Michael J. Lee interviews Emily Perkins
Actress Emily Perkins caught the attention of a good number of movie fans in 2000’s Ginger Snaps, a clever, independent horror film that injected a typically formulaic genre with a jolt of creativity by using the notion of werewolves as a metaphor for emerging female sexuality. Part monster flick, part dark comedy, it has since become a critical and cult favorite thanks to a smartly written script and outstanding performances from its two young leads (Perkins, along with co-star Katharine Isabelle).When the possibility of this interview was first being explored, what intrigued me most about the prospect was not merely the film itself, despite the fact that it was clearly a special entry that easily outranked most of its contemporaries. Moreso, it was Perkins’ unusual insight into the subcontext of her work. In a profession not particularly renowned for saying anything interesting, she stood out as educated, astute, and thoughtful in prior dealings with the media. Anyone paying attention could easily hear it in her choice of words.In particular, she had used the phrase “internalize the male gaze” on more than one occasion, a string of four little words that instantly reminded me of two things from my college days–the sociopsychological concept of female objectification under male voyeurism that permeates the foundation of generally accepted gender roles in society, and the short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by author Joyce Carol Oates, which, like Ginger Snaps, uses traditional horror elements as a framework for a young woman’s coming of age, and even emphasizes the notion of the male psyche favoring its visual perception over the tactile as a means for control. Sure enough, further research revealed that Perkins’ collegiate background is in psychology and women’s studies.The native resident of Vancouver, British Columbia possesses a versatility that is often masked by her ability to so convincingly immerse herself in a given role, and those who are only familiar with her work in Ginger Snaps might be surprised at just what a dynamic dramatic range she has. Also impressive is the dichotomy of her personality: her language effortlessly flows between insightful articulation and vernacular colloquialisms, reflective responses and pleasant humor; she conveys strong beliefs without coming across as haughty and opinionated; and she is modest to a fault, in spite of her remarkable talent, which, in itself, is more virtue than shortcoming.
But what is most striking, perhaps, is that she smiles with her eyes and has a wildly genuine enthusiasm in her voice when she speaks about her work. She was immensely forthright in her responses, occasionally finished my sentences, and sometimes even threw back a question of her own–and from an interviewer’s standpoint, it was rewarding to have such productive interaction. Her sincere eagerness about the craft of acting makes one hope that she will find a steady stream of challenging roles for many years to come.
In part one of our exclusive five-part interview with Emily Perkins, Emily talks about her educational and professional background, her experiences growing up as an actress, and her first feature film.
Michael J. Lee: Actors in the midst of their careers often skip the university experience altogether. What made you decide to put acting aside long enough to attend college?
Emily Perkins: I just thought it would be a good idea to get an education. Also, I’m really interested in the world generally, so I wanted to educate myself thoroughly. I’m interested in all kinds of things, so I took lots of different arts courses. I didn’t just study psychology and women’s studies.
Michael J. Lee: Is your alma mater, the University of British Columbia, known for either of those two subjects?
Emily Perkins: The psychology department’s pretty big, and yeah, it has a good reputation. But women’s studies is very much a marginal department. When I was there, they just got their second phone line, and it was very exciting. [laughs] They’re just really underfunded.
Michael J. Lee: What types of arts courses have you taken?
Emily Perkins: I got a fine arts certificate at the Emily Carr school on Granville Island. I draw and paint, and I was sculpting for a while. I haven’t done it recently though. I should get back to that…
Michael J. Lee: What degree did you attain at UBC?
Emily Perkins: I graduated with a major in psychology and was just one course short of a major in women’s studies. I shot the first Ginger Snaps that year, so I came out with a minor in women’s studies.
Michael J. Lee: I don’t want to get slapped for asking this, but when is your birthday?
Emily Perkins: It’s in May. I just turned 27 in May.
Michael J. Lee: So the birthdate of May 4, 1977 listed on the internet is correct?
Emily Perkins: That’s right.
Michael J. Lee: How old were you when you first started acting?
Emily Perkins: I was 10, but the first movie that I did was Small Sacrifices, and I was 12 when I did that.
Michael J. Lee: How did you get into acting? Did you have parents in the profession?
Emily Perkins: No. I just saw plays that would tour schools when I was in elementary school, and then I just wanted to do children’s theater. So I started at the Vancouver Youth Theatre, which is a theatre for kids, and they tour to schools. And the artistic director of the theatre at the time was also an agent for film and television, so she just asked me to join her agency, and I did, and I started auditioning.
Michael J. Lee: So no horror stories about parents pressuring you into acting, dragging you to auditions, or psyching out other parents?
Emily Perkins: No, it was years of begging! [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: In the past, you’ve frequently examined your roles from a feminist standpoint. At what age did your focus on this perspective emerge?
Emily Perkins: I guess when I started taking women’s studies at university. I was interested in it in high school a little bit, but I didn’t have the words. The feminist discourse has its own language that you really have to learn in order to be able to interpret your experiences, but I think I had this sort of critical mindset in high school that was just waiting to be translated. And when I was in women’s studies, that’s when I started to translate that.
Michael J. Lee: So by high school, were you averse to roles that would have depicted you as, say, a stereotypical bimbo?
Emily Perkins: Well, I think when I was in high school, I just wanted to do everything. I was more open and embracing of anything. I didn’t want to be just one thing. Like I wouldn’t have minded acting like a bimbo–I wouldn’t have seen anything wrong with that as long as it was understood as a performance by me, and by those around me. And that’s the way I interpreted other people, too. Like the bimbo girls in school–that’s just a performance, and they’re just performing an aspect of society. I didn’t necessarily judge the individual for that, I don’t think.
Michael J. Lee: But can’t the line between persona and performance be pretty thin?
Emily Perkins: Yeah, but it’s also a performance, right? I see that there’s a division there between the person and the potential, I guess. [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: As a teenager, was it difficult to reconcile filming schedules with your school schedule?
Emily Perkins: I always had a tutor on set as a kid, so there wasn’t too much of a conflict, and the private school I went to was very accommodating.
Michael J. Lee: Reflecting upon your entire acting career to date, what would you point out as the accomplishment of which you are most proud?
Emily Perkins: The Ginger Snaps movies, definitely. Because it was a lot of work for me, it was really an intense effort. And I think that the movies turned out well, and I like the subject matter a lot, and the character is very near and dear to my heart. So I’d say those movies for sure.
Michael J. Lee: And on the flip side, what is the token embarrassing moment? The clip they would play on a talk show to make you cringe, “I can’t believe I did that, that’s so bad!”
Emily Perkins: Oh, I don’t know. [laughs] Something that I did when I was a little kid.
Michael J. Lee: A commercial, maybe?
Emily Perkins: Well, I did one commercial that was kind of embarrassing, where I was like oo-ing and ah-ing over this boy who was building a model car. And I was like, “Oo, he’s so cool!” And that kind of conflicts with my women’s studies training since then. [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: As you mentioned, your first feature film was Small Sacrifices, a drama about a mother who tries to murder her three little children. Even though you were quite young, did you have opinions about the story at that time, or were you just more interested in being in a movie?
