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An interview with Emily Marie Palmer

Updated: Dec 23, 2021

Photo: Joey Ciccoline

Emily Marie Palmer is an actor and writer known for American Horror Story, Mercy Street, and Lansky. I spoke with Emily about studying at theatrical training school in France, landing her first acting role, and portraying Megan in the newly released film, The Last Son.

You studied at theatrical training school in France. Could you tell me more about this experience?

I studied with master clown and professor of theatre Philippe Gaulier, at his small but prestigious training school in Étampes — a little medieval village just outside of Paris. My time there was brief but impactful. In my small class, there were students from almost every continent, and it was such a valuable experience for me to be able to leave my small hometown in Tennessee and to have my horizons expanded so much, so quickly.

Nearly every day before or after class I would hike up above town to the ruins of Tour Guinette (a 12th century tower with a magnificent view of the village below) and read or write in my journal. It was those days I spent daydreaming up there when I began to really formulate a clear vision for my future in this career, and what path I would forge.

How did you land your first acting role?

Well, this all depends on what you classify as my first acting role. My first role in film or television was Abigail — the unfortunate witch who was not destined to become a Supreme — in American Horror Story: Coven. But that project came about only after I had signed with an agency, and it was a pretty long journey for me to get to that point. Before that, I had already spent many years playing roles in community (and eventually professional) theatre productions. Technically, my very first roles of all were the ones I played in the shows I wrote and performed with my siblings, cousins, and neighborhood friends. When I was 8 or 9, we actually made a feature-length spoof of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings. It’s absolutely ridiculous, but I was very committed to my roles in it. I guess I already had the fire for the craft in me, haha!

Who are your acting heroes?

There are so many actors that I deeply admire, but I think Marion Cotillard will always be at the top of my list of heroes. La Vie en Rose, The Immigrant, Rust and Bone, Macbