Julie Ann Emery – Preacher
By: Kelly Kearney
Q) On “Preacher” you play Lara Featherstone a secret operative for the Grail. How did the role come to you and what was your audition process like?
Julie Ann: My audition process was very fast, but their audition process was slow. They had been looking for the role for three months. They kept rewriting the role and changing who she was. I auditioned on a Wednesday, met with Sam Catlin on a Thursday, I was cast by Friday night and I moved to New Orleans on a Tuesday. So, it happened really quickly. As soon as it came across my desk I knew I wanted it and went after it pretty hard but it took some time for it to come around to me. All things happen when they’re meant to be, I guess.
Q) Fans of the comic book series waited years for “Preacher” to make it to the screen. Had you heard of the cult favorite before landing the role or is the world of “Preacher” new to you?
Julie Ann: I was a fan of Season One. It was right up my alley. I’m a sci-fi and fantasy fan and I watch almost everything on AMC because I think the quality is so high artistically at the network. So, it was a really natural fit for me and that was a lot of added pressure. When I went into the audition process or, actually, when I met Sam Catlin at my second audition I thought I blew it. I was just a nervous disaster when I was talking to him. The scene went great, but during the interview process I was nervous for the first time in a long time. She [sic] is such a great female character and such an actionary character in her own right and we don’t always get those roles. I think I’m drawn to those roles and I’m a very actionary person in real life so I think I understand women like that. I don’t understand sitting back – although I have played roles where they pretend to sit back a little but don’t in actuality. Kind of like Betsy Kettleman in “Better Call Saul,” she might seem to sit back to the outside world, but in reality she’s the one pushing all the buttons. I like actionary women. I like women who are complicated and complex characters. I like women who have their own agenda. Those are the women who make the most sense to me. They’re the women I see walking around in the real world and I’m thrilled to see them on screen.
Q) The show has this gritty Quentin Tarantino meets the Coen Brothers kind of feel and that’s mostly thanks to executive producers Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg. What’s it like working with Seth and Evan?
Julie Ann: Seth and Evan directed the first two episodes of the season so I missed working with them as directors. My first episode was Season Two episode three. I actually think the show works so well because it’s Seth and Evan Goldberg meets Sam Catlin who came up from the “Breaking Bad” writer’s room. So, there’s this tone mash up on our show that shouldn’t really work together but it does. I think it’s the sensibility of those three guys. And coming from such different places and finding a way for their work to all mesh together, that’s really fascinating to watch and challenging for an actor. In terms of working with Seth and Evan, they really push the envelope which is exciting as an actor and also entertaining to watch the scripts come in and wait to see if AMC is going to say no. To see what the network is going to put a damper on and the network really doesn’t. AMC has really let “Preacher” be “Preacher” and it’s amazing it exists on television at all. It’s not something you think could or would ever work on TV, but AMC took a big risk and they just keep saying yes to the risk, over and over again. The television landscape is changing and has been for the last decade and I think this show is a gutsy move and it has a lot to do without creators pushing the envelope and the network just saying, “yes.”
Q) The show is gory, explosive, crass, hilarious and at times, even heartwarming and the people love it! What do you think it is about this show that appeals to fans and makes them want to tune in every week?
Julie Ann: I think there are a few aspects to it. The show has this very dark sense of humor that I think is very modern and appeals to a modern audience. There’s a lot of action in it and I think that’s appealing, but at the heart of it there’s a huge amount of character development so that you really care about the main trio: Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy. There’s a real human drama going in and you know we see a lot of heroes on TV and to know the difference between the good ones and the bad ones is usually character development. We have a huge amount of that on “Preacher” and that’s something I hope never goes away on this show, not that I think it’s going anywhere but I think it’s what hooks people and makes them care. The show is also a complicated and honest conversation about the good and bad in all of us. The entity Genesis, inside Jesse, is part angel and part demon and we’re watching a battle for a man’s soul. I think what makes us good and what makes us bad is a conversation that “Preacher” is having in a very modern way and something that people today are looking for.
Q) If I were to describe Lara I’d say she is bright, dedicated, cognitively dissonant and definitely lethal. Let’s just say she drank the Grail Kool-Aid. What or who is your inspiration for playing this complex and kind of demented role?
Julie Ann: Yes, she’s really out there. I describe her as a zealot and that’s something that is kind of at the forefront of our world right now and I’m very interested in exploring that as a human being. She’s definitely a zealot and definitely drank the Kool-Aid. I’m not sure I drew from a person, but you know Betsy Kettleman (the character I play on, “Better Call Saul”) is very off and Featherstone is off in a different way from Kettleman. But they’re both living their own versions of the world. In Featherstone, there’s something about her that is very broken. Some of her backstory is mentioned in the comics and I don’t know for sure if we will ever get to that on the show, but that was a big key for me in that she was a whole person with a heart. Now, I feel like there’s a dark space where her heart use to be that enables her to be ruthless and have no regrets about taking any actions. She thinks in a direct line, from point A to point B, so if you are between her and point B, she will shoot you in the head to get there quicker. She has no qualms about anything related to the mission. What always fascinates me about her is her personas and her transformation abilities. Really early on in my work, I made a note that the personas should seem like a real person walking around more than Featherstone herself does. That her personas fit into the world better than she does and she feels just outside of society. Featherstone is definitely large and in charge except when she’s in the room with Herr Starr (Pip Torrens). You see in episode three all the guys answer to her and not to Hoover, which is a great dynamic to play, particularly in a villain world. She also has cult leader like love for Herr Starr, but I think if she didn’t worship him so completely, that is a job she would absolutely be going after. She’s a very interesting character that’s driven and complicated and I’m very thrilled that the show was willing to add another female bad ass character since Tulip (Ruth Negga) is such a bad ass. I’m so glad they let Featherstone be strong in her own right. I mean twice in episode nine Featherstone talks about her devotion to the cause, she’s perfectly willing to clear the gun and let Herr Starr shoot them both. Although, I think she’s hoping he won’t. Later, when Hoover (Malcolm Barrett) wants to clear out of the building when BRAD the missile is on the way, she really lays it on the line and says, “What greater way could there be than to sacrifice yourself for the cause?” I think that’s at the beating heart of who she is. I think she really believes the world has gone to Hell and if she has to blow it up to save it, she will.
