In the indie drama Norman, teenager Norman Long (Dan Byrd) is a high school loner who’s just trying to get through every day. After his mother’s sudden death, Norman is now forced to deal with the reality that his father (Richard Jenkins) is starting to lose his battle with stomach cancer and, in a moment of anger, he finds himself caught in a lie that leads everyone to believe that he is actually the one with the disease. Meanwhile, the unabashedly optimistic Emily (Emily Van Camp) struggles with her feelings for Norman, in the face of his supposed impending death. Through his relationships with his father and with Emily, Norman must confront his conflicting emotions and figure out who he wants to be.
During an exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Emily Van Camp talked about how delightful it was to play such a lovable and open character, that she flew in to shoot the film on weekends while doing her last TV show Brothers & Sisters, and how a lie like Norman’s can be forgivable, if you understand where the person is coming from. She also talked about how much fun she’s having playing the twisted Emily Thorne on the ABC series Revenge, how excited the cast is to have a full-season pick-up, that there are many unexpected and jaw-dropping twists and turns to come, and that she would love to do a zombie movie, if the opportunity arose. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
EMILY VAN CAMP: I auditioned for it, but I also knew Jonathan Segal. We had been friends for quite a few years, so when it came about, he was auditioning girls and wanted to see how I envisioned the character. It all happened from there.
What was it about this story and the character that attracted you?
VAN CAMP: Well, she was such a lovable character. I knew that, if I was going to tackle this part, it would probably be the last teenager I would play. I was in my early 20’s, at that point, and felt like I wanted to give it one more go. I loved her youthful energy, her free-spirited nature and her openness that you really only find in very young teenaged characters, like her. I really wanted to portray that. And, I just thought the film was so beautifully written. Knowing that Dan Byrd was a part of it was very appealing because he’s a great actor, and Richard Jenkins is obviously phenomenal. It was a no-brainer. I really wanted to do it. I was shooting Brothers & Sisters, at the time, and I was lucky that they allowed me to do both, which was great.
Was it challenging to play a character that was so light, happy and optimistic?
VAN CAMP: It was so much fun! I’ve played a lot of intense characters with all kinds of baggage, and with her, she just had a lightness about her that was so much fun. The film really needed that because it’s so dark and tormented, on so many levels. It needed that light contrast to that other extreme, and she really was that. It was just really delightful to play her. She was so sweet that it was really nice. Playing opposite Dan was just great. He brought so much to that character, and was just so dedicated to making Norman, who he became. I thought he just really pulled it off. When you get to work with such great actors, it brings the best out in you, as well.
VAN CAMP: We didn’t really because I was shooting Brothers & Sisters. I would fly in and usually be there for the weekend, shoot my stuff, and then have to go back. It was all very quick, but it just somehow worked. We were lucky. Dan’s a great guy and we had so much fun together that it was great.
You have some really beautiful moments in this film. Did you have a favorite scene to shoot, or anything you were particularly looking forward to doing?
VAN CAMP: All of it, really. I was just generally excited to do the movie. I loved the film, and I looked forward to playing her. I was playing Rebecca Walker, at the time, who was going through a lot more intensity, so it was a breath of fresh air for me to get to go and play her on the weekends.
Do the more emotional scenes come easy for you, as an actress, or is it something that you struggle with?
VAN CAMP: That’s a good question. I really enjoy playing that stuff. It’s always a great feeling, as an actress, to be able to go there and do that stuff. But, it’s all fun for me, really.
Can you imagine a circumstance where a lie like this is something you could ever forgive?
VAN CAMP: Yeah, when you’re a thoughtful person, and you understand where a person is coming from and why they’re making the choices that they’re making – and made the choice to lie about this, in Norman’s case – I think it is completely forgivable. When you see the circumstances and what he’s been through and why he ultimately did that, and how much pain it’s brought him, and how much guilt he feels about it, and the lessons that are learned in that kind of situation, I think you can absolutely forgive.
Does it feel like you have the best of both worlds right now, with being able to explore a character on TV for what could be a number of years, while having the opportunity to do film work where you explore a character for a self-contained amount of time?
