Julie Ann Emery
Finding a worthy follow-up after a successful series can be difficult for any actor, especially during the peak TV era. Julie Ann Emery, previously seen on “Fargo” and “Better Call Saul,” tells us what it was like to work on such groundbreaking shows and how her “Preacher” character is a worthy follow-up to Betsy Kettleman.
How did you get your start in acting? When did you know you wanted to be an actress?
I grew up in a small town in Tennessee and the only theatre for many, many miles was in my hometown – it was partially staffed, partially community. They got an educational grant to provide a drama teacher for my high school and the drama teacher heard me sing in choir and recruited me for her plays. She changed my life.
I didn’t know until I was 16-years-old when I was cast as Rizzo in “Grease.” There was a moment I was standing on stage that I knew.
Leading up to “Preacher,” you’ve had significant roles in “Better Call Saul” and “Fargo.” What were your experiences on such groundbreaking shows during peak TV?
A groundbreaking show is groundbreaking once our work is done, right? For example, during season one of “Fargo” there weren’t very many people, before they saw it, that thought “Fargo” would work as a television series. I knew I was working there on brilliant scripts by Noah Hawley and surrounded by a brilliant cast, who all jumped on because of the brilliant writing. We were all just trying to do the best possible work we could do. That’s a thrill when the set’s all about elevating everything all day long. That’s what both of those experiences were like for me. It goes for “Preacher” as well.
Our showrunner, Sam Catlin, who comes from the “Breaking Bad” world, brought some of those folks with him. It’s a pleasure to work with artists who are serious about what they do.
After the fact it feels brilliant. But when you’re doing it, you put your head down and hope that you’re living up to the material.
How did you get your part on “Preacher”?
I auditioned. Generally I’m a journeyman actor. So, it was the middle of pilot season, this audition came across my desk and the character was a worthy follow-up to Betsy Kettleman, which my agent and I had been searching for since “Better Call Saul.” I was so nervous though because I wanted the role so badly that I thought I was going to blow my interview.
What can you tell us about Lara Featherstone?
Featherstone is wildly dedicated and extremely focused. I would term her as zealous for her cause. She’s a true believer and believes that she’s a good guy when she’s not. There’s no line she won’t cross to achieve her goals or achieve the mission. There’s absolutely nothing she won’t do to serve the cause.
What personal characteristics do you share with the character and what did you bring to Featherstone?
There’s a side of the character I can’t talk about yet. The Featherstone from the comics is very much honored, but there’s a dimension to her in the series that takes her further and I think fans will be excited. That’s really thrilling as an actor. That side of her is something I’ve always done as an actor and always been interested in as an actor.
I think what I connect with in Featherstone is that I do tend to be very dedicated. I tend to like hard work. I tend to feed on challenge and she does as well.
Is it intimidating to play a character that’s so wildly known?
Oh my gosh, yes! I’ve been getting a lot of messages on Twitter once they announced who I was playing. Someone sent me a message saying, “I’ve been waiting 20 years to see this character brought to life.” My response was, “Awesome! No pressure!”
I’m used to dedicated fandoms. The “Better Call Saul”/”Breaking Bad” fanbase is very intelligent, very dedicated. They pay attention to absolutely everything. But comic book fans for “Preacher,” they kind of take it to a whole new level. They’re very dedicated to the source material, as well they should be. That excitement ahead of time is something I hadn’t quite experienced.
Nobody knew who Betsy Kettleman was when we first came on, but people have a set idea of who Featherstone is. In some ways we’re honoring that and in other ways we’re breaking the mold a little bit.
I do have to say Betsy Kettleman was a favorite of one of my favorite “Better Call Saul” characters during season one.
Thank you! You know we have bonus material up on the AMC website. Here’s “No Picnic” for those who haven’t seen it.
That world is just so interesting to me and the fact you got to be a part of it makes me extremely jealous.
It’s really wonderful. There’s another example of what we were talking about earlier. Once it’s airing, it’s so cool. To be on this, it’s such a high-end show. The work and writing is so great, but when you’re in it you’re like, “Don’t let Vince Gilligan down! Please let me live up to this brilliant role.” In the moment you’re just nose to the grindstone. Betsy was a pleasure. I don’t think we have people like Betsy on screen. But when I say I’ve been looking for a worthy follow-up to Betsy, Featherstone is a worthy follow-up. I’m that excited about this role.
It seems like you in particular really make a connection with the cast members and the directors just through what I’ve seen on your socials. You all seem to become a huge family in a sense, and I think it’s such an admirable quality when you’re working with a new crew every single time.
You’re talking about the “Better Call Saul” family, right?
It’s really easy to advocate for them. That set sort of restored my faith in the business. Every person on that set is so genuinely nice. They do not confuse temperament with talent. They’re wildly talented and decent human beings doing really high-level work. That’s something I’ve been searching for – and you find in little pockets, but it’s so prevalent there. Like I think Rhea Seehorn and I will always be friends. Gennifer Hutchinson, our only female writer of season one (we have more now), I think we’ll always be friends. You just try and keep those good people in your life.
Back to “Preacher.” What was the approach going into season two? And what can fans really expect overall?
The approach going into season two was based in where the comics picked up, and the comics you know… I mean, the car is gassed full and running high. The car is very high octane. The fans can expect season two to be ratcheted up. I keep saying season two is season one on crack.
You can expect more characters from the comics to pop up. You can expect a more recognizable world from the comics, but there will also be surprises. More action, but definitely that grounded drama as weird comedy and wacky/Tarantino-like violence.
Your professional work has been long-spanning. What has been the biggest improvement you have seen? What’s the biggest thing that needs to be improved?
I think the answer to that is the same. I think we’re seeing a small improvement in the number of women behind the camera and women across the board. We’re seeing those numbers go up, but we need to see more women and diverse voices. Period.
The “Preacher” crew had more women than I’m even used to on a crew and we were still nowhere near half. I think the more we broaden our voices, the more interesting art we will see.
What has been the biggest pinch me moment of your career?
The moment I wrapped “Fargo” and my agent called me to tell me that I had been cast in “Better Call Saul.” I think I said to them that it was a creative dream come true.
Was that the moment you knew you made it?
I don’t think that exists. My career has had peaks and valleys. I’ve always wanted a long career. I’ve always been interested in creative diversity in my career – I’ve never wanted to play the same character. I just hope to have a long, long creative life.