"Villains have more fun!": 'Preacher' star Julie Ann Emery discusses bringing to life crazy, complex characters
One after another, small screen star Julie Ann Emery has been cherry-picking roles that are either "fierce" or "mysterious" (and at times both). Whether as Ida Thurman from the Emmy-winning mini-series 'Fargo,' or in her breakout 'Better Call Saul' role as Betsy Kettleman, the actress has obviously created a pattern and as fans of this refreshing brand of strong, female characterization, we are here for it.
Julie Ann's most recent stint that is keeping comic book loyalists on their toes, though, is her portrayal of Lara Featherstone in AMC's critically-acclaimed series 'Preacher.' For the uninitiated, in the comics version, Featherstone is the true definition of a femme fatale - filled with cunning and prepared to go to any length to achieve desired results - even if it translates to her use of sexuality. And so far, 'Preacher,' remaining true to this spirit, has continued to portray Featherstone in all her villainous glory. The kind of dedication and loyalty Featherstone has towards the "Grail" is pure comic book inspiration, and Julie Ann assures us, season 3 will only see these traits accentuated along with some surprise additions.
"The beating heart of Featherstone remains true to the comics. Her dedication and belief at all costs in the Grail and its mission are lifted straight from the comics, as is her relationship with Herr Starr and Hoover. That remains true in Season 3," the actress tells Meaww, sharing some early insight into the season. "I will say this though, we are going to see things in Featherstone that surprised even me. She is definitely pushed to her limit in Season 3."
The best thing about 'Preacher' is with each new season, the show has been getting delightfully outrageous, with newer introductions and dramatic twists. Three episodes into the third season, in fact, fans have been treated to the brilliance that is Jesse's family - Gran’ma and her henchmen TC and Jody - and a whole host of otherworldly characters await their due appearance. At this juncture, Julie Ann wary of spoiling any major plot point, simply teased that the city of Angelville is soon going to get more crowded.
She told us, "Angelville has brought an entirely new dimension to the show… a weird, dark, and twisty dimension. And I will say that there are characters from the comics that have yet to be shown on the poster or in photos, that fans of the comics are going to be wildly excited about."
With more Grail members (and in turn popular and talented artists playing the characters) crowding the city, 'Preacher' season 3 would undoubtedly have interesting and newer dynamics in play. "My favorite thing about the 'Preacher' cast, across the board, is that everyone shows up to work, to raise the bar, to elevate what is happening," the 'Preacher' villainess, who had the opportunity to work with the lead cast including Dominic Cooper's Jesse and Ruth Negga's Tulip, dished.
"There is a great dedication to the work at hand. I love that. That is right up my alley. Dom (Cooper) was the first person I worked with on day one of Season 2, and he was incredibly kind. He went out of his way to make me feel at home, in 4-inch platform heels and that enormous blonde wig of the jazz singer. He is like that with everyone. Very welcoming," she continued, "And the scene where I kill Tulip at the end of Season 2 was one of my favorite days of shooting. Ruth and I had so much inner monologue exchange underneath those lines… and then, of course, Malcolm Barrett gets to come in and be hilarious."
At this point, the 43-year-old actress is clearly vested in Featherstone, which somehow makes us wonder what made her take it up in the first place. "The transformational aspect of her was thrilling to me," shoots back Julie Ann, adding, "Sam Catlin and our writers really let me run with sending Featherstone into a deep dive with her personas." By personas we believe, the actress is hinting at the million shades of antagonism that Featherstone unabashedly exhibits in 'Preacher'.
While the negative aspects of her character make her stand out, Julie Ann acknowledges that playing a villainess is not often seen as the ideal role. "I know some actors who don't like to play villains or don't want to be unlikable. I don't understand this. Villains have more fun!" she adds.
"My villainous characters have been far more complex and interesting to play than the good guys or the victims. I will take all the villains. All the crazy women. All the complicated women that no one understands. Bring them on. I love to dig into their mind and soul and discover what makes them tick, what moves them through the world from their unique perspective."
And this philosophy is reflected in the actress' choice of roles as well. Not only has she leaned towards the complex and the complicated but also has favored strong females in her on-screen portrayals.
"My experience of women in my life is that of strong women. A wide range of strong women, fierce in different ways, all totally unique in their own right," she explained. "I think maybe I gravitate towards fierce female roles because they represent a truth in the women I see around me. The mysterious part, I mean every actor wants to play intriguing characters, right? I am always looking to that sweet spot where my characters have enough opposing traits to make them three dimensional and intriguing."
Julie Ann's ideas coincide with the state of order on television, where of late, more and more smart, strong, female characters are garnering attention. She would rather be the one at the front and center of all action than take up a reactionary role. And her reason for this is pretty simple.
"Actionary women have their own agency, their own agenda, they take action based on their own needs, wants, and desires in the world. They are not simply there to react to the man in the scene. I am thrilled to see us moving further and further away from ornamental and reactionary female characters," says the actress, whose small-screen credits include prestigious roles like Featherstone and Betsy.
If anything, Julie Ann sounds well-aware of her unique choices and how each role has helped shape her acting career. "Life after Betsy Kettleman became more complicated in a way," she chimed in, "Betsy required such a deep dive into the character work in order to make her work properly... [that] most characters that came across my desk after her, seemed bland or two dimensional. It was hard to get excited about playing a less challenging character. And I think that is the key word, I was looking for, a challenge after Betsy."
"Featherstone is definitely a challenge," admitted the actress.
A particular challenge involved with playing Featherstone is also appealing the dedicated comics lovers - a feat that Julie Ann has accomplished and how.
"The fans have been lovely to me and I felt a lot of responsibility to the fans of the comics. I was really nervous before my first episodes last season, but the fan response has been great and I am so grateful for every single one of them," she gushed, "In terms of critical response, I am just grateful to be working on such high-end projects with such brilliant creative teams, [the] great critical response just seems like an icing on the cake."
Perhaps not many fans know this, but the multi-talented actress - who has made her way into our hearts as the sultry lounge singer in the second season of 'Preacher' - also does her own singing. So on a parting note, we couldn't help but ask her, if we would see more of her serenading skills - a question, which Julie Ann left, more or less, to speculation.
"My husband, Kevin Earley, is a brilliant Broadway singer," she said, "So there is always music in our house, and singing in the car. For now."