Emily Perkins: I was a pretty precocious kid. I read the book by Ann Rule, so I knew that it was a true story. I guess when I was auditioning for it, I didn’t think too much about the story. But I knew this girl was shot by her mother, and I was just like, “Wow, that’s so awful.” And I was a really sensitive kid, so I guess I was more interested in portraying an emotion or feeling something that was not my experience. You know, playing pretend. When you’re a kid, it’s just all about playing pretend, which is fun.
Michael J. Lee: Did you have a hard time being an actress at such an early age, or did you assimilate to the scenario fairly easily?
Emily Perkins: It was definitely a lot of pressure. I do remember feeling very stressed out, especially in Small Sacrifices. I could cry on cue pretty easily, but then suddenly there’s all this pressure to do that, especially for that big courtroom scene. It was like, “Ok, well, you’re going to have to cry tomorrow, can you do it?!” I remember being very stressed out about that. But on the day, it all seemed to come together because the director was a really great guy and he was very sensitive and everything. That definitely wasn’t always my experience as a child actor. There were definitely directors who would be too critical or too rough.
Michael J. Lee: You’ve had to cry on cue on many occasions in your career. Is turning on the waterworks something that comes easily for you?
Emily Perkins: Not always. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s really a psychological game that you have to play with yourself. [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: So you psyche yourself out and then just switch it on?
Emily Perkins: Yeah, but sometimes it doesn’t happen. And especially since you have to keep doing it repeatedly from different angles, eventually you just kind of go numb. You just lose the reality of the moment, and then they just spray your eyes with fake tears.
Michael J. Lee: Some actors just use the drops, but you don’t, generally?
Emily Perkins: It depends. There are certain times when you want to start off with dry eyes and then have the tears, in which case it’s better if you can do it on your own. But in some cases, it really doesn’t matter.
Michael J. Lee: You have a brilliant skill for emoting. Does that come from extensive formal training or does it just come naturally to you?
Emily Perkins: I don’t know. I was really into playing imaginary games with my sister. We were very close in age–she’s a year younger than me. We’d play very elaborate pretend games where we’d make up characters for ourselves. And it’d go on for weeks or months even, of just being these characters, and no one else would know. It was like the secret world that we’d inhabit. So I think that’s probably where I learned to do that, I guess. [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: You earned a YTV award after Small Sacrifices. Could you explain what that is?
Emily Perkins: YTV is a Canadian TV station, and it’s geared toward youth. They give it out in different categories, like musical achievement, or a kid who’s done something that shows a social consciousness like environmental achievement, or something like that. And mine was for acting. And it was not only for Small Sacrifices, but just for the cumulative acting things that I had done.
Michael J. Lee: At one point in Small Sacrifices, your character isn’t speaking, and communicates by drawing. You counted drawing and painting among your interests, so did you do all of the drawings in that film yourself?
Emily Perkins: I remember that clearly. The props people came to me beforehand and they said, “Ok, Emily, this is what she’s supposed to draw, can you draw that for us?” And then I drew a car, and they were like, “Oh, that doesn’t look realistic, it looks too good” because she was only supposed to be 8 and I was 12, right? So then they just took the paper and traced a really bad outline over the top. So it was kind of like a collaboration between me and the props guy.
Michael J. Lee: [laughs] So the props guy was an adult having to draw like an 8 year old?
Emily Perkins: Yeah. [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: You were a voice in a cartoon called Little Golden Bookland. Do you typically do voice work?
Emily Perkins: No. I would like to, but I don’t get called in for that.
Michael J. Lee: Do you sing?
Emily Perkins: I was in a children’s choir and I did a cappella vocal jazz in high school, but I haven’t done any singing since then.
Michael J. Lee: Do you play any musical instruments?
Emily Perkins: I play the piano a little.
Michael J. Lee: And what about stage work? Is that something you’ve done?
Emily Perkins: Only as a kid.
Michael J. Lee: Even though you haven’t done it in a while, did you enjoy it?
Emily Perkins: I did. I really did.
Michael J. Lee: Given the choice between a good stage play and a good film, what would your preference be?
Emily Perkins: I guess probably film, because that’s what I’m used to. I haven’t done stage as an adult, but I would like to try that. I like live theatre.
Michael J. Lee: Los Angeles has long been the de facto mecca for actors and actresses. Have you done work in our polluted, congested City of Angels?
Emily Perkins: I spent a pilot season down there when I was 13 or 14, and I didn’t really enjoy it.
Michael J. Lee: Did the pilot ever become a series?
Emily Perkins: I actually ended up being cast in a pilot, but I didn’t end up doing it because a Canadian series that I was doing conflicted. So I decided that I would do the Canadian series that I had versus doing a pilot that you never know is going to go or not.
Michael J. Lee: So you had some bad experiences in our cutthroat, concrete jungle?
Emily Perkins: I wouldn’t say all of my experiences were bad, but the casting directors were quite harsh sometimes. Like I remember one time going into an audition and I was, I guess, underdeveloped for what they wanted, and she got on the phone right in front of me: “I told you only to send gorgeous girls!” And I was like, [said sadly] “Is she talking about me?”
Michael J. Lee: See, you don’t want to hear nonsense like that at any age, but especially when you’re that young.
Emily Perkins: Yeah. So I think down there it’s very business oriented.
Michael J. Lee: For lack of a more colorful term, right? I have to admit people in Canada, in general, seem more cordial than their American counterparts.
Emily Perkins: I think politeness or courtesy is a point of pride with people here. Like you don’t want people to think of you as being rude. That’s something that is a really bad thing here. [laughs]
In part two of our interview with Emily Perkins, Emily takes the time to discuss some of her smaller roles in a variety of feature films.
Michael J. Lee: You’ve played quite a few characters who have to deal with their fair share of problems. In Anything to Survive, you were stranded in the snow?
Emily Perkins: Right. It was a shipwreck in Alaska. That was a true story as well.
Michael J. Lee: Anything difficult about that shoot?
Emily Perkins: It was cold. That was the tough thing about it.
Michael J. Lee: In Stephen King’s It, your character deals with an incestuous father, is picked on by bullies, and gets rocks thrown at her…
Emily Perkins: You’re noticing a pattern here. [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: Was that a particularly difficult project?
Emily Perkins: They just make it look like that. Physically, that one wasn’t demanding.
Michael J. Lee: While you were shooting It, were you aware that the first half of the story that focused on the kids was pretty good, while the second half on the adults was really, really bad?
Emily Perkins: I heard that afterwards. [laughs] But obviously at the time, I didn’t really know.
Michael J. Lee: You heard that as a kid?
Emily Perkins: When the movie came out, I read some reviews that said that–because I did read reviews. [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: Venus Terzo, one of your co-stars on the television series Da Vinci’s Inquest, was also in It?
Emily Perkins: Yes, she was.
Michael J. Lee: Did you two have a scene together back then?
Emily Perkins: No. She played John Ritter’s girlfriend when he wins the architect award, I think it is.
Michael J. Lee: Speaking of John Ritter, were you or the other kids in awe when the incomparable “Jack Tripper” came onto the set?
