Travis Hoover interviews Emily Perkins
Allow me to set the scene for you: I’m standing outside a suite of Toronto’s Sutton Place hotel, waiting to interview Emily Perkins. Perkins, you’ll recall, is most famous for her role in the Ginger Snaps movies as Brigitte Fitzgerald, a character who’s dour and morose at the best of times, let alone the worst. When the door opens and a bright, cheerful young woman declares that the interview is ready, I wonder if this another publicist, handling the press junket. But no–it’s Perkins, whose friendly manner is Brigitte’s opposite in every way. And it dawns on me: that Ginger Snaps performance is more indelible than I had even considered. As I marvelled at the distinction between Perkins the person and Brigitte the character, I managed to ask a few questions–about the Ginger Snaps saga, about acting in Canada, and about her craft.
Travis Hoover: When did you first get the acting bug?
Emily Perkins: When I was ten, there was a travelling troupe of actors who came to our school–The Green Thumb Theatre–and they put on a play. And I just really wanted to do theatre, so I begged my mom for, like, a year, and finally she put me in acting, in theatre, and I went to the Vancouver Youth Theatre. The artistic director of the theatre at the time was also an agent for film and television, so she asked me to join her agency, and I started auditioning and stuff.
Travis Hoover: According to the IMDb, you got your first TV role at the age of 12. What was that like?
Emily Perkins: That was the first big part that I did–“Small Sacrifices”. It was a miniseries starring Farrah Fawcett, and I got to play her daughter. Actually, it was my first experience being doused with blood. She actually shoots her kids–it’s based on a true story, it’s really terrible. So I got to be shot, and I had blood in my mouth and everything, and it would be all in my hair. And little did I know that was like, my future (laughs), because I’ve had blood on me so many times since then.
Travis Hoover: What’s it like being a working actor in Canada?
Emily Perkins: Ah, I just feel really grateful, because there are so many Canadian actors who don’t get work. It’s really a struggle for me too–it’s really hard for me to get auditions. It’s quite a struggle.
Travis Hoover: Is there a lot of downtime between parts?
Emily Perkins: Yeah. There definitely is. Most of my life is like, I’m a mom, I have two kids–they’re actually my cousins, but I’m in the process of adopting them, so I’ve had them for the last two years, and that’s basically the focus of my life. But it is hard to get work. The good thing about it is, we have these really cool, original movies like Ginger Snaps, so I’m really fortunate to have gotten to play such a cool female character.
Travis Hoover: Do you have any aspirations to break into American films?
Emily Perkins: Not really. I would love to do American independent film and stuff, but I don’t really fit the American mold. A lot of the stuff that gets cast in Vancouver and made in Vancouver is American TV shows, and I don’t really fit the mold for those kinds of girls–I’m not the typical “babe,” I’m more of a regular peg. So it probably wouldn’t be realistic for me to have aspirations down in the States. I don’t know. I don’t think I’d want to live in L.A. permanently or anything like that, either.
Travis Hoover: Have you been to L.A.?
Emily Perkins: Yeah, I’ve been there. It was okay, but it’s not like Vancouver–Vancouver is like, the most amazing place.
Travis Hoover: How did you become involved with the first Ginger Snaps?
Emily Perkins: Well, I just auditioned for it, and actually Katharine Isabelle and I auditioned together, because we have the same agent. So we ended up making the first tape together–and they liked both of us (laughs) so we both ended up getting the parts.
Travis Hoover: The first Ginger Snaps has a lot to do with female coming-of-age. Did that have any resonance for you?
Emily Perkins: It definitely had some resonance for me. Brigitte really represents a strong aspect of my psyche when I was a teenager, but it was something that I kept hidden. I was more of a people-pleaser, so it was really cathartic for me to actually bring out that dark side of me that I had repressed and actually have it witnessed, have it come to life. It made me feel like I existed, that that part of me really truly existed, whereas before it was just this repressed element.
Travis Hoover: When you did the Ginger Snaps, did you have any idea that it would go on to justify a prequel and a sequel?
Emily Perkins: No! I hoped so, because I thought it was a really cool movie, and I thought that it would be something that would have a lot of resonance for many teenage girls–because it’s not condescending, it’s smart, and these girls aren’t really babes, especially my character. They’re outcasts, and I think a lot of teenagers feel that way, too. So I hoped that they would like the film. Obviously, people did like it, so I’m absolutely thrilled–it’s so rare for a Canadian film.