VAN CAMP: I’m unbelievably grateful for that. I enjoy both mediums so much, and to be able to do both is incredible. I feel so lucky, at the moment. I’m absolutely loving playing Emily Thorne on Revenge, and to be able to shoot off and do these little films that I’m really passionate about, here and there, it’s the best of both worlds. I couldn’t be happier.
How exciting was it to find out that people are loving the show as much as they are, and that it just got picked up for a full season?
VAN CAMP: It is so rewarding. There’s definitely been this weight on our shoulders, when we would go to set just wondering how people were going to respond to it. This show is an original idea and you never know how people are going to take it. It doesn’t have that built-in audience, like a lot of shows that are coming on the air nowadays. We just really had no idea, and the response has been phenomenal and the support has been insane. We’re so happy! The fact that we know that we get to do it for a little while longer now, with the back nine pick-up, is completely rewarding. We’re just ecstatic about it.
What can you tease, as far as what’s to come on the show?
VAN CAMP: There is so much coming up. There are so many twists and turns, that are unexpected, that I think are jaw-dropping. When I get these scripts, sometimes I don’t even know what to do with it. It’s just that good. Hopefully, people will continue to enjoy it as much as they have been. It’s just such a great show and we’re so proud of it. It’s just incredibly fun to play such a twisted character, I can’t even tell you. It’s an actors dream.
VAN CAMP: I think absolutely. How couldn’t it? She still ultimately has the ability to feel. Even though she has this wall built up, there are certain things that can come in and break that down, at any moment. For instance, there’s the Jack (Nick Wechsler) character, who’s a link to her past that she wasn’t expecting. It’s a constant push-and-pull with her, whether she feels or whether she doesn’t, with him. She wouldn’t be an interesting character, if that wasn’t an option. But, at the moment, I think she’s pretty dead-set on what she’s doing.
As an actor, is it difficult for you to form temporary families when you’re doing a job, and then have to let them go when the job is done?
VAN CAMP: Oh, absolutely! There’s always a bit of a grieving period when a project comes to an end, but you also keep in touch with the people that you really connect with. I’m still friends with some of the people from Everwood. You don’t have the same sense of comradery anymore because you’re not working together on a day-to-day basis and you’re not in that mode together, but you still make deep connections with people. That’s just part of the business. You learn to deal with that.
Is there a character that you’ve played that you feel is most like you, or do you feel that they all have a little piece of you?
VAN CAMP: I think they all have a little piece of me, definitely. Amy Abbott, on Everwood, was when I was first starting out and I didn’t really know anything, but to bring major elements of myself to her. I hadn’t really developed as an actress, at that point, and didn’t really know what I was doing, half the time, so maybe she was the most like me. I don’t know. But, inevitably, you bring elements of yourself to every character.
VAN CAMP: I haven’t done any comedy yet. Well, not much of it, anyways. I think that would be fun to tackle. I’d love to do a zombie movie. I’m obsessed with the zombie genre, so that’s on the list. I’d love to do everything, really. I’m open to it all.
What was it that caused you to transition from dancing to acting, and was there a point when you knew that acting had won you over and that it was something you wanted to stick with?
VAN CAMP: I think I always knew, in my heart, that I wasn’t going to pursue ballet, as my career. Well, I thought about it, but in order to be a ballerina, you have to love it so much because it’s your life. When I started taking acting classes, it just gave me a different sense of excitement and freedom and joy that I wasn’t getting from ballet, so it was an easy transition. I just knew, once I started working more steadily as an actress, that that part of my life was over, and I was fine with it.
At the same time, do you feel like dancing gave you a discipline and work ethic that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?
VAN CAMP: Absolutely! I’m so grateful to have the dance background that I have because you learn a tremendous work ethic from such a young age. It’s a really, really tough world, so it makes dealing with some of the difficulties in this industry a lot easier, to be honest, having gone through that world and having been exposed to that world. So much of acting is physical as well, and dancing teaches you how to understand your body and movement. It gives you a different awareness of how you move.