Emily Perkins: Yeah, I was. I used to watch Three’s Company reruns when I was a kid, so I was pretty intimidated. And I would just sort of not talk to him. He was such a nice guy. Like he was a real clown. When the kids were around, he’d always come and start joking. He’d be like, “Oh, come over here,” “Hey, how’s it going?” And I’d be really shy. [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: This probably can’t be said for a lot of actors in Hollywood, but he always seemed to be a very nice and decent person.
Emily Perkins: Yeah, a really genuinely nice person, for sure.
Michael J. Lee: He had such a remarkable talent for comedy and made so many people laugh that his untimely death seemed all the more tragic.
Emily Perkins: Yeah, it was really sad to hear about that. He was a really talented person and a nice person, which I guess is a pretty rare combination.
Michael J. Lee: You had a small part in Prozac Nation as a girl who is autistic. Did you have to do any special research for that role?
Emily Perkins: No, I just auditioned, and they basically said, “Can you pretend that you’re severely autistic and that you’re upset about something?” So I tried to do that. I didn’t have any lines or anything.
Michael J. Lee: While you were filming that movie, were you aware that your character is probably the happiest character in a story filled with depressed people?
Emily Perkins: [laughs] Well, I read the book when I was 19, so I knew what it was about, and the characters were all pretty depressed. But I didn’t really think of her as being necessarily one way or the other.
Michael J. Lee: By any chance, did you audition for the main role in that movie, played by Christina Ricci?
Emily Perkins: No. I don’t really get auditions for large parts for American shows.
Michael J. Lee: Even though it was filmed in Vancouver?
Emily Perkins: Yeah. They usually cast larger roles in L.A. It is possible to get an audition for a larger role, I think, if you have an American agent, which I don’t. So I don’t tend to get a chance for those roles.
Michael J. Lee: [light switch gets flipped on] So that’s why we’re not getting to see you in higher profile gigs in U.S. films! We’re really being deprived here in the States…
Emily Perkins: [laughs] Oh, thanks.
Michael J. Lee: You had a brief onscreen moment in Insomnia. Did you audition only for the role of the girl who delivers the eulogy at her friend’s funeral?
Emily Perkins: Yeah, just for that small part.
Michael J. Lee: That film credits you as Emily Jane Perkins, but other sources list your middle name as Jean. Which is it, really?
Emily Perkins: Jean.
Michael J. Lee: Your Ginger Snaps co-star Katharine Isabelle mentioned that she got into a poker game with Al Pacino and a bunch of producers. Did you get involved in that?
Emily Perkins: No.
Michael J. Lee: Any interest in the game? You’d have quite an edge, given your psychology background, acting ability, disarmingly youthful look, and general insight.
Emily Perkins: Oh, thanks. [laughs] Maybe, I don’t know. I’ve never tried it.
Michael J. Lee: Mimi Rogers, another of your Ginger Snaps co-stars, was making the rounds on celebrity poker shows. She was pretty good at talking trash to opponents, one of whom was Carrie Fisher.
Emily Perkins: [laughs] That’s funny. Two smart women, I’d imagine. Well, I know Mimi is really smart. I’m sure Carrie Fisher is, too.
Michael J. Lee: You’ve had appearances in a couple of movies based on the Christy stories from novelist Catherine Marshall. Did you focus on the women’s issues in those films, like Christy working for respect or the subplot concerning women’s suffrage?
Emily Perkins: Well, I didn’t read the script before I auditioned for it. I actually read for a different character than I ended up getting.
Michael J. Lee: For which role did you originally read?
Emily Perkins: I can’t remember her name, but the girl that is the girlfriend of my older brother in the movie. She’s just talking about how she wants to move in with him, and they’ll have a house or something. I can’t remember. But it wasn’t very feminist! [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: Your character Zady Spencer was quite young. About how old was she?
Emily Perkins: That girl was supposed to be like 12.
Michael J. Lee: Many of your scenes were with Lauren Lee Smith, who played Zady’s teacher and title character, Christy. Was it odd playing such a young student opposite an actress who is actually younger than you?
Emily Perkins: Not really. I’ve always been in pretty good touch with my inner child, you could say. [laughs] I’m used to being perceived as younger than I am. The last couple years, I’ve started to look a lot older. But before that, I did really look like a teenager, and people would always think that I was. That’s just part of life for me. But it’s kind of good in a way. People tend to take their guard down around children, so you can really see people more clearly, I think. Children have a more accurate perception of adults for some things. They can’t necessarily articulate it, but I think that’s what allows them to grow so quickly. They can be very good at imitating adults, because adults let it all hang out, essentially.
Michael J. Lee: Looking younger than you are is such a great thing in real life, but can it be a hindrance for an actor or actress?
Emily Perkins: Yeah, definitely. Part of the reason why it’s hard for me to get auditions now is because I am sort of thought of as being really hard to place age-wise, for example. I don’t really fit into any of the molds for the various characters that tend to come up repeatedly when they’re casting. And it’s really hard. Casting directors think of me as a child actor. There are some casting directors that I haven’t seen since I was 13, and there are so many shows that I’ve never auditioned for just because that’s what happens to a lot of child actors. It’s really hard for casting directors to know where you can fit in because you’re so much older than you actually play. And sometimes that doesn’t work because your mind is too advanced. Like it’s hard for me to play a bubble-headed, typical 16 year old girl. I have to play a character that has a little bit more meat, somewhere where I can direct my energy.
Michael J. Lee: Like your Ginger Snaps character Brigitte?
Emily Perkins: Exactly.
Michael J. Lee: You put on a noticeable accent in the Christy films. In what region did those stories take place?
Emily Perkins: It was rural Tennessee.
Michael J. Lee: Having been born in Vancouver and having lived here all your life, what accent would you say Canadians most readily associate with Americans?
Emily Perkins: Hmmm…I guess it would sort of be a hybrid between the South and the Midwest. Just a little bit slackjaw, I guess. That’s what I think of.
Michael J. Lee: Americans typically think that Canadians say “eh!” all the time. But I haven’t heard any of that in my time here in Vancouver. Is this just a myth, or do Canadians really say that?
Emily Perkins: They do, but they don’t say it as much here. I just got back from Winnipeg and everyone was saying it there. “Eh!” I really noticed it. It seemed alien to me, though, too.
Michael J. Lee: A lot of Americans also think that Canadians say “aboot” rather than “about,” but I’ve found it to be less pronounced than the alleged oo sound.
Emily Perkins: Yeah, it’s just more clipped, and Canadians speak more quickly. Well, you speak very quickly I noticed, so it’s an L.A. thing, maybe?
Michael J. Lee: Sorry. But yeah, I know your time is valuable. Caffeine doesn’t help, either. [points to melted Frappuccino]
In 2000’s critically acclaimed cult hit Ginger Snaps, Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle play the Fitzgerald sisters, Brigitte and Ginger, who find themselves dealing with a physical and metaphorical transformation after Ginger is bitten by a werewolf. In the 2004 follow-up Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, Emily reprises her role as the stalwart Brigitte alongside actress Tatiana Maslany, who plays a curious, enigmatic girl simply called Ghost.In part three of our exclusive five-part interview with Emily Perkins, Emily takes us behind the scenes and offers her thoughts on these two films.
