I was lucky enough to interview Emily Hampshire (who plays Jennifer Goines) regarding her role on SyFy’s 12 Monkeys, and the amazing second season. No spoilers in this interview past episode 6, promise! With that note, onto the interview!
WNA: So to start out, I talked to Amanda earlier this month and we were discussing how awesome this show is regarding female characters. I feel it’s one of the few shows on television that really does strong female characters right; it’s great that they are one of the main driving forces on the show. I was wondering how you felt about kind of being involved as part this trifecta of strong women?
Emily: I totally agree. I think the way Terry [The Creator/Showrunner] writes these women for us is such a gift. I mean it shouldn’t be that way, there should be a large amount of exciting and amazing roles for women to play, but there just aren’t. The stuff we all get to do is great but I just love Jennifer. Every week it’s a new Jennifer I get to play, and even getting to play myself older is–you never get to do that as an actor. What’s also great is that that the women’s strength is never in comparison to the guys. The women make strong decisions on their own.
Emily: I think especially Jones’ character–I mean, it’s awful to say, but to be an older woman, to play a part like that is unheard of on tv regularly. I don’t know what else to say except that it’s amazing. I feel like we’re all really just lucky to play these parts.
WNA: I think you’re completely right, especially with Jones. As you said, it’s rare to see a female leading all these male scientists.
Emily: Right? And even the reverse of that is true with Cole: for him to get to play the notes that he does in the show, because of the strength of these women too–it’s rare as well. I remember when we started season two it was a little weird seeing how Cassie was the badass and Cole was being being ‘Time-Jesus’. He was being so compassionate and not your typical hero. What was amazing was we–we had a screening of the last two episodes which haven’t aired yet– but we all came away endeared to Cole and his sensitivity, which you never actually see much of on television, either. So I think it’s really by turning these cliche roles of women on their head that you also give an opportunity for the male characters too.
Emily: We’re not in boxes on the show, I think that’s the ultimate thing: they’re not characters anymore–they step into the roles of being real flawed human beings. One minute Jennifer is super confident and the next she’s just a little girl again, and that’s not just because she’s crazy, it’s because she’s human, too. Cassie saying, ‘Not every caterpillar becomes a butterfly’ is pretty profoundly human, as well.
WNA: I’ve actually I’ve been discussing on a couple of my reviews that Cole is really kind of the heart and Cassie is more of a rational person, when that is usually the reverse on television.
Emily: Right? It’s the opposite! Cole is the one who doesn’t want to get the guns out and just fight first thing. He’s the one who wants to band together and I think that’s just so refreshing and amazing to see on TV.
WNA: We’ve really seen younger Jennifer coming into her own this season, and actively starting to lead more–it’s especially shown the last few episodes. Are we going to see the evolution of how she became the leader of the Daughters before she became old? Obviously we know how she exists statically in 2016, and 2044, but between that, is a mystery, so will we see her develop in the years between?
Emily: Well I think you know, you hit it exactly on its head; we know exactly who Jennifer becomes, and I think this year we really get to see the journey of young Jennifer becoming the older, wiser leader of this band of post-apocalyptic, badass women. It’s so hard to talk about this show because I want to tell you everything [laughs]–there is so much exciting stuff that’s coming, but it’s all spoilers! But it’s all going to be revealed.
WNA: What’s it like, basically shifting between these two characters? Not only between Jennifer going through her lucid periods/more manic swings but also playing old Jennifer–how long did it take you to get into your makeup?
Emily: That was a huge challenge for me! I love playing young Jennifer–it’s one of the most fun things for me; she’s always trying on these new roles in an effort to discover who she is, like we all do–but I think Jennifer commits to it more than everyone else. This season, more so (even though we met old Jennifer last year) we definitely get to know the older version of her this season and that was at first a really scary prospect to me because it’s a weird age to play. It’s not like she’s 85, and I didn’t want to do some caricature-y old lady acting. She’s around 65 in 2044–she’s around my mother’s age–and she’s not hunched over or walking strange. It’s hard to find the mannerisms of that.
