An experienced and versatile film and television actor, having appeared in Fargo, Better Call Saul, and emotional drama Gifted alongside Chris Evans. This year she joined season 2 of Preacher, taking on the character of Lara Featherstone, and recently took some time to discuss the role with STARBURST.
STARBURST: Your character Lara is quite a complex one. How would you describe her to someone entirely unaware of her?
Julie Ann Emery: (laughs) And she gets more complex as the season goes on! I would say that, if I was speaking to someone who had no knowledge of her or the comics, Featherstone is a zealot. She is uber-dedicated to her cause and to The Grail. She would do absolutely anything to accomplish her mission and her goal, and by anything, I mean anything. In her mind, there is no line. And there’s very little space in her mind outside of her mission, and she’ll even do things that she would find unpleasant if other people did them. She also believes she’s one of the good guys.
It’s interesting you say that as there are blurred lines between good and evil for many of the characters.
Well, she really believes it, but very objectively speaking. I mean, I think we have that in our world. I think The Grail is very timely now for the world we live in today, and there’s something to be said for understanding an organisation like that and what their commitment level is.
Lara’s entrance is very vampish, very noirish; and you’re playing a character playing a character. How much fun was that?
It’s my favourite part of Featherstone, the transformation side to her, and I get to continue that as the season plays out. As an actor, it’s a great role. As far as my entrance goes, it felt like it was from another time; very noirish, a throwback. It’s interesting as I don’t think I fully understood how far we were going with it until I saw the set and the outfits. It was both fun and challenging as I wanted to make the character very different from Featherstone.
You mentioned the character is very single minded, but is it true you were also single minded in getting the role?
When you audition for roles you have only the time you’re given. Personally, I try and build the character and with Featherstone I felt I needed to do that. In the audition, one of the scenes was her entrance, and the other was in the van when she takes off the wig. I thought that if I can transform without the aid of hair and makeup, if I could do that then I’d have a shot. I guess we’re similar in that I’m very dedicated, and I enjoy hard work, and setting a goal and going after it. There are lines I won’t cross though (laughs)!
It sounds like you have a real affinity and understanding for the character.
I do I guess. I think I’ve grown an affinity for complex women. To be honest, I didn’t really understand Featherstone when I first read the script and that perplexed me. When you shine a light on someone, though, you start to understand them and that really turns me on. Digging into Featherstone, there’s a lot I respect about her. To be so dedicated, you realise you could achieve anything. And I love that she’s a bad-ass!
You’ve had a lot of recurring roles in some great shows, but it must be great to get a role like this that you can explore, as you say.
With a television character, you can live with them for a longer time and really get under their skin, but you shoot much faster than with film so you have to be ready. There’s a pressure to work quickly and sometimes you feel you might miss something, but I do enjoy living with her. On a movie, I wouldn’t get the opportunity to live with Featherstone for 6 months.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve been able to do, obviously without too many spoilers?
(laughs) I can’t tell you much without spoilers! I can say there are multiple, awesome things coming up but can’t say what they are. I promise there is a lot of The Grail coming, and I’m thrilled with where the character goes.
You’ve built a career with a great deal of variety in the roles you’ve played. Are you conscious of not being typecast or choosing a role similar to the previous one?
No-one wants to be typecast but I’m not sure how, personally, I’ve avoided it. I do look for things that are completely different to the role I just played. I’m really happy with how my career is; I mean who gets to move from Ida Thurman in Fargo to Betsy Kettleman in Better Call Saul and how different those characters are. It’s what really interests me; getting to know and figure out characters that are nothing like me. Maybe it’s partly down to luck.
What’s in your future?
I have a little Christmas film with Bonnie Bedelia coming out this year, and I’m working on a couple of independent films. And we’re hopeful for another series of Preacher of course!