Michael J. Lee: Your character in 1990’s It was about 12 years old, and your character in 2000’s Ginger Snaps was about 15 years old. Is it nice being able to play only 3 years older a decade later?
Emily Perkins: [laughs] Uh, yeah? It was really nice. Obviously, if I didn’t look younger than I am, I wouldn’t have that opportunity. But it was really nice because I had had some distance between me and adolescence at that point, so I think that allowed me to add a layer to the performance.
Michael J. Lee: You mentioned elsewhere that you don’t particularly enjoy hearing your voice or seeing yourself on camera. In a behind the scenes clip for Ginger Snaps, director John Fawcett is filming you and co-star Katharine Isabelle sitting around the set, and you seem humorously averse to being filmed. Did you know ahead of time that that segment was being recorded for the DVD extras?
Emily Perkins: I don’t know, I think we were just fooling around. I’m a lot more comfortable in front of the camera when I have a character to hide behind. But when it’s actually just me hanging out–God, it’s embarrassing! [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: [smiles] Well, it wasn’t that embarrassing…
Emily Perkins: [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: Also in the behind the scenes, your hair is very short. Why did you cut it before Ginger Snaps? Was it for another role?
Emily Perkins: No, it wasn’t. Actually, I had already been to the first audition for Ginger Snaps, but I hadn’t heard anything and it had been like a month, and I had always kind of wanted to shave my head. I guess it was a starting over point. And I had nothing on the horizon except university, so I just thought, “Well, now’s the perfect time to do it.” So I shaved my head, and then a couple weeks later they called and said, “Yeah, you’re shortlisted for Ginger Snaps and the director’s in town, he wants to see you.” And I was like, “Oh, I have to tell you something, I shaved my head.” And my agent was like, “Oh, no!” [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: But obviously they were able to look past that, and you ended up getting the part.
Emily Perkins: They used the wig, yeah. But I think it caused a little bit of a delay in me being cast because they weren’t too sure.
Michael J. Lee: Would you not have had the wig if…
Emily Perkins: If I had kept my hair long, I wouldn’t have had the wig.
Michael J. Lee: But the wig actually works for that role, don’t you think?
Emily Perkins: Yeah, it adds to the character, for sure.
Michael J. Lee: You have mentioned that your first impression of Ginger Snaps was that it seemed like a porno movie for adolescent boys. What scenes in the audition process made you think that?
Emily Perkins: One of the scenes was the scene where Brigitte was straddling Ginger and she’s piercing her belly button, and just sort of the way it was written, to me, taken out of context, was very sexual. And there definitely is that subtext to it, but out of context it doesn’t make a lot of sense for a feminist kind of sensibility. And the other one was the scene where Brigitte actually gets all dolled up with Ginger. In the original script, Brigitte sort of goes along with the transformation of Ginger instead of fighting it the way she does, and they walk into the high school, and they’re wearing skimpy outfits, and all the boys are whistling at the both of them. So those two together just seemed kind of, “Hmmm…”
Michael J. Lee: If you had discovered that your first impression was correct and Ginger Snaps turned out to be a totally exploitative teen hormone flick, would you have turned it down?
Emily Perkins: Yeah, I would have.
Michael J. Lee: Have you turned down roles elsewhere for similar reasons?
Emily Perkins: I don’t tend to have the opportunity to be part of stuff like that. They tend to look for the typical babe, and I don’t really fit that role, so I don’t get that.
Michael J. Lee: You’ve made that comment in past interviews. Don’t you think you’re being a little down on yourself?
Emily Perkins: Uh, no. [laughs] I don’t think so.
Michael J. Lee: [surprised] You don’t think so?
Emily Perkins: Well, I’ve read a lot of comments about how ugly I am, and stuff, and I shouldn’t be allowed to be on screen.
Michael J. Lee: [falters; left cerebral hemisphere apparently chokes] Well…Who? Wha–like critics?
Emily Perkins: There have been film critics that have hinted at that, but they’re not, obviously, so blatant, because I guess they don’t want people to think they’re that mean.
Michael J. Lee: But good things are said about the movie for the most part–the negative attacks must just be nonsense from idiots.
Emily Perkins: Definitely most things have been very positive about the movie. But usually when I go for auditions, it’ll say, “not necessarily attractive” or “does not have to be attractive” or stuff like that, you know what I mean? It’s not that I think I’m ugly, it’s just that actors and actresses tend to have a certain standard for the way they look. And it doesn’t appeal to everybody–some people say they all look the same, and they kind of do. But it’s a very narrow view of what is attractive.
Michael J. Lee: [recomposed] Several filmed scenes were cut from Ginger Snaps, including one in which Brigitte directly threatens the school principal. That scene seemed to unnecessarily hammer away the message that she was coming out of Ginger’s shadow, something that is already told by the rest of the story in a more subtle way. While filming that scene, did you think it didn’t fit Brigitte?
Emily Perkins: I thought that scene did fit the character, but I know what you mean. Because you do see that transformation in Brigitte’s character just by focusing on the relationship between Brigitte and Ginger. Like Brigitte’s starting to just tell off Ginger at that point anyway, so you don’t really need to see her doing it in a public kind of way with the principal.
Michael J. Lee: Were there always plans to make a sequel to Ginger Snaps, or was that something that came up later?
Emily Perkins: Well, I remember an idea just being tossed around when we did the original that the people hoped it would do well, and they had hoped there might be a sequel at some point.
Michael J. Lee: Did they always envision bringing back Brigitte and Ginger, or were they thinking of doing a similar story with different characters?
Emily Perkins: I think that they wanted to use the same actors all along. But the writers did change, so I guess any ideas that the original writer might have had for a sequel were not used.
Michael J. Lee: In Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, you do a great job of portraying the same character, but in a different light.
Emily Perkins: Oh, thanks.
Michael J. Lee: We recognize the character of Brigitte, and yet at the same time, it’s obvious she has grown–she is stronger, more independent, and more self-reliant. Although it’s never mentioned, how old would you say Brigitte is in the sequel?
Emily Perkins: I think it’s a couple of years later. I think she’s maybe 17 or something like that.
Michael J. Lee: Audiences also hear no mention of her parents from the original, and her last name is similarly omitted. Was this all part of conscious effort to strip her of identity?
Emily Perkins: Yeah, I think they were just trying to make this character as lonely as possible in every way. She’s really becoming the outsider in the most complete way possible. She’s totally marginalized and cut off from her identity, and I think that sort of prepares her for going through this–the ultimate identity transformation, just being removed from society and removed from socially prescribed notions of identity, like having your last name even! [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: One thing that is carried over from the first film to the second is a family picture of Brigitte and Ginger. Was that an artist’s rendition, or was it a merging of two photos of you and Katharine Isabelle when you were younger?
Emily Perkins: Yeah, they merged two photos.
Michael J. Lee: You’re the returning star in the Ginger Snaps 2 sequel and the Ginger Snaps 3 prequel, and you obviously have a creative streak of your own. Did you get creative input into the story of these films?
Emily Perkins: On the sequel, a little bit, but on the prequel, no, not really.
Michael J. Lee: So what kind of behind-the-camera influence did you have on Unleashed?
