­est­ing be­cause Schitt’s Creek is kind of like that too.”

How is your cre­ative process dif­fer­ent when it comes to TV vs. film?

“I’ve al­ways been an ac­tor who loves to cre­ate with the di­rec­tor. I usu­ally work with most of my friends, so I feel like I’m al­ways very in­volved. With TV, it’s the showrun­ners’ medium. At first, I was thrown by the di­rec­tors chang­ing every week but af­ter a while you re­al­ize this is your part, you can share it with th­ese peo­ple and this is who you can be cre­ative with. You don’t have the lux­ury of time on a TV show at all. I found that dif­fi­cult, but it gives you a very good work ethic.”

“Be­ing on that set was about do­ing your best work and that made you a star.”

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