This past week, FYIG had the chance to talk to actress Emily Piggford who is joining season 3 of the Space Channel series, Killjoys. Emily talked to us about her start in acting, her one-woman show, her different experiences in film and television, and so much more!
How did you get your start in acting?
Playing a bluebird in the play, “The Three Pigs’ New Adventure,” with Four Season’s Musical Theatre when I was 11. I auditioned based on the recommendation of a couple of my grade 5 teachers from Saseenos Elementary School after I did their Christmas pageant. Been acting ever since!
I’ve read that you did a one-woman show called ANA. What was it like co-ordinating your own show?
It took intense trust and focus. We did four workshops before our premiere and through all of it I poured my trust into director, Andrew Barrett, who was the chief creator/curator of the piece, as well as our composer, Aulden MacQueen, and costume designer, Halley Fulford. Together we did deep research into and discussions around the piece– what themes we wanted at its core, the issues we wanted to explore, etc. Then after a period of analysis, info gathering and discussion, I essentially gave the reins to Andrew as the eye in the sky and put all of my focus into being the creative body, manifesting Andrew’s creative visions and questions. Working with Andrew is a unique experience. Generally how it goes is he creates guidelines of structure and content, then I generate the content through improvisation (written and physical), then he shapes the contributions I make. What resulted from our creative process for “ana” was a dynamic, physically and emotionally challenging show where I do clown, act, dance, and sing, all around themes of the oppression of the feminine. In addition to the trust and focus required to create and perform the show, that same trust and focus was needed to run the Indiegogo campaign to fund the premiere production at UNO Fest in Victoria, 2016. That was a lot of work, but a lot of fun. You can see some of the results of that campaign online as Andrew and I made a bunch of YouTube videos for perks and updates.
What do you enjoy about doing a theatre performance?
It’s LIVE! You gotta lay it all down and be on your toes, ready to forgive and go with the flow. It’s gratifying getting to perform the whole arc at once in the same order with every performance. The stability of that consistency takes some anxiety out of the performance process for me. It feels great to strengthen the muscle of my performance each night, building on the lessons learned from the previous shows, trying out something a little new each time maybe, shifting show-to-show with the audience. Similarly, with screen work, I do that take-to-take, but with theatre you usually get a few hours to a day off between your next “take,” which gives me even greater time to rest, assimilate info, etc. I also just plum love the lights, I love the feel of a performance space, the feeling of waiting in the wings… there are a lot of things I enjoy about theatre performance.
You starred as Meagan in That’s My DJ. Tell us a little bit about the show and what drew you to the role.
The show is fast-paced, sexy, funny, real, edgy, and colourful. It shows the indie EDM scene in Toronto. In season 1, we see this world from the perspective of an aspiring DJ, in season 2, we follow my character as she works to be a Promoter and create her own monthly party, but falls hard for the magnetic Hannah along the way, and season 3 follows a DJ/Producer trying to balance the party aspect of his industry with work. What drew me to the show was that it was about dreamers in a party scene. These reckless, but good-hearted and hard-working people were trying to feel and be as much as they could, all driven by their love for the music and the way it can unite us. I was excited to play a character who was not afraid to have fun, get messy and make mistakes. I was also excited to work with creator/director, D.W. Waterson, because of her energy and vision.
What was it like working on a web-series vs. a TV show or film?
Working on “That’s My DJ” specifically was different than any other set/project I’d experienced because of how close I was to it all. I helped produce seasons 2 and 3, I became great friends with D.W. after shooting season 1, so our personal relationship enhanced our working relationship when we got to set. I also watched D.W. live so much of what is depicted in the series, as a lot of it is inspired by her life. All of that personal investment is what sets working on TMDJ apart from any other set I’ve been on, otherwise, it was just like shooting anything else. The size of the crew, sets or craft may be different from working on, say, “Killjoys,” but the work is the same. In terms of the product, one of the great things about a web series is how accessible it is for audiences. “That’s My DJ” is on YouTube and each season runs about 45min total over 8 episodes. Super bingeable and approachable.