Emily Perkins: Well, I was always kind of opposed to a big sex scene that was cut out of the sequel. [laughs] So I made that pretty clear. It was shot in Edmonton, and when I first went there a few weeks before, the script was in a fairly early stage. A lot of it was written in the last two weeks before production, which was kind of scary, but it was good for me because I was there and I got to have some say–just a lot of little things with the plot. I went through the script with the director and the producers and the writer, and I was like, “Well, I don’t understand, this doesn’t make sense for Brigitte to be going here at this point, or to be trusting Ghost with that at that point. Why is she? Ghost has to say something here. Why doesn’t Brigitte try and get Ghost to leave at this point? I don’t think she’d want to have Ghost around because…” and they said, “Okay, we better make her say that.” [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: That’s very cool that they let you have input like that.
Emily Perkins: Yeah, it was. It was really neat for me.
Michael J. Lee: And it’s even cooler that they listened to you…
Emily Perkins: Yeah.
Michael J. Lee: The Ginger Snaps films have some very atmospheric music at times. What are your own tastes in music?
Emily Perkins: Uh, hmmm…I like world music. And, ummm…I like pretty much everything. I guess everybody says that. [laughs] I really like Cat Power–this woman named Chan Marshall. On her last album, she just happened to have this song called “Werewolf.” They tried to get it for the soundtrack of Unleashed, but it was too expensive. [laughs] But this was just a coincidence that they heard this song, because I was playing it in my trailer because I’ve liked Cat Power for a long time.
Michael J. Lee: In the behind the scenes footage for Ginger Snaps 2, you talk about suffering for your art…
Emily Perkins: [laughs] Oh, yeah.
Michael J. Lee: Then you show some bruises on your legs. You can’t leave us hanging, what was the story behind that?
Emily Perkins: The bruises?!
Michael J. Lee: Were you falling down a lot?
Emily Perkins: It was because right before that, we had been filming the part where I was crawling through the tunnel. And also, there might have been a bit where we’re in the crematorium. But, anyway, those pants had these buttons on them–those brown pants had these big snap things. And so when I was crawling through there, they were like gouging into me! [laughs] I don’t know, it’s just when you’re filming actiony stuff and you’re like running around, or whenever you have to kneel down and stuff like that, it just happens. Pretty much everything I’ve ever done that had any action element, my legs were just covered in bruises, I don’t know why. [laughs] It just happens.
Michael J. Lee: [laughing] I just wanted to make sure they weren’t beating up on you to keep Brigitte anti-social–like director William Friedkin slapping around actors and priests on the set of The Exorcist to get the right emotion out of them.
Emily Perkins: [laughs] Nope, I’d never put up with that.
Michael J. Lee: Just slap ’em back!
Emily Perkins: Yeah, that’s what I’d do, for sure. [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: A fair number of fans have expressed unhappiness with the ending of Ginger Snaps 2. What are your thoughts on the way the story wrapped up?
Emily Perkins: It went through some mutations at the end. That was re-written quite a few times. But I liked the twist with Ghost–I really like that character. So I sort of liked that, but it is pretty depressing. [laughs] I guess that’s probably why some fans don’t like it. Metaphorically, it made sense to me, and that’s sort of how I had reconciled it in my own head. That really is the sort of fate of women when we have to adopt the sexual feminine persona that society tells you you have to.
Michael J. Lee: Do you think it was an appropriate fate for Brigitte?
Emily Perkins: You mean like morally, like some sort of judgement? No. I think ideally, Brigitte would find some sort of communal way of living with other werewolves. Like she would go find this community of werewolves to live in and they would function in some kind of heroic capacity. Like they would use their superhuman strength to like [laughing] enact feminist revenge on rapists or something…I don’t know! She would do something really cool like that.
Michael J. Lee: [laughs] Law enforcing werewolves? That’s not one you see very often…
Emily Perkins: Yeah, I don’t know, I’m just like guessing. But I think that if you’re asking what Brigitte deserves, she would deserve something better. I see her as very heroic. She battled the werewolf virus till the end, and she never let it control her.
Michael J. Lee: What other actions do you think demonstrate Brigitte’s emergence as the hero?
Emily Perkins: She doesn’t want other people to die. I think she makes that pretty clear. She wants to protect Ghost, and even when Alice comes in at the end, she wants Alice to get out of there so that nobody else gets hurt. And I think that’s the reason why she doesn’t just kill herself, and she actually decides to fight the werewolf, because she wants to protect people the best she can. She’d like to kill the wolf so it doesn’t kill anyone else.
Michael J. Lee: The story already has plenty of conflict with Brigitte battling her own infection of the werewolf virus. Why add an external conflict of another werewolf stalking her?
Emily Perkins: I think it’s just because these are monster movies, and it’s just for better horror, I guess. And metaphorically, it makes sense, too. If you think of the werewolf as being a metaphor for a social construction of female sexuality, then that is something that’s imposed externally, but also something that comes from the inside–it’s a biological development. It’s where those two things meet on the surface that the dynamic, interesting part happens. It’s this sexual tension between the two, the outside and the inside. I think it’s more interesting that way.
Michael J. Lee: One of the most poignant moments is between Brigitte and Ghost, when Brigitte expresses that what she really wants is “more time.” Was that scene shot several times, or did you nail it perfectly on the first take?
Emily Perkins: As I recall, we were in a bit of a rush that day. [laughing] But there was time pressure, man! We were like, “Let’s get this done! Let’s go!” We were even considering block shooting a lot of those sad scenes, which I’m really glad we didn’t. If you’re block shooting, that would mean we would shoot my angle of a bunch of different scenes, and then we’d shoot Ghost’s angle of a bunch of different scenes, which just makes it hard for the actors because then you’re not just focused on one moment in the plot, you’re focusing on three different moments in the plot, which sort of splits your energy. [laughs] So we didn’t have to do it too many times. I think I probably did it twice.
Michael J. Lee: There’s a real sadness conveyed as Brigitte comes to a sort of realization that it’s over.
Emily Perkins: Poor Brigitte! [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: Visually, one of the more striking scenes has you wolfing out on a bed as Katharine Isabelle slowly emerges out of a darkened corner of the room. Any thoughts on that shot?
Emily Perkins: I don’t know, because I haven’t actually seen the movie.
Michael J. Lee: [surprised] You’ve never seen the entire, finished movie?
Emily Perkins: Nope. And I never saw that shot on the monitor. Not that you can tell on the monitor anyway. So I don’t know.
Michael J. Lee: What was the most difficult scene to shoot for you?
Emily Perkins: It was the shot right after the beginning when Jeremy gets attacked by the werewolf and I sort of stagger out. And I’m staggering along and I fall in the snow. It was minus 40, plus they had a wind machine, and it was really cold. [laughs] It was like so cold!
Michael J. Lee: More suffering for your art?
Emily Perkins: [laughs] I hate to complain, but that was probably the hardest thing, physically.
Michael J. Lee: Was there something that you had always wanted to do as an actress that you got to do in this movie?
