From Emily Bronte to ‘Barbie’
As we pushed our sourdough starters, making our 24e batch of banana bread and swapping knitting needles for more another one Netflix binge-watching marathon, Emma Mackey spent six weeks of the second UK lockdown crouching in a house with her fellow actors in the windy Yorkshire Moors. “There was no break or hiding,” she says United Kingdom. “It was so intense and busy. We spent our days chatting, playing cards, taking walks and on Sundays I would cook brunch for everyone. His specialty? An amalgam of roasted garlic, parsley, lemon zest, mushrooms, cumin, tomatoes and sugar.
It’s a fitting and wholesome image for a cast hired to explore the imaginary life of one of the world’s most famous 18.e authors of the century, Emily Brontë. Directed by actor Frances O’Connor, the film stars Mackey in the lead role of Emily, a reclusive rebel who constantly struggles with the status quo and continues to write the classic novel, The Wuthering Heights. Emily’The plot of the twenty-year-old navigates her relationship with her sisters Charlotte (Alexandra Dowling) and Anne (Amelia Gething), a romance with William Weightman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and the downward spiral of her brother Branwell (Fionn Whitehead). “It was a lot to take on,” Mackey tells us of the pressure to make her film debut, crediting her castmates for giving her “a sense of normalcy and comfort.”
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For Mackey, playing Emily was a “no-brainer”. “It was the right kind of project and challenge for me, something I could sink my teeth into,” she continues. But the path to filming was not easy. The actor was originally cast in the role in 2020, but with the pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns, production didn’t start for a year and a half. The era offered the ever studious Mackey the perfect opportunity to embark on the search for her complex character, watching documentaries and film adaptations about The Wuthering Heights and the Brontë sisters, listening to music. “I’m pretty clinical in the way I prepare,” admits the actor. ‘I love it. I’m pretty academic so I need to read real facts.
Unlike the likes of biopics such as Spencer, Elvis and tick, tick… Boom! who have graced our screens lately, the creators of Emily are keen to emphasize that their film is not a biopic in the traditional sense, rather speculative and an interpretation of the author’s life. For this reason, once Mackey had completed her research on Bronte, she decided to let go of the reins entirely in favor of trusting O’Connor and following. his vision of the evolution of the story of his character. “Once you do that, the character takes on a whole new meaning,” she explains. Two weeks before filming, the cast moved to Yorkshire – the Brontës’ home county – and began rehearsals, taking part in movement lessons, workshops and singing hymns.
One thing that cannot go unnoticed in the film is the Yorkshire accents shared by the characters. “It was impossible for us to make the film without Emily having a Yorkshire accent, but it was about seeing how far we could go,” Mackey said. “I wanted to set the tone and make sure we all had some flavor of it,” she adds, noting that she took inspiration from her character’s hybrid dialect from the Cornish accents of the matriarch Brontë and his father’s Irish accents. “A soft Yorkshire tune was the final choice,” she says.
The film’s location became something of a loophole for Mackey, who moved to the UK aged 18 to study English language and literature at the University of Leeds. The 26-year-old is from Le Mans, France – the daughter of a French father and an English mother. In 2019, she made her screen debut playing Maeve Wiley in the Netflix comedy-drama series Sex educationwhich earned her a British Academy Television Award nomination, and has since appeared in the drama eiffel (2021) and the mystery film Death on the Nile (2022).
While the similarities between Mackey and Emily are rare, the actress says she could relate to the author’s feeling of feeling overwhelmed and often wanting to retire to be alone with her own thoughts. “These are things that everyone feels to varying extremes. She’s the sum total of someone who has a very dense fantasy life, but who also feels incredibly shy and doesn’t know how to function with people,” she says. Prior to the film’s release, there was much talk about the subtle detachment from mental health issues Brontë may have suffered, which helps make the character accessible to 21st-century audiences now armed with the language to talk about how we feel. “I’m really glad people are taking notice because issues like social anxiety, social awkwardness, or depression aren’t necessarily things that we’ve focused on,” she says of mental health topics. raised during filming.