You recently joined the cast of Killjoys. How did that opportunity come about?
I had auditioned for “Killjoys” twice before and loved those two characters and scenarios they got to be in. It got me so interested in the show. When I auditioned for my third character, Yoki, I was finally like, “Woman, you are going to binge this series, you know you’ve been wanting to.” So I marathoned seasons 1 and 2, fell completely in love and was next-level excited to get to work on it. At the first table read I learned that creator/showrunner, Michelle Lovretta, was going to expand the character of Yoki and I was ecstatic.
She’s a Hackmod. That’s all I can say.
How have you evolved as an actress since you first started?
Short answer: I’m better, but I also got shingles. Long answer: I have been working consistently at acting and balancing that with the rest of my life really since I was eleven. I have been going particularly hard over the past five years. After graduating from UVic, I moved to Toronto to pursue acting professionally and it’s been wonderfully consistent in pace, but varied in style and medium since then. I was discovering as much about myself personally as I was professionally through every acting experience. It’s generally hard for me to say “no,” though I am getting better at it. The shingles helped because that was essentially my nervous system saying, “no.” I had been pushing myself especially hard in the last two years to try so many new things, take on new opportunities and projects, do things that scared me or I didn’t really want to do so that I may find hidden lessons or growth. The biggest lesson that I learned is that my gut is usually right and that if I don’t really want to do something, it’s not because I’m a scaredy-cat, it’s because I know it’s not entirely for me, and that’s ok! The truth is, we can learn something or experience growth from anything we try, what matters is how much fun you have along the way and whether or not that choice of action was true to you. So now as a person and as an actress, I am working to simplify and become ever more true to myself, powerful, impulsive, honest and forgiving.
What types of projects are you looking to work on in the future? Do you have any dream role that you would love to land?
I really want to play in sci-fi and fantasy, action and adventure for the screen– green screens and wild wardrobe, super powers, stunts and space, with diversity and social/political commentary within! Dazzle and elevate. And I don’t know if this is weird, but I don’t want to specify any dream roles right now because I don’t want to jinx them, haha! I’ve just gone out for a role that I would love to get that’s super secret and would rock my world.
This will sound really diplomatic, but I love every show and set for different reasons. I’m proud to be a part of “The Girlfriend Experience” and am so excited for the second season to come out. I think what it’s doing is brilliant. I was stoked af to be on “Killjoys” because I’m now a huge fan and the role, story, set, cast, and crew were all so fun. “Hemlock Grove” I will always cherish like my first love because it was the first big show I did. But “Frost” really started it all– I bloody loved doing that shoot, love the finished product and am still friends with and great admirers of director Jeremy Ball and DP Guy Godfree who I got to work most closely with on that set. Also because of that shoot, I weirdly love the smell of rubbing alcohol because it was the only thing that took my face tattoos off and the shoot was so great that the sense-association is incredibly positive. That short brought me to TIFF and the Canadian Screen Awards for the first time, introduced me to the Canadian Film Centre and it was simply a pleasure to act silently and on green screen. It was powerful and reminded me of the magic of movement-based theatre, which I was predominantly coming from at that time.
Do you think that you’ll ever have an interest in a more behind the scenes role, perhaps directing or producing?
I would freaking love to write and direct films!
Let us know what you have coming up.
“Killjoys” season 3 comes to Space Channel, June 30th (catch up on seasons 1 and 2 via CraveTV, which is an SVOD I highly recommend.) Season 2 of “The Girlfriend Experience” is on the horizon for release, and the 3rd and final season of “That’s My DJ” is out this Summer. This Summer I’m also shooting a couple short projects for the screen and may get to remount Canadian Stage’s “Helen Lawrenece” in L.A. this October, which is exciting because the play is BANANAS- COOL and I love L.A… Fingers crossed we get to do that. Keep an eye out!