Travis Hoover: I must say that I preferred the sequel to the first film–it moved better, it cut better.
Emily Perkins: Brett [Sullivan, the director] is an editor. When we were shooting, he’d know how to do little tricks, because he was always keeping in mind how the film was going to cut later. In the middle of a take, he’d be like, “Okay, go back and do this!” and then, “Do this with your hand!” And I’d say, “What the hell are you trying to do?” And he said, “Don’t question it, just do it–it’ll cut together really well!” So I trusted him. When you’re working on a low-budget film, you don’t really have a lot of time, so I think that he was really able to use the time to its full, maximum potential–because he’s an editor, right, and used every take to do a bunch of different things that you wouldn’t normally do. He wouldn’t shoot the scene the way that you’d expect.
Travis Hoover: Given that you were supported by Katharine Isabelle on part one, was it daunting to carry part two?
Emily Perkins: Well, I had Tatiana Maslany helping me…
Travis Hoover: Who was great.
Emily Perkins: She’s so fabulous, and she’s a really fabulous person. She’s so amiable, and we have the same artistic process.
Travis Hoover: What do you mean by “the same artistic process”?
Emily Perkins: Well, we have the same kind of approach. Like, all actors have a different kind of zone they go into before they work–like some actors take more time to prepare, and some like rehearsing and some don’t. So all those kinds of things, Tatiana and I really kind of jibed–we were in the same kind of space. So that really helps to perform, then.
Travis Hoover: How would you classify your kind of acting?
Emily Perkins: Well, I don’t really know exactly how to label it, everybody’s a little bit different. I’m a very focused sort of actor, and I don’t mind rehearsing. Obviously I don’t like to rehearse things to death, but I do like to think a lot about the characters and I like to talk about them, and I like to analyze the script a bit conceptually. A lot of it is instinctual, but I also like to do a bit of the more intellectual-process stuff. Some actors say that they’re exhibitionists, and some say that they like to hide in their characters more, and with me, it’s really an in-between thing. You can’t play a part unless you have the character come alive to some extent for you, but then I also do a lot of reflection, and remember parts of my life that I can relate to the situation of the characters, so I can meet the character halfway.
Travis Hoover: John Fawcett, who directed the original Ginger Snaps, went on to direct some episodes of “Da Vinci’s Inquest”, on which you have a recurring role. Did he get in on your recommendation or was it the other way around?
Emily Perkins: It was the other way around. Actually, the creators of “Da Vinci’s Inquest” already knew me because Chris Haddock, his first show was called “Mom P.I.”, and I was one of the kids on that, so he already knew me. But then, before the season started when I started, Chris Haddock and John actually met at the Banff Film Festival, so they just started talking about me, and Chris decided to bring me in for an audition.
Travis Hoover: Can you give us a taste of what Ginger Snaps Back will be like?
Emily Perkins: Well, it takes place in 1910. It’s a period piece, and it’s a really kind of a romantic story about Brigitte and Ginger–it plays up the romance between those two girl characters. It has this different look than the first two films have, it’s less sort of dark and gritty and murky, it’s more like a fairy tale, and it’s actually quite beautiful, and it flows more–it’s not, like, kind of choppy. It’s less action, but at the same time, you really get to feel that it’s a different time, the language is a little more formal, with period costumes–it’s running around in corsets fighting werewolves, with torches and stuff. It’s going to be a really cool, dark sort of gothic film.
Travis Hoover: Sounds like fun.
Emily Perkins: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. The corsets were not fun. (laughs) But the rest of it, like shooting at Fort Edmonton–it’s just like a playground for an actor to have a set like that, it’s so easy to get into the role. And there are a lot of men in this movie, too, so it’s different than the first two–there’s all these gross, gnarly guys. There’s actually many werewolves–the fort’s under siege by werewolves in the prequel. And Brigitte’s actually kind of pretty–she’s still not pretty or a babe or anything, but after all of the grotesque make-up of the sequel, it was nice to get to wear a little bit of make-up, and have nice hair–long dark hair, so that was fun.