Darker side of Emily Perkins
Emily Perkins is fierce and feral in Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed, a horror film that has her fighting the inevitable onset of lycanthropic characteristics.
Those darn werewolves! The Ginger Snaps sequel opens here Friday. Perkins, in town to promote the film, is shy and diminutive in real life and not at all furry or inclined to howl at the full moon. Just in case you were wondering.
The articulate twentysomething UBC grad was born and raised in Vancouver and still lives there, having decided against the usual trip to Los Angeles to further her career. She put acting aside to finish a degree in Psychology and Women’s Studies, which turns out to come in very handy for some of her roles — like as a werewolf, say, in Ginger Snaps. Perkins says of that, “I have a hard time watching myself on screen. The makeup is quite grotesque. On a metaphorical level I felt I was exposing a hidden part of myself, and it was like, ‘Oh, no! People are seeing the real me! The monster!’ “
She continues, “There are two sides to it. Part of it is that you look in the mirror and you’re ugly, and it’s a triumph, because it’s liberating. But another part of you has internalized the male gaze and you can’t help but look at yourself in the mainstream, sort of conventional sense, and see yourself that way.” The fact that everyone roots for the monster, says Perkins, smiling, is evidence of how subversive Ginger Snaps really is.
What’s really keeping Perkins busiest these days are her two children — and that’s why Hollywood is on the back burner. The actress has raised (and is currently adopting) her two cousins, now aged 10 and 13, because their birth parents are unable to care for them. It’s a situation that’s working for all involved.
“It’s kind of nice when altruism and self-interest coincide,” says Perkins, adding that parenting has given her faith in human nature. She readily describes her career as “off and on”, despite a long list of credits that includes a recurring role in Da Vinci’s Inquest and appearances in everything from The X-Files to Danger Bay. Her films include Past Perfect, Ginger Snaps, Broken Pledges and Insomnia.
Perkins grew up in Vancouver, the middle child in a family of three kids. A theatre group performed at her school when she was 10, and that was that. Perkins’ intense interest in the arts includes working at painting and sculpture.
But mostly, she’s enjoying the mom thing.
“Kids are incredibly sensitive and smart, and you can’t hide anything from them. Just to get myself in the right head space to help them with their problems … I used to be really self-indulgent, just letting myself get so depressed, and I’ve learned to make myself optimistic because they need that.”
“I don’t know why,” she says, shrugging it off. “Maybe just early childhood experiences, but I’ve always been a reflective person, and an introvert. I think one of the things that guards against depression is other people, and I tend to have trouble maintaining friendships. I tend to be in my own world. Kids are so open. They force us to see the good part of humanity. These two experienced such a brutal reality in their early years, and they take a little bit of love and consistency in their lives and they totally transform themselves. It’s really inspiring. They’re an example for me.”
By Liz Braun