At the time of the interview, Emily was starring as Glinda, The Good Witch of The North in The Wizard of Oz, at The London Palladium.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new production of The Wizard of Oz contains all the much-loved songs from the Oscar-winning film, and all the favourite characters and iconic moments, plus a few surprises along the way, including new songs.
Born in West Sussex in 1987, Emily demonstrated her liking for drama at an early age, putting on ‘shows’ for her brother, when they were both toddlers.
She also experienced a taste of the arts when she was a little older, visiting Glasgow with her family, where her older sister (who is an acclaimed artist) was lecturing at the Glasgow School of Art.
As a teenager, Emily attended Chichester High School where her favourite subject was Drama, it was, therefore, no surprise that she moved on to the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in North London. While at Mountview Emily performed as Johanna in the musical Sweeney Todd, Marian Caldarone/Michael Fentiman; Phyll/Granny Trill/Mrs Pimbury theatre (Tour) in Cider With Rosie, Rhys Thomas; Flaemmchen in the musical Grand Hotel, Sally Ann Gritton; and Maria in A Place for us – West Side Story in Concert, David Temple, The Barbican. Emily graduated in Musical Theatre in 2008.
Emily joined the cast of Wicked on 9th June, 2008 as the second understudy for Nessarose, and on 11th May, 2009 she became the first understudy for Nessarose. She was considered as a Glinda cover in Wicked but was deemed to be too tall, which is interesting as she now has that role in The Wizard of Oz!
Emily has enjoyed a busy couple of years while working in Wicked, with the highlight performances being Eva Roderick in the BBC’s New Tricks, a Victorian Lady in John Carter of Mars (Disney), and Sally in All the Fun of The Fair (Garrick Theatre). During 2010 Emily also played the lead role of Lydia in Channel 5’s drama, filmed in the style of a reality TV show about the life and career of fashion journalist Lydia Harrison
Emily joined the new production of The Wizard of Oz, together with the other cast members, when it opened at the London Palladium on 7th February 2011, following previews. With her natural beauty and elegance, Emily portrays the part of Glinda wonderfully and the role is perfect for her. In her long-flowing shiny silver dress, she moves gracefully around the Land of Oz, and with a lovely voice to match she has endeared herself to The Wizard of Oz fans
Having established herself as an actor on the stage, television and film, Emily is now a star and will I am sure be an even bigger star of the future!
I recently asked Emily some questions about herself and her career.
Where did you go to school/college and what was your favourite subject at school?
I went to Chichester High School for Girls, and funnily enough my favourite subject was Drama! I had a really wonderful teacher called Pam Lippiett who really encouraged and inspired me. Being at an all girls’ school and also being rather tall I always ended up playing the male roles! My first leading role that really gave me the bug for performing was Joseph in ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’! I also played Herman the male pimp in ‘Sweet Charity’!! I think this early performance experience fuelled my current desire to play Jean Val Jean, or Judas in ‘JCS’!
Did you have a favourite pet at home?
No pets! Although I do have a rather friendly mouse who has invaded my dressing room at the London Palladium! He’s called Brian.
At what age did you realise that you wanted to be an actress?
I’ve wanted to be an actress for as long as I can remember! I used to put on shows with my little brother and his collection of penguin soft toys when we were tiny! Our poor parents watched many of those shows!
Did anyone in particular inspire you to want to be on the stage?
My drama teacher from school Pam Lippiett, and my singing teacher the opera singer Jacquelyn Fugelle. I also remember watching ‘Follow the Star’ at Chichester Festival Theatre when I was about five years old and thinking it must be the most exciting thing in the world to be an actor – and I wasn’t wrong!
Do you have anyone as a role model that you aspire to be like?