Emily: I was worrying about that a lot until I went into hair and makeup for the first time which is a four hour process. A side note is you could not pay me enough to be like a Klingon because that process is not fun! [Laughs] It’s so weird, because it’s four hours of sitting somewhere and you feel like at the end of it you should have traveled somewhere, but you haven’t. It’s crazy making. But at the same time, what I learned was super rewarding, and I think everyone should try it. They do such a good job that seeing yourself older like that…I mean for me at least, personally, it did two fantastic things. It a) made me appreciate how I look now. You know how you look through your iphone from last year and you think ‘God, I thought I was so fat then, but I looked good, why didn’t I appreciate it then?’ It’s kinda like that when I take the makeup off, because I think, ‘ah! I look so good now!’ [Laughs]
Emily: But also, seeing myself that age…something instinctively came over me where I felt this quiet confidence just in terms of…I just didn’t give a shit what anybody thought. I wasn’t worried about how I looked–even just as me, Emily–I wasn’t worried about having a double chin on camera–I just wasn’t self conscious at all. I felt at peace and everything became a lot simpler. Just no bullshit, you know? I feel when I’m that age that confidence will happen to me too. Just having lived, and knowing yourself. For some reason that magically came over me with just makeup. So I think I found old Jennifer a lot through hair, makeup and wardrobe, and the surroundings. I’m in this dress that’s like a mourning costume and I’m in this weird little hut so all of that informed my movements. It didn’t come as naturally but ultimately I ended up loving old Jennifer so much I think by episode 11 everyone will come to love old Jennifer like crazy.
WNA: One of the things one of the other actors mentioned was sitting down with Terry and fleshing out their character’s backstory. Is that something you did as well, or did you more or less stick to what was on the page?
Emily: We never sat down and decided to figure out her backstory kind of thing, but it was something that naturally sort of happened in the process. For my own work, when I’m doing anything–like all the stuff I had to do last year; when I have to talk about my [Jennifer’s] father, or this year with the episode where we go back to the country house, I need to know all of what I’m talking about.
Emily: I need to have some kind of experience of that–an imaginative one. It’s like emerging from a dream, where you’ve actually lived that thing. Knowing what went on during Jennifer’s childhood and filling in those blanks so that when I’m talking about it I know what I’m talking about is important for me as an actor, or I feel I can’t really do it justice. That stuff will come from me–like just filling in blanks of that weren’t given by the script–I’ll make that stuff up myself. But Terry and I (as he is with everybody on this show) we just naturally start talking about that stuff. If he’s giving a note or we’re just talking story, like ‘what really happened here?,’ we’ll get into that and we’ll bounce ideas off each other and sometimes that inspires him– sometimes he inspires us. It’s a real collaborative process in that way. I think that’s how a lot of our characters are developed and grounded in reality because we do all care. It comes from these people’s experience.
WNA: The idea of the Primaries. Did you find that out this season, or did Terry kind of give you a hint?
Emily: He hadn’t! I think I had instinctively always known that Jennifer’s crazy was never just ‘crazy’, you know? I always had a sense that Jennifer was the smartest person in the room and knew stuff that other people didn’t. Now, the how of that, I didn’t know. I found out a little before we started shooting season two just purely because we’re all very friendly and we’d gotten together; Terry was talking about the idea of Primaries and explained it to me. I remember that at the time I didn’t quite understand it intellectually then, but all I remember was everything started speaking to me about primaries. I would open my gmail and at the top it would say ‘Primary’– for your main inbox, you know? I would see it every time, and I called Terry to tell him–and everything started to inform that–just small little things. I didn’t understand it completely, but what Terry explained started to inform everything. It was very inspiring to me and of course that little hint ultimately became the working concept of what it actually is, and what it means to be, a Primary.
WNA: Switching gears a bit, Cole and Jennifer’s relationship was well established in Season one and expanded in Season two–and it’s obvious it’s a very complicated relationship. My interpretation is that Jennifer at the time was in love with the idea of Cole more than Cole himself, but as time has gone on, that has gone away and become something much more solid. I was just wondering if you could talk a little bit about how you think Jennifer kind of feels about Cole?