Emily Perkins: Yeah, wearing the makeup. I loved that. A lot of actors hate it, but I totally, completely enjoyed that. I loved going in the makeup chair in the morning. The guys who did the prosthetics were just awesome. They were like this comedy duo. So I enjoyed that, but just also looking at myself in the mirror and feeling this aspect of me that was inside was actually being exposed to the world. That’s a really neat feeling, because you always sort of harbor these suspicions that maybe you’re a monster inside–that you’re alien, you know? Everyone has that part of them, I guess, and to have that and to go through this total transformation is just sort of the ultimate experience as an actress for me.
Michael J. Lee: Any problems with all the prosthetics?
Emily Perkins: Well, it’s definitely debilitating. [laughs] Like you have to have someone help you eat. And when I had the yellow eyes, it was two layers of contact lenses, so your vision’s very limited. And as an actor, you already feel very infantilized, so it just increased that feeling.
Michael J. Lee: Do you ever do any DVD audio commentary for your films?
Emily Perkins: No. I totally wanted to do one for Unleashed, but no, they didn’t ask. [laughs] They were considering it, but I guess in the end they decided it would be the distributors that would make that decision.
Michael J. Lee: The Canadian version of the first Ginger Snaps has commentary from director John Fawcett and writer Karen Walton, but nothing from the cast. Would you have wanted to do a commentary track for that film as well?
Emily Perkins: Yeah, it would have been fun.
Michael J. Lee: Do you think you would have been able to offer a lot of insight?
Emily Perkins: Well, I would have been able to say things probably in a little bit different way just because I have a different educational background, and just because it is different when you’re performing a character as opposed to writing it. Being in front of the camera as opposed to being behind it, you have a little bit different perspective on the production.
In its third and final installment, the Ginger Snaps trilogy does what few horror franchises are prepared to do: it unapologetically takes on creative risks in an effort to produce something unique. This prequel, set against the uncommon backdrop of an 18th century Canadian wilderness, finds Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle portraying early incarnations of their original Ginger Snaps characters, Brigitte and Ginger.In part four of our exclusive five-part interview with Emily Perkins, Emily gives us a glimpse of Ginger Snaps 3 and discusses her relationship with her onscreen alter-ego Brigitte.
Michael J. Lee: At this point, what can you tell us about the story for Ginger Snaps 3?
Emily Perkins: Well, I can tell a little bit. It takes place in 1815. I guess everybody knows that. It kind of parallels the first movie in that it’s Ginger that is bitten, and she goes through the transformation. But it’s in a different way. The transformation looks different in this movie.
Michael J. Lee: Is there still the underlying metaphor of female sexuality?
Emily Perkins: Yes, definitely, but in a different context. In this one, it’s more contextualized within this framework of the patriarchy. There’s a lot of men in this movie, and it takes place in a fort that’s dominated by men, so it draws out that part of the metaphor a little bit more clearly.
Michael J. Lee: With Ginger being infected, is Brigitte in her shadow as she was in the original? What is Brigitte like this time around?
Emily Perkins: I would say that the girls are more equal in the prequel. But I think that for me, actor-wise, there’s a sort of feminine quality to Brigitte in the prequel that’s not there in the other two movies. It’s partly to do with the hair and the makeup and the wardrobe, but also the way she carries herself–she’s not hunched. She’s more sort of pretty, I guess. And she’s more acceptable in some ways. She’s less of an outsider in just her character in the beginning of the movie. She’s very strong in the third movie, but in a more feminine kind of way.
Michael J. Lee: In the film’s trailer, there are a few scenes where you have a wicked Angel of Death thing going on with a white dress and black eyes…
Emily Perkins: Yeah, that was fun!
Michael J. Lee: Can you explain what those scenes are about?
Emily Perkins: Well…
Michael J. Lee: A dream sequence?
Emily Perkins: It’s kind of like a dream sequence. It’s not exactly a dream sequence. I can’t be too specific about that. [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: Mysticism?
Emily Perkins: Yeah, it is a little bit of mysticism, definitely. It enhances the whole mythology of the werewolf. It really does shed a lot of light on the other two movies. I think fans of the other two movies are really going to enjoy it because there are so many little hints dropped and references to the other two films in terms of explaining why this is. I think it’s going to be really fun to watch.
Michael J. Lee: The original Ginger Snaps was geared more toward story than action, whereas the sequel favored a bit more action. What would you say is the “action to story” ratio in the prequel?
Emily Perkins: Well, it’s hard to say because the story is so tied up with the story of the other two. I don’t know about the ratio to action to story, I never really even thought about that before. [laughs] There’s a lot of action.
Michael J. Lee: What new challenges did the prequel present?
Emily Perkins: Partly the speech. It was really hard for Katie and me to come to an agreement on how period we were going to make our speech. At first, they sort of toyed with the idea of us having accents or something like that, because you have to make your speech a little bit more proper, right? It can’t be quite so colloquial or modern sounding. And Katie tends to be very sort of guyish and modern with the way she speaks, whereas I tend to articulate a little bit more. And I do that naturally, so for me, the tendency was to go too much that way, and for her, the tendency was to go too much the other way. And she adlibs, too. She’ll throw in things like “Ummm” and that kind of thing that don’t really fit the period. [laughs] So we had to sort of both balance it out and try to come to a happy medium. But you’ll probably notice it when you watch it though.
Michael J. Lee: Obviously, you can’t have, [bad impression of that Finding Nemo turtle] “Dude, you’ve totally been bitten by a werewolf, man, it’s like wild!”
Emily Perkins: Yeah. [laughs] And I think for fans that don’t like the ending of Unleashed because it’s so depressing, you have to understand that that’s not the last movie–this is the last movie and this is the real ending even though it comes before, because it’s all sort of about incarnations of the same story or the same principles. So you have to understand that this is the real ending, and it’s much better. It’s more satisfying, I think.
Michael J. Lee: Do you have a favorite film in the Ginger Snaps trilogy, or do you look at it as one project?
Emily Perkins: Yeah, I look at it as one unit. But they each have a special element for me. Like Unleashed is really special to me because I loved working with Tatiana Maslany, who played Ghost. We had a really great relationship. I really enjoyed having that. It was a lot of fun, because we’re really similar actors in terms of process.
Michael J. Lee: She also surprised me at how…
Emily Perkins: …how old she was?
Michael J. Lee: Yes. Ghost is supposed to be about 12, and she’s really 18?
Emily Perkins: Well, she was 17 at the time. I guess she was supposed to be like 13 or something.
Michael J. Lee: Have you already started to officially promote the prequel?
Emily Perkins: We’ll be starting in the beginning of July. We’re going to be at the Montreal Fantasia film festival.
Michael J. Lee: Being tied to a horror franchise, have you ever attended any of these conventions?
Emily Perkins: No, I’d love to though. If anyone would invite me, I would so love to go. That would be awesome.
Michael J. Lee: Couldn’t you just call up and tell them you’re coming? I would think they’d be happy to have you.
Emily Perkins: Really? [laughs] I don’t know!
Michael J. Lee: Especially if they’re screening the film, I would think they would love to have the star of the movie there.
Emily Perkins: That would be cool. I just like to talk about the makeup and stuff like that. That kind of transformation and being alien is just so neat.
Michael J. Lee: Is the transformation angle the most appealing thing about the makeup for you?
