Interview: Julie Ann Emery Talks All Things ‘Preacher’July 31, 2019
Recently we had the chance to talk with Julie Ann Emery about life as an actor and her role as Lara Featherstone on the AMC hit series Preacher.
Was acting something you always wanted to do or did that interest develop later?
Julie: I grew up very musical, singing, played three or four instruments in a school band, that sort of thing. In high school we never had a drama teacher, the local theater helped provide a drama teacher for the high school and she heard me sing in the choir and recruited me for a play. Having her enter my life was incredible, she absolutely changed my life forever, she really did.
Acting is a tough profession in terms of a career. Did you always believe this was what you were going to do or did you have a Plan B, so to speak?
Julie: I didn’t really have a Plan B but I did not think I’d be doing what I am now. I grew up in a very small town in Tennessee and the only within a hundred miles was in my hometown, called the Cumberland County Playhouse, and when I got into a theater conservatory in college, I think I thought maybe I could make a career out of doing regional theater work. Never in a million years did I think I would wind up on television, working with Oscar nominees and the amazing people I’ve been working with, I never would have predicted that.
Is television your favorite medium to work in or do you like to mix it up?
Julie: I don’t really care about the medium, I care about interesting female characters. I care about complex women, I care about interesting characters….I don’t really care if that happens on stage, on television or on a film. I think right now on television is where you’ll find the most interesting female characters but my agents will tell you that anything that comes across my desk, regardless of pay, who I’m working with, if I think the characters interesting I’ll probably say yes.
Would you consider your role as Betsy on Better Call Saul your breakout role or were you already happy with the direction of your career at that point?
Julie: I think Betsy was definitely a breakout but I think any career that lasts past five years is going to have multiple breakout moments, you know? I think Fargo and Better Call Saul were sort of the double whammy, the beginning of some interesting roles coming my way and maybe me getting some attention for it.
Television definitely has seen many great roles from women recently. How far ahead of the other mediums are they, in terms of solid roles or characters for women actors?
Julie: TV has had a lot of great roles recently, I agree, but we’re still not there in terms of gender balance on television. We’re definitely getting closer, and I want to see that trend continue as we’re getting some really complex female roles. There is still work to do, I would like to see features catch up, that’s for sure. They are still far behind TV and I mean, all you have to do is drive down the road and see posters or billboards for movies, we’re still seeing one movie and maybe five men. Interesting roles for women in movies do come along now and again but I do think features have a lot of catching up to do, both for women and diverse characters.
Speaking of great roles for women, how did you land the part of Lara on Preacher?
Julie: You know, it was the middle of pilot season in Los Angeles, which means I was reading an enormous amount of scripts, going in for a lot of stuff, and the moment I read for the part of Featherstone I called my agent and said this is it, this is the one. She’s unlike anything I’ve ever done, it’s like playing four, five even six characters. She’s very action-oriented, a nice way of saying she kills a lot of people (laughs) but she has her own agency, she considers herself to be better at her job than the men around her. Honestly, she was absolutely everything I could ever hope for.
Preacher is littered with wonderful, crazy and interesting characters. How have you enjoyed playing this character and working with the rest of the cast?
Julie: We just finished shooting, we wrapped maybe ten days ago, so I’m still trying to figure out how to say goodbye to Featherstone. She was such a complex and interesting character to play and I’m trying to figure out how I’m ever going to follow her up with anything that I don’t think is boring! (laughs) I feel really lucky to have played her and love the evolution of her. Season four is my favorite Featherstone season and it brings a new side to her that I think even surprised me. It definitely pushed me to my physical and emotional limits, and Featherstone as well, and I’m really thrilled about that. The big thing about Preacher, people expect our humor to be off-putting, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are two of our creators and producers and Sam Catlin, our showrunner, comes from the Breaking Bad world, so there’s always a lot of depth to be mined, and you’re expected to be grounded and play these historic moments for realism. The cast itself is so high end, we never want to let each other down, we all work really hard to be ready, ready to elevate your game to the next level. We all want to be there for each other and help each other do some amazing work together. It’s a real pleasure to actually do something on television that you’re challenged by on a daily basis, in the script and with the cast around you.
The dialogue on the show is brilliant. Have you enjoyed the verbal interactions with characters on the show, especially Pip Torrens who plays Herr Starr?
Julie: The relationship with Herr Starr goes places in season four that I never saw coming. Pip and I have had quite the journey together so I hope I’m sitting across from him doing scene work again somewhere down the road. Mark Harelik looked at me at one point, he plays God on the show, he looked at me at one point this season and said I think you’ve elevated deadpan! (Laughs)
What was your biggest challenge playing Featherstone, or was it perfecting the deadpan delivery?
Julie: You know in season two I worried a lot about if I was hitting the tone of the show. The tone of the show is a mash-up of a lot of different tones that you wouldn’t think would necessarily go together but they do, it’s just a matter of finding where it is and where it goes and where you’re supposed to fit inside the scenes with these tones. I’ve learned a new skill every season, season two started with stripping that Glock, and while I can’t tell you what I did this season, I did do something I’ve never done before and learned some new skills to put on my special skills resume. She’s always challenging, I don’t think I’ve gone through any three episodes with Featherstone without having to learn a new skill or thinking, I don’t know how I’m going to pull that off. That’s really exciting, to be able to do that kind of work on television, it’s really an exciting place to be.
So what other projects do you have coming up?
Julie: I have a couple of movies coming out. One is called Life Support, with some really wonderful comedic actors, I think that is coming out in August. I also just wrapped a movie called Walkaway Joe, with David Strathairn, who I’ve been a massive fan of for most of my life, all the way back to the movie Sneakers. I also place opposite Jeffrey Dean Morgan in that movie, so I’m very excited about that film, can’t wait for it to come out.
I want to thank Julie for taking the time to talk with us
Season four of Preacher, which is the final season of the show, premiers Aug 4th, 2019 on AMC