Q) Besides “Preacher” fans also know you from your memorable role Betsy Kettleman on “Better Call Saul.” For people that don’t know, you recently reprised that role in a short for the web. Tell the fans how that came about and where they can find it.
Julie Ann: Yes, it’s sponsored by Acura and it’s up on the AMC site and Peter Gould has been vocal in the press about wanting the Kettlemans to come back. This is sort of a little glimpse into what’s going on with them right now. It was a thrill to get everyone back together. The show reached out and asked if it was something we all would be interested in doing for this web bonus content for the show. As far as I’m concerned, any chance I get to crawl back into the head of Betsy and play her again, I will always jump at. So, it’s sort of an elsewhere in Albuquerque thing where we get a glimpse into what the Ketllemans are up to right now. You know the Kettlemans are not dead. He’s just in jail and with the “Breaking Bad” world if you’re not dead there’s always a possibility. I know the show has a desire to bring them back and I would love to do that. So, I’m crossing my fingers just like everybody else. The response to the Kettlemans was huge and not something I expected from a recurring guest-star role on the show. I think they’re very timely. When we were shooting the show, the Governor of Virginia and his wife were being indicted for taking millions of dollars in gifts and not see anything wrong with it. We spent a lot of time talking about the Bell County case in California where I think the people really thought they didn’t do anything wrong. Right now, we’re in that place with our politicians who think they can kind of do what they want and not think there’s anything wrong with it. So, I think the Kettlemans were timely. I also think they’re fun and kind of off and interesting but they love each other. They have this weird and screwed up mindset about what they’ve done but love each other so much as a family that there’s something still relatable there for the fans. It was thrilling to get so much attention and I still get questions from “Kettleheads” on Twitter all the time.
Q) Speaking of the web, I know you live tweet “Preacher” every week. What’s the fan response been like and do you enjoy getting their instant feedback on your work?
Julie Ann: Yeah, you know I tweet during the commercial breaks or after the episode and check out what everyone is saying. The instant feedback feels like theater to me. I started out in theater and you get the audience’s instant feedback, although the fans can be more direct on Twitter. I like Twitter. It feels like a safe place for me to interact with fans. Sometimes fans can cross the line, like with Betsy, things can get inappropriate at times but I’m very empowered on Twitter and know how to block and report, but I really like it and like talking to fans and think it’s interesting to hear their take on things. It’s a good measure of the show. At first, it was scary because there was a lot of expectation for Featherstone on the show. There were people tweeting before Season Two even aired that they had been waiting seventeen years to see Featherstone brought to life. That’s a lot of pressure and my first episode I was really nervous about the fan reaction but they’ve been great and I’m so thankful for it. Social media wise, everyone has been super supportive.
Q) Without spoiling anything, can we expect to see Tulip and Lara go head to head and if so, who do you think would win that fight?
Julie Ann: Well…[pauses] That’s a giant spoiler so I will not get into that although I would really like to see that happen. As for me, Julie as a person, I will always believe the good guy will win. What I love is that both women are wildly capable and there is, albeit begrudgingly, a fair amount of respect there between the two women. It’s an interesting battle, right? They’re both wildly capable, both wildly industrious and I think it would be an interesting battle to play out. Featherstone is such a stand your ground kind of person that I think it would be interesting to see her take on anybody. She is a bad ass.
Q) One of the things I love about the show is how funny it is. You must have some great behind the scenes stories you could share with the fans?
Julie Ann: Well, Malcolm Barrett cracks me up all the time. Featherstone is so stone faced all the time and he cracks me up. There is something in the gag reel from this season where he does something behind me and it cracks me up. “Preacher” sort of requires us to expand our skill sets so whenever there’s a fight scene or something goes wrong, everyone has a great sense of humor about it. There’s a lot of laughs on set. I think humor is why the show works, quite frankly, and that comes straight from the comics. There’s so much dark and wrong humor in the comics that we’re getting away with on “Preacher” and I love it.
Q) Besides landing this role on “Preacher” do you have any other projects you’re working on that the fans should look out for?
Julie Ann: I do! I have a little group of films coming out sometime over the next year. I have a small role in a Melissa McCarthy movie called Can You Ever Forgive Me and that will be out sometime next year. I have a Christmas movie coming out and I’m currently shooting scenes for two independent films. One is called I Hate Kids and one called Dying 101. That has a terrific cast and I’m really thrilled to be a part of. So, there’s other stuff cookin’.