Emily Perkins: Yeah, I guess so. And also, I really like the effect that it has on your interactions with people. When you look like that, people that you talk to everyday suddenly are all tense and they kind of look at you funny and stuff. It’s just really neat. It’s what I’d imagine it would be like if you dressed in a huge fat suit like some actors do, and they go out as an experiment and see how people are different. It’s just really fascinating.
Michael J. Lee: Will you be doing any traveling to Los Angeles in support of the U.S. release?
Emily Perkins: No. Not that I know of, anyway.
Michael J. Lee: Have you done that for the other two films, or has all the promotion been in Canada?
Emily Perkins: It’s all been in Canada pretty much, yeah.
Michael J. Lee: You’re so good at playing Brigitte that many people think that she is you, as opposed to being a performance of yours. Does any part of you resent being associated with Brigitte in that way?
Emily Perkins: No. Well, obviously it’s a mistake to confuse a person with their character, because that’s just really a part of me. But I don’t resent being associated with it because that is a very true aspect of me. That was part of who I was, especially when I was a teenager.
Michael J. Lee: A few reporters who have met you in person have expressed unusual surprise that you’re pretty. Do you see that as an insult, or as a compliment to your totally convincing performance as Brigitte?
Emily Perkins: Well it’s a little bit of an insult in that people seem so happy. “Oh, she’s actually not that ugly!” or, “She’s not that dark and scary.” And that sort of makes me feel sad because that is me, too, on film, right? And I like Brigitte!
Michael J. Lee: Don’t you think it’s more of a reaction to the character’s wardrobe and demeanor?
Emily Perkins: But it hurts partly because Brigitte’s so not socially acceptable. That kind of person is equally deserving of being seen as a potential friend, or as an agreeable, acceptable person. It’s just too bad.
Michael J. Lee: People are always too fooled by the wardrobe. What about all those bad movies where the popular guy makes a bet that he turn “the ugliest girl in school” into the prom queen? They always get an attractive girl and just slap glasses on her, and all of a sudden she’s an outcast, you know?
Emily Perkins: Yeah. [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: So we won’t be seeing a book from you in 20 years entitled I’m Not Brigitte?
Emily Perkins: Right. [laughs] Not at all.
Michael J. Lee: Having seen many of your other performances, I enjoy watching how “un-Brigitte” you are in those various roles. Do you think your other characters have all been fairly diverse?
Emily Perkins: I think that they’ve all been pretty different. But there’s definitely a motif of the suffering, victimized, or the outsider in some way. That’s definitely a running pattern.
Michael J. Lee: If I had to pull out a recurring theme in your career, it’s not that you ever play the same role–it’s the fact that everyone around your character seems to die!
Emily Perkins: [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: Quick recap. Small Sacrifices: sister dies. Broken Pledges: brother dies. Insomnia: friend dies. In Cold Blood: whole family gets slaughtered. It, Past Perfect, and the Ginger Snaps trilogy: all sorts of people die. Does anyone die in Anything to Survive?
Emily Perkins: Everybody almost dies. [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: [laughing] Even in Christy, where I didn’t think there would be a whole lot of death…
Emily Perkins: …the mother dies! [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: Yes, the mother dies and you’re crying at her funeral!
Emily Perkins: Yeah, that’s true, I never thought of that.
In part five of our exclusive five-part interview with Emily Perkins, Emily discusses her television work, including her recurring role on the highly acclaimed television series Da Vinci’s Inquest, details some of the hardships of being a Canadian actress, and touches upon future prospects.
Michael J. Lee: You’ve guest starred on several television shows during your career. What was The Odyssey?
Emily Perkins: Oh, that was a kid’s show. It was a YTV show.
Michael J. Lee: You were also in the X-Files fifth season episode “All Souls.” Is it true that Katharine Isabelle’s father was associated with the series?
Emily Perkins: He was the production designer, yep.
Michael J. Lee: Even though the episodes preceded Ginger Snaps by about two years, did that have anything to do with you and Katharine both being cast in guest spots? Did you know someone, for example, who suggested you for the role?
Emily Perkins: Nope. That didn’t have anything to do with it for me. I had auditioned for it a few times. Actually, the role that she got was like between the two of us, and she got the part.
Michael J. Lee: So they offered you the other “All Souls” role instead?
Emily Perkins: Well, I just came back and auditioned for the other one–the nephilim. [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: In that episode, you played, as you stated, the nephilim–a set of quadruplets who are supposedly angelic offspring and who are getting killed off by a paranormal force. Was it difficult when you had to play corpses with their eyes burnt out?
Emily Perkins: You just have to be still. It was pretty easy. Well, you can imagine. All you do is hold your breath. [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: You also guest starred on an episode of the 2002 version of The Twilight Zone. Were you a fan of the original series?
Emily Perkins: Yeah, I liked The Twilight Zone, for sure.
Michael J. Lee: What classic episode would you count as one of your favorites?
Emily Perkins: I liked the episode where these little people come attack this woman in a farm house, and you think they’re Martians, but then you realize they’re not the aliens, they’re from earth. I loved that one.
Michael J. Lee: You played Frankenstein author Mary Shelley in an episode of the TV series Mentors, a show about a couple of kids who use a time machine to meet famous historical figures. That project looked like it was a lot of fun.
Emily Perkins: Yeah, it was.
Michael J. Lee: And even though it’s a kid’s show, it’s a quality one, right?
Emily Perkins: It is. It’s educational.
Michael J. Lee: Is it rewarding to be on something like that, where you know you’re contributing to kids learning?
Emily Perkins: Oh yeah, totally, for sure. And especially to play Mary Shelley. Again, it sort of conduces the horror motif, but…
Michael J. Lee: …but nobody died this time.
Emily Perkins: Nobody died.
Michael J. Lee: What’s the casting process in a show like that? Do they ask their guest stars what roles they’d like to do, or do they list off the roles and have the actors go for whichever one they’d like?
Emily Perkins: They just called me to audition for that part because the director was a fan of Ginger Snaps, and he just thought that I’d be perfect to play Mary Shelley in it.
Michael J. Lee: As Mary Shelley, you got to put on an English accent.
Emily Perkins: Yep, it was just a fun accent for kids. [laughs] I’m quite sure it was not historically accurate…at all! It was just a fun thing.
Michael J. Lee: There’s a scene where Mary Shelley is cautiously trying a piece of Pizza Hut pizza, which is as surreal as Bram Stoker chowing down on a Big Mac or Edgar Allan Poe reaching for that last chip in a Pringles can. Was that cold, disgusting prop pizza they had you eating?
Emily Perkins: It was cold, for sure. I was kind of wondering about how long it had been sitting around, but they assured me that it was fine! [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: Katharine Isabelle was also in an episode of Mentors, playing Helen Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan.
Emily Perkins: I actually played her in our school play!
Michael J. Lee: So you know all about her…
Emily Perkins: Yeah.
Michael J. Lee: Coincidentally, there was a recent episode of Jeopardy where the Final Jeopardy answer (or question, depending on how you look at it) was Frankenstein, and another answer was Anne Sullivan. So I have to admit a kid’s show like Mentors helped me on that one.