Acting wise, I look up to and admire so many people! Growing up I wanted to be Kate Winslet in Titanic. So many people inspired me from Ruthie Henshall to Dame Judi Dench. These days I guess there’s a few actresses I aspire to be like; Fiona Shaw, Andrea Riseborough, Anne Marie Duff’s performance as Saint Joan at the National Theatre really inspired me, to name but a few. There are so many. Hannah Waddingham has always inspired me so it’s a dream to be playing Glinda opposite her Witch! I learn so much from watching her. In terms of people I aspire to be like, I’d say my parents. They are both so strong and supportive and are such good parents. I am a real family girl and grew up idolising my big sisters who are now incredible mothers! I hope one day I can be like them.
Are there any long-term ambitions that you have either on the stage or off it?
I would love to make more movies and do some more TV. I passionately love acting for the camera, the intimacy and the quick turnover. I was lucky enough to play the lead in a TV drama for 3 months last year for channel 5 called ‘Push’. It was so challenging and exciting to be shooting in different locations every day. And I love a challenge! I’d also love to do some Shakespeare at some point. Another passion of mine! But at the moment I am very happy with the way my career is going. I have a brilliant agent who really pushes me and I’m a very lucky girl.
If you won a million pounds what would you spend the money on?
My family of course! I’d probably buy a house somewhere hot too as I’m a sun worshipper! I’d also save the shop Dress Circle!
Which is your favourite part of London that you like going to?
The South Bank. I love walking along and soaking up the atmosphere especially in the summer. Plus two of my favourite places lay there, the National Theatre and the Tate Modern. I also feel very at home in Soho, theatre land.
Have you passed your driving test and if so what was your first car?
Yes! I passed at 17 and shared a car with my brother which I promptly crashed three weeks after passing!
What would be your favourite meal be if taken out to dinner?
I love to eat at J. Sheekey’s Oyster Bar and Fish Restaurant in the heart of theatre land!
What is your favourite musical & favourite film?
I couldn’t choose, probably either ‘Sweeney Todd’, ‘Les Miserables’ or ‘West Side Story’. But I also love ‘Carousel’ and ‘Wicked’! Again film wise I would be stuck between ‘Silence of the Lambs’, ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, ‘Forest Gump’, ‘Titanic’… Sorry the list is endless!!
Any parts of the world that you would like to go to or have been to?
I love Africa, and would love to go back and visit. I’d also love to see more of America and have never been to New York! I love to travel.
What is it like working in the Wizard of Oz?
It’s so exciting to be a part of any new show and with this being such a classic you feel under a lot of pressure to get it right! The audiences already know the story because of the film and so it is our duty to make it as magical and as fresh as we can. I am loving playing Glinda and have slightly re-invented her from the character in the film. My Glinda is a bit more ballsy and fiery and I have enjoyed incorporating some comedy and spice into the role. I am also enjoying my daily ‘Witch – off” with the fabulous Hannah Waddingham. We have far too much fun! I also feel so honoured and lucky to be singing a new song ‘Already Home’ written by the Lord himself, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. It’s wonderful being part of such an amazing company of talented actors and technicians. It is really a lovely building to work in and one of the nicest company’s I have ever been a part of. I feel very blessed.
Who would you most like to star alongside in a play or musical?
I would love to be in ‘Absolutely Fabulous’! I’d love to act opposite Brad Pitt. And I would love to work with Mike Leigh. And I would love to perform on the Olivier stage at the National Theatre.
What do you usually do on your ‘nights off’?
Sleep! I like to go out for dinner (usually impossible on working nights) and generally relax with the people I love and catch up on films and telly.
And anything else you might like to add?
My brother is also an actor and musician to watch out for. He is lead singer in a band called ‘The Bora’ and has just finished training in Manchester!
Training: Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.
Theatre: Glinda in The Wizard of Oz, (London Palladium), Sally in All the Fun of the Fair (Garrick), Wicked (Apollo, Victoria), Maria in West Side Story (Barbican) and Titanic The Musical (Shaw). Workshops: Natalia in Bauhania (NT) and principal vocalist in Helen of Troy (Little Angel).
Film: Ellie in John Carter of Mars and Alice in Kate Modern.
Television: Lydia Harrison in Push and Do It in Style and Eva Roderick in New Tricks.
Article Editor Neil Cheesman – follow me on Twitter @LondonTheatre1