Emily: There is some infatuation there initially, and I think that came from her being alone for the longest time. Nobody believed Jennifer about these 12 Monkeys. Everyone thought this was in her head and she was being told she’s crazy, but then this guy comes along and he believes her. I think one of the things I love the most about Jennifer– and I’ve only realized this in actually watching the show back– but Jennifer is the most loyal friend-to-the-end you will ever have. Jennifer has decided that if you do one good thing for her, she will be yours until the end of time, and I think you can see that with Cassie. They had this advisory relationship at the beginning; I think it’s very hard for Jennifer to just instantly trust somebody, but when you prove yourself as a good person or a friend, she will have your back forever.
Emily: But what’s always surprising to me is how much Cole is a good friend to Jennifer. He’s always defending her when it’s the harder thing, and he’s very protective of her. He never throws Jennifer under the bus. He’s always the one to try to get them to listen to her–there is always a connection. I think it’s because he knows that Jennifer will never betray him; she’s the real deal at a base level of loyalty and friendship. It’s funny that Jennifer, who doesn’t have many real relationships and has a hard time socializing, is somebody who knows how to be a good friend more than anybody.
WNA: It’s a true sign of true friendship when you’ll defend someone even when they’re not there and Cole is always doing that with her. I mean their friendship literally changed time
Emily: That’s a great way of putting it. Also I think, ultimately, Jennifer is looking for a family and trying to create that. I think you see that a lot through the show. It is in a lot of the themes that Terry writes. A lot of last season was about fathers and sons and this season is a lot about mothers. As much as it is a science fiction show with time travel, at its core it’s a show about family and human relationships–the really deep ones that are so complicated. I think that is what Jennifer is always trying to create.
WNA: Yeah and I have to give a shout out to both you and Amanda [Schull]. The scenes with you and Amanda recently… I could watch a show about Jennifer and Amanda going on adventures together since because they’ve become friends. It’s the first time we’ve really seen Jennifer stepping up and taking care of someone–and Cassie genuinely needed to be taken care of.
Emily: Yeah, and I think you see her attempt and fail at that a few times before this, but she ultimately succeeded. I remember shooting that scene from last week where we are discussing taking the fight to the Messengers…first and foremost, I love working with Amanda. She blows me away, and I remember that particular scene where we were doing her side of stuff and I almost forgot my lines. There was this one moment where she was talking about the Witness being in her head and it was so real and impactful to her. I was being a bad actor–because I was totally gutted, looking at her, like, ‘oh my god, she’s so good!’ I feel, working with her, she ups my game. It’s just such a gift.
Emily: We were talking about women on this show–a lot of the time, actresses are competitive and are pitted against each other, and I think what saves us from that a lot of the time on this show is that we all have amazing parts. Nobody’s feeling like, ‘there is only one good girl part to go around and so we’re all a bit jealous!’–it’s not like that on this show. We’re all so fortunate to have this content and this story we get to play. I love seeing on twitter how much people love those scenes between both of us–it just makes me so happy because it’s such a joy to get to work with another actress and feel like you’re both on each other’s team and helping each other. At the same time, Jennifer, is really stepping up and growing and learning how to be a true friend who will help Cassie. It’s the loveliest thing ever.
WNA: I love Jennifer’s line about how death is what makes life matter, and makes you love harder. That entire speech is a good theme for the season, and I think it’s something that obviously is going to carry forward the more they’re going to have to deal with the Witness.
Emily: Right? It’s really so profound without being shoved down your throat. We’re dealing with this time situation that is ultimately going to make death and life this equal thing that you might think is a good thing, but it’s not. That is such a profound statement that she says–I remember when we read it, and I love that it’s delivered so simply, but it means so much, especially in what we are dealing with in the show right now.
Tune tonight for an amazing episode of 12 Monkeys, every Monday at 9/8c on SyFy!