Emily Perkins: So you did well on that Jeopardy? [laughs] I love it when that happens. It’s such a self-esteem boost when you do well on Jeopardy.
Michael J. Lee: Your big television project at the moment is a recurring role on the highly acclaimed Canadian series Da Vinci’s Inquest. How long have you been playing your character Sue?
Emily Perkins: This will be the fourth season.
Michael J. Lee: You were also on the 1990 TV series Mom P.I. Do you enjoy working on episodic television?
Emily Perkins: Yep. It’s neat because your character has a chance to develop and evolve over time, so yeah.
Michael J. Lee: Your Da Vinci’s Inquest character is recurring, but does she recur often?
Emily Perkins: I’m in the majority of the episodes.
Michael J. Lee: For those of us in the States who don’t get the show, could you tell us a little about Sue and her background?
Emily Perkins: She’s a sex trade worker and she’s drug addicted, and she’s an informant. So basically, most of her scenes are giving information on what’s going down on the street. [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: You were nominated for two Leo awards for your work on this show. Is that the Canadian equivalent of the American Emmy that recognizes achievement in television?
Emily Perkins: No, it’s not Canadian, it’s just for B.C. So I don’t know if you have awards that are just for California, say. It’s a provincial award.
Michael J. Lee: Still, a nice accomplishment. For which categories were you nominated?
Emily Perkins: I won the Leo last year for Best Supporting Actress, and then this year I was nominated in a different category, but I didn’t win. The one last year that I won for was called “Dogs Don’t Bite People” and then the one for this year was “Bury My Own Bones.”
Michael J. Lee: [loads question] Were you ticked off at not having won this year?
Emily Perkins: No! [laughs] Of course not!
Michael J. Lee: Just happy to be nominated, right?
Emily Perkins: Yeah, for sure.
Michael J. Lee: Sue’s story arc at the end of last season involved her being threatened by a corrupt police officer. Is that story continuing into next season?
Emily Perkins: Well, now they pretty much have all the evidence to get this bad cop, but he wasn’t arrested as of the last episode. And he knows that my character Sue has all the information, and he’s using her to frame this city councilor. That’s where they left off, so you think that my character’s life is in danger because he’s probably going to try and kill me next. [laughs] I’d be next on his list.
Michael J. Lee: Do you know what’s in store for your character for this upcoming seventh season?
Emily Perkins: No. I know I’m in this season, but I have no idea what’s going to happen.
Michael J. Lee: It seems that in a show like this, your type of character could be killed at any moment. Is that something that you worry about?
Emily Perkins: Yeah, a little bit. Like I kind of wonder whenever I hear from Chris Haddock, the creator. I kind of think, “Oh, God, is this going to be the kiss of death? Is he going to tell me, ‘Sorry, but Sue’s going to die'”?
Michael J. Lee: Does playing someone like Sue conflict with your outlook as a feminist, or do you just accept the fact that there are women like that in the world, and you’re just portraying one of them?
Emily Perkins: Well, I think of her as being a product of her society, and she’s trying to do the best that she can with her limited resources. And I like the character. I think she’s a pretty complex character. She’s sympathetic, but at the same time, she’s just so stupid sometimes! [laughs] She just makes a lot of bad choices. So yeah, I think of it as a feminist kind of character not in itself, but in the context of the show, which has a strong social conscience, a political perspective. And just the fact that I have the opportunity to expose the life of that, because there are so many women that have that kind of existence, I think it’s a good thing.
Michael J. Lee: So you never feel it’s stereotypical or exploitative?
Emily Perkins: No, not at all. It’s not the way the show is written.
Michael J. Lee: Any upcoming projects or auditions to speak of?
Emily Perkins: Not really. Da Vinci’s Inquest is starting next month and that’s about it. I’ve had a few auditions this year that I almost got, but then they ended up casting someone else. So I don’t know how things are going to go this year. I always seem to have trouble just getting auditions. I’ve never really had much choice in my career. Like things just come along, and I’m grateful for whatever work I can get. I haven’t really had any power of direction to direct my career.
Michael J. Lee: Is it difficult to discuss acting from a job perspective?
Emily Perkins: I don’t mind people knowing that I struggle as an actress because most Canadian actors do, and I’m not ashamed of that at all. I don’t think that’s a reflection of like my lack of merit. That’s just the reality for almost all Canadian actors. There are very few actors that can subsist on it. But so far, I’ve managed.
Michael J. Lee: I thought maybe you’d be sitting on a huge pile of Ginger Snaps money, since it was such a hit on video.
Emily Perkins: Right, but that doesn’t pay me.
Michael J. Lee: Actually, it doesn’t? No royalties?
Emily Perkins: No, I don’t see any money from the success of the films, I just get paid my lump sum at the beginning, and they were low budget movies. American actors, they make so much money. Canadian actors don’t make anywhere near what American actors make. That’s why Canadian actors all work at Starbucks. [laughs] But if they were in L.A. and doing the same amount of work, they could probably live off it.
Michael J. Lee: Is there any type of film or genre that you would like to tackle as an actress that you haven’t gotten a chance to do yet?
Emily Perkins: Well, comedy. I’d love to do comedy. And I think I have pretty good sense of comic timing, so I’d really like to try that. [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: Looking back on recent cinema, what role would you have liked to play if you had a choice of any of them?
Emily Perkins: I think I would most like to be Uma Thurman in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. That character was just so cool.
Michael J. Lee: Any aspirations to write, direct, or do anything in the film industry aside from acting?
Emily Perkins: I’ve thought about writing and I’ve just sort of experimented with that, but nothing’s really come to fruition yet. But I’m thinking at some point down the road I’d probably like to do that. I’m not sure about directing, but writing maybe.
Michael J. Lee: Have you ever been to internet sites or fan groups that are about you?
Emily Perkins: I did a while ago. I saw that there were a few out there. Yeah, it’s really cool.
Michael J. Lee: So no bad experiences, despite the fact that the internet can be this gross, disgusting contraption where people feel free to say anything?
Emily Perkins: Oh, no. People seemed really nice. It’s like, “Wow, I can’t believe people actually responded to that character so strongly that they would actually have like a fansite.” It’s just so rewarding. It’s really nice.
Michael J. Lee: You don’t think it’s scary in a stalker sort of way to have so many people talking about Emily Perkins one week, only to find them still talking about Emily Perkins the next week?
Emily Perkins: Well, I don’t think they’re really talking about Emily Perkins, they’re just talking about a character that had resonance for them. But I don’t think anyone would ever stalk me. That seems absurd. [laughs]
Michael J. Lee: So with that, do you have a message for all of your adoring, non-stalking fans out there?
Emily Perkins: Thank you for your support. It just makes me feel like a million bucks that you’re out there!
Michael J. Lee: Emily, thank you so much for your time, patience, and insight. It was wonderful to have met you.
Emily Perkins: Thanks a lot, Michael, it was a pleasure.
This concludes our five-part interview with Emily Perkins. It was a fantastic experience, but as the old adage goes, “All good things…”, right? Special thanks to Emily for being so patient, forthright, amicable, and interesting. If talent and enthusiasm actually count for anything in the entertainment industry, she should be owning the world soon enough.