While the film is steeped in dark humor and sensory adventure, its plot is largely inspired by the story of Brontë. The Wuthering Heights– romance with the clergyman Weightman, stolen glances from the couple, delicate hand touches and steamy sex scenes in a ramshackle cottage in the middle of the Moors. “Emily is a sexy movie” Guardian film critic Radheyan Simonpillai recently described. ‘I like this. I like to call it a sexy movie,” Mackey tells us. ‘From religion to masculine/feminine roles [in the film], it all makes for a loaded forbidden love that is very sexy. That’s one of the reasons I liked the script in the first place – it didn’t feel pretentious, indulgent or like a pristine thing. It was a bit rough and imperfect… I hope it appeals to people that way.
Having worked with Intimacy Coordinator Ita O’Brien for Sex educationMackey says it was “helpful” to bring the “invaluable lessons and tips of the craft of Sex education “the school of sex”, on the set of Emily. “It gives you such a sense of control and reassurance,” she notes. In a passionate scene of Emily, Weightman struggles to undo Brontë’s corset — a moment that has been seen as a feminist foreplay. “It’s funny, because it takes so long, but it’s a really lovely moment,” Mackey recalled of the scene. ‘[Oli and I] decided to just do some kind of craft [the sex scenes] with Francis and go through the beats together,” Mackey adds of the filming process, noting that the actors trusted each other to explore these intimate moments in a choreographed way.
Talking about improvements in how sex is portrayed on screen in TV and film in a post #MeToo era, while Mackey is careful to only talk about his experience, she says, there’s “definitely more awareness now of the delicacy of it, how it can be exposed, and how it can affect you in the long run.” “It’s about finding the balance between feeling safe and knowing that you can separate from your character,” she adds.
Following the success of Sex education and with her latest film due out just days away (the film nabbed a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating after it screened at the 2022 Toronto Film Festival), Mackey says she’s reacting to her growing fan base. like “everyone who is in his situation”. “It’s weird and weird, but also lovely people care what you’re into,” she says, recalling a recent encounter with a fan that left her in tears. “I was having coffee with my boyfriend in Paris and a cute girl spotted me, so I smiled at her. Ten minutes later she came over and gave me a box of choux pasta that I “she bought with ‘I love you’ and a frosting heart on top. She cried, I cried. It was the sweetest thing,” she said.
While she is grateful for the ‘gift’ of Sex education (production on the fourth season is underway), Mackey says she wants to explore other projects. “I’m a 26-year-old woman and I have other things to show. I’m not just one thing. I have so many things I want to do and do. I’m just excited to hopefully be able to- the, have the chance to do so.
One such project includes Mackey’s recent appearance in the upcoming Barbie movie, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. Little is known about Mackey’s role at this point, but it’s rumored she could play Barbie’s (Robbie) younger sister (a fitting role considering the actors’ uncanny resemblance to each other). ‘Barbie is crazy for me,” she says of her final “pinch me” moment. ‘Work on Barbie was pretty amazing. Greta Gerwig has been my heroine for a while and I’m glad I worked with her and saw her in action. She’s great.
While working with her look-alike Robbie (a lookalike comparison she recently said she finds ‘funny’, but would like to ‘pass’), Will Ferrell and Gosling, she says, ‘It was so nice to see people who were excellent in their work , kind, humble and not hierarchical in any way. It was so reassuring. As for what we can expect from the film, which is shrouded in as much secrecy as a james bond movie, Mackey hints, “It’s going to be really unexpected. I’m intrigued to see what it’s going to look like because it’s one thing to film it, but it’s another thing to see it all put together. I think people will be pleasantly surprised! It’s a really fun thing. And can we expect a lot of pink? ‘Well yes. Sure!’
Emily will be released in UK and Irish cinemas on October 14, 2022.