Six Questions for Emma Fleury
She may be Toronto’s latest independent film darling—playing the leading lady in the TIFF-debuted film It Was You Charlie—but she honed her craft here in Kingston, excelling in a range of drama courses at Queen’s University. This week, she returns to the Limestone City for the film’s screening on October 16th. Here, she answers a few questions about TIFF, Queen’s, and what happened in between.
1. You did quite a bit of acting in your youth on a variety of television programs and mini-series. You took a break to pursue education at Queen’s, and now you’ve returned to the screen once more. How does it feel returning full-time to your acting career?
I have so much to thank Queen’s for—firstly, a world-class education, friendships, and a network of alum who will remain with me throughout my life. But most of all, it brought me back to a world that I had always loved, but didn’t quite know I wanted to pursue as a career. My amazing childhood experiences on-set had me enrolling in drama courses as electives, every September. I hadn’t auditioned for anything my entire Queen’s career but my wonderful professor, Craig Walker, encouraged me to audition for a role in the Drama Department Major, in my final year. I ended up being cast as the lead, Emily, in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. That single moment changed the trajectory of my whole life. I feel so unbelievably lucky to have been cast in It Was You Charlie, but I know my journey has just begun. When you are pursuing this career, there really is no point of arrival; you are constantly trying to improve.
2. How does your Queen’s education continue to affect your current performances?
I received a top-notch education within the confines of the Drama department at Queen’s. My focus was more theoretical than practical, and serves as a wonderful foundation to the on-camera technical training I do in my day-to-day.
I am so grateful that I learned, throughout my time at Queen’s, how to thoughtfully articulate ideas and thoughts about my craft. It has helped me immensely, in my self-evaluations of my own work and the work of others.
3. Describe the feeling when you learned that you had earned the part of Zoe in It Was You Charlie.
I can honestly say it was the single-greatest moment of my life thus far—that, and stepping on the set for the first time, as Zoe, playing a character I loved whole-heartedly. Zoe was a part that I fought tooth and nail for, in an untraditional audition process. I met the amazing filmmaker, Emmanuel Shirinian, by chance at a TIFF party. It’s so cliché and every actor’s dream, but sometimes opportunity meets hard-work and provides you with a life-changing encounter. That’s certainly what happened in September of 2012. Emmanuel and I had an immediate rapport and he just happened to be looking for the lead female in his film. I took a huge risk, and asked him if I could put myself on tape, workshopping Zoe, and sending my interpretations to him. He obliged, and that in and of itself was a wonderful learning experience. I was lucky enough that by the time my audition came around, I had had numerous conversations with Emmanuel, learning about his influences, sensibilities and overall vision.
4. What was the experience of filming like?
Life-changing and unbelievable. I could throw in every adjective possible and it probably wouldn’t explain the way it felt to me. The magnitude of what I was getting to experience was unparalleled. I was in scenes with the most giving and compassionate scene-partner, Michael D. Cohen, whose talents are limitless. He is in every frame of this movie and he carries it with unbelievable grace and skill. I was in awe of him. Compound that with being directed by a filmmaker whose work I cherished and loved—his cinematic voice is unmatched. And finally, a world-class production team, who trusted a relatively green actress with a pivotal role, and ensured I had the best, absolutely seamless on-set experience. Not to mention, almost two years later they are still promoting the heck out of this movie. Their passion for their work knows no-bounds.
5. It Was You Charlie was filmed in Toronto and debuted at TIFF. Do you think the film has a distinctly Torontonian or Canadian feel, thematically or otherwise?
I don’t really subscribe to the idea that films have a distinctly “Canadian” tone or feel- I just don’t think it exists. A film is a film, and a good film is a good film. I think that this particular film captures a very compelling journey that will resonate with audiences, no matter where they’re from. I will say, It Was You Charlie is certainly a love-letter to quintessential Toronto landmarks and haunts; Emmanuel really wanted to make sure that he showcased our city beautifully, but as for the tone and themes, they are universal.
6. You’ll be in Kingston for the screening of IWYC on October 16th. How excited are you to return to your alma mater’s city for this event? What are you most looking forward to doing in Kingston?
I am so excited to be back in Kingston for the screening; it’s truly where I found my way back to my passion. I couldn’t be any more grateful that some of my amazing professors will be in attendance; they get to see how their hard work helped shape me and led me to goals I didn’t even know I had.
Kingston is a beautiful place, and has an incredible amount of heart. I am excited to walk down Princess, and see the tricolours walking around proudly, and of course, visit all the little shops I loved so much. I adore Market Square and cannot wait to visit the little antique market on Sunday, a favourite pastime during my time at Queen’s. And of course, I can’t wait to see my wonderful alma mater and where it all began.
It Was You Charlie will play at the Landmark Cinemas on October 16th at 7 p.m. There will be a Q&A with director Emmanuel Shirinian after the film. Check out the trailer here.