Welcome back, Emily! What have you been up to in the two years since we last spoke?
Hi, thanks for having me back! The past two years have been terrific times! I attended the Canadian Film Centre CBC Actors Conservatory, I played a hackmod on Killjoys, acted opposite Anna Friel in The Girlfriend Experience then saw it on the big screen at TIFF, I did approximately six short films, one of which – It’s Nothing – just had its world premiere at TIFF. Also, I worked on The Umbrella Academy opposite Ellen Page, I went to Newfoundland for the first time to shoot Hudson & Rex in St. John’s in the winter and loved it, I’m working with a wonderful manager in L.A. and spent my first pilot season there this Spring, capped off with a California road trip with my oldest friend to celebrate our birthdays. After L.A. I went to Cannes for the Canneseries festival with our new action-fantasy series Warigami, then I spent a couple of months back in Toronto, where I’m based, settling into a lovely apartment after a year of sublet-hopping. My Summer in #the6ix wound down with working on the hilarious mockumentary series, New Eden – coming soon to Crave – then I packed my bags for four months away in New Zealand, where I currently am, halfway through shooting a new psychological thriller miniseries, The Sounds.
How difficult was it to leave “That’s My DJ” behind after the third and final season?
This is the series that keeps on giving and going, so it never really felt like goodbye, (though our season 3 wrap party was three years ago now, wow!) That’s My DJ creator/director D.W. Waterson and I just celebrated season 3 at T.O. WebFest this Summer and in the Spring we were both fortunate to receive awards for it at HollyWeb Fest (D.W. for Best Series and me for Best Actress.) I experienced a lot of personal and professional growth through my time on That’s My DJ, thanks to the work and the people. I was excited to carry those lessons forward and was proud of the work and passion everyone put into those three seasons that, I think, stand alone as a strong unit. The concept and characters definitely have potential for a future beyond, so who knows where D.W. may take it, but if that was it for my time in that universe, I’m really grateful and content and excited for what’s next.
How have you evolved as an actress since that role?
Something I’ve enjoyed working on is becoming more effective in my prep and process mainly by becoming more flexible. At this point, I’ve learned that my prep might not always be “ideal” – maybe I don’t have a lot of time, or I’m working on multiple roles at once so my attention is divided, or I won’t have much rehearsal with the team (maybe any, beyond the rehearsal/blocking on set.) So my evolution looks something like making the absolute most of every moment I do have, and customizing which tools I use from my kit for each role and scene, trusting myself more and not letting stress or worry get in the way and undo the work I have done or block my instincts in the moment. Work hard, care a lot, but also let it flow.
What can you tell us about your role as Wendy Ohata in “Warigami”?
Wendy is courageous, clever, persistent and sometimes a little awkward and funny. She has the super-human ability to turn paper into weapons and is a skilled martial artist. She was orphaned as a child, separated from her brother, Vincent (played by Kai Bradbury), and adopted into a wealthy family. Wendy grew up feeling valued more for her achievements than loved for who she was, flaws and all. So from a young age, Wendy substituted love with striving for perfection. Eventually, it is that drive that leads her to reconnect with her grandfather (played by Hiro Kanagawa), which leads her back to her brother, and ultimately to feeling loved and finding her true sense of purpose and power.
You also have a new role in the CBC series “The Sounds” coming in 2020. What can audiences expect from this show and your role as Esther Ishikawa?
Expect great twists, exceptional performances, and beautiful cinematography. We’re shooting on location in New Zealand and it’s stunning. Rachelle Lefevre leads the cast as Maggie Cabbott and she– in life and onscreen– is powerful, vulnerable, intelligent, full of emotion and breathtakingly beautiful. It’s such a gift to get to work with her, with our whole incredibly talented and generous cast and crew, helmed by director Peter Stebbings, following the writing of Sarah-Kate Lynch. My character, Esther Ishikawa, is a forensic accountant sent to the Marlborough Sounds in New Zealand to investigate the disappearance of Tom Cabbott (played by Matt Whelan) – Maggie’s husband. Esther applies herself to her work with a focus and rigour that brings her great satisfaction. However, her single-minded determination matched with poor interpersonal skills often alienates those around her. She doesn’t necessarily mean to offend anyone, in fact, she’s often oblivious to the effect she has on others (sometimes comedically so). It’s just that getting the job done as effectively and efficiently as possible is the bottom line for her. It’s when she is taken off course and out of her comfort zones that we see the cracks in her put-together veneer.
You’ve also voiced a couple of characters in the animated series, “Gary and his Demons”. How did that experience differ from your more traditional roles?
Voice work for me requires a different type of focus, use of imagination and specificity because my task is to convey as much as I can, as clearly as possible, with just my voice. I have full permission and privacy (from the audience) in the booth to do whatever I need with my face and body to make that happen, which is very liberating! Gary and his Demons was a pretty new experience for me, generally, but also getting to do two characters and have the freedom to improvise in the booth with the other actors in the scene was fantastic fun. And I got to share that booth with some super talented and seasoned performers– Kayla Lorette, Kyle Dooley and the co-creator/co-writer/lead, ‘Gary’ himself, Mark Little. It was humbling and hilarious and I hope to heck I get to do more voice work because I really enjoy it!
How do you stay motivated with each new role?
I love the whole process so much– from that first read of the breakdown email, to actually getting to do the job, to the people I get to work with and know along the way, and then hopefully getting to celebrate the work after– whether it’s at festivals or chatting about it in interviews! My enjoyment of each step keeps me motivated. This work to me is like a fun puzzle of infinite possibilities, and I like puzzles and infinite possibilities. I’m also just such a fan of watching things as an audience member, so the prospect of getting to make the work and play the characters I’d love to see makes me very excited and grateful I get those opportunities.
What’s your life like outside of acting?
Singing country and folk while I do the dishes, doing yoga and dancing around the house to pop and rock… I’m a pretty happy homebody and can spend days just in the house catching up. I feel like I spend a lot of time trying to “catch up” – on emails, paperwork, housework, personal work, even watching stuff for me is a form of both relaxing, but also catching up, haha! I can be quite content in solitude so have to be mindful of making sure I leave the house, visit friends, spend time among strangers and in nature and exploring whatever city I’m in.
Let the readers know where to find you online.
@EmPiggford on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. There are also a few YouTube videos if you look.