Hemlock Grove’s Emilia McCarthy on the Realities of Acting


Photo by S. Markus Mathurin, additional art by Jasmin.

Emilia McCarthy has a refreshingly honest attitude towards her work. Acting is absolutely what she loves to do, but she’s not afraid to admit that it can be quite unglamorous at times. Her latest project is Hemlock Grove, Netflix’s first ever original series (House of Cards was based on a previous incarnation of a British TV show!), which premires today. The series follows the fallout and investigation of a brutal murder in a town that is seemingly plagued by mysteries and strange coincidences. Think Twin Peaks meets Fringe meets Supernatural. Emilia and her on-screen twin sister provide some welcome and charming comic relief to the show, putting everything into a more relatable perspective. We had the chance to catch up with Emilia about the craziness of her life right now, and everything she’s excited to take on in the future.

inconnu: How did you get started acting? What drew you to Hemlock Grove in particular?

Emilia McCarthy : Honestly, I just woke up one day and I was like “You know what? I want to act”. Literally it just happened. Hemlock Grove I auditioned for in July, here in Toronto, for Eli Roth, the director. After that, I got the role! Then I had the chemistry test for my fraternal twin. I’ve never really done anything in this genre before, so I had a really awesome experience.

inconnu: It must be a lot of fun to be on set with all of the special effects and the blood…

EM: Yeah, I loved being down and bloody! And its cool to see what happens behind the camera.

inconnu: You play Alyssa Sworn, one of the twin daughters of the sheriff. Could you tell us a little bit more about her character and how she develops throughout the series?

EM: At the beginning, our characters are just sort of shallow teenage girls, all they’re worrying about is boys and having a boyfriend while everybody else is worrying about all of these girls who are getting murdered…. so, you see us as sort of shallow people. But as the show progresses we do start to develop in a way that we start caring for our friend Christina, who is played by Freya Tingley. There is definitely a growth in our characters throughout the episodes. You see us change into more compassionate people.

inconnu: Playing a twin must be a blast, do you guys do any improvising?

EM: We do a lot of adlibbing – I really enjoy that. I think that gives it more of a natural feel, and its great because Eliana, who plays my sister, and I are really close. And I think that natural feel really shows on screen.

inconnu: I really loved the dresses you guys got to wear to the dance in the 2nd episode, “The Angel”. I wish I had worn swan costumes to my school dances…

EM: True! The black swan and the white swan? Those were cute…that was crazy, when we were filming that, in the high school gym, it was boiling hot! We even had to pause the whole take to get towels! But it was fun to tape that episode.

inconnu: Still being in high school it must be hard sometimes to find a balance between acting and school, how have you been adjusting to that?

EM: That is a huge thing with my life. There is a tutor on set because we are under 18, so we can get caught up with that. But it is crazy being on set all night and then going to school the next day. But I still love my school, and my friends are really supportive, so its not like it’s a downer.

inconnu: Has there been anything you didn’t expect about acting, anything surprising, or something you enjoyed more than you though you would?

EM: Something I didn’t expect going into acting is that it really isn’t as glamorous as you would think. It is a lot of hard work…what people see is red carpets and getting all done up and pretty. But what they don’t see is how hard we actually work behind the camera, staying up all night and all day. But the way I know that I really love to act is that even doing all of that, I still love it. Getting through the hardest part and still loving it is a good sign!

inconnu: Definitely, you’re doing what you love! Do you have any particular ways of getting prepared for your roles? For Hemlock Grove or any character you play.

EM: Actually, not really. With this character, she’s not that off from who I am. I mean, she is kind of, out there. But she’s a teenage girl, and I’m a teenage girl and I feel like our character is relatable. She’s in high school, and I’m in high school, we have the same kind of mentality: dealing with high school drama, and boys… so it wasn’t really hard to get into that character.

inconnu: Hemlock Grove has people like Dougray Scott, Famke Janssen and Bill Skarsgard in the cast. What has it been like working with everybody?

EM: We get along really well, they’re amazing. I really enjoyed working with Eli Roth as well, that was fantastic, he’s such a big shot. They all really make you feel welcome, and comfortable. Aaron Douglas plays our dad, who is the sheriff, he’s so funny – we felt so comfortable working with him. And that’s huge because, again, that shows on screen.

inconnu: Do you have any dream directors or actors that you’d really love to work with one day?

EM: Yes! Ok so, I have Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. The reason is because they were born and raised in London, Ontario, and so was I. So I feel like that’s really a connection there. I love them, its crazy to think they were born and raised in the same town as me.

inconnu: What’s one “inconnu” (unknown) thing you’d like people to know about you?

EM: Something you wouldn’t guess of me is that I speak Spanish fluently. Your first impression of me is with blonde hair, blue eyes, you know… but I secretly speak Spanish cause my mom is originally from Mexico. That usually surprises people!

inconnu: What’s next for you? Anything you have your eyes set on?

EM: I would love continue acting, that’s first on my list, its definitely a priority. I am thinking of going to university. Probably for performance acting or film studies, here in Toronto at Ryerson University, but a dream would be to go to NYU, that would be crazy!


About Joanna Harkins

co-founder and editor-at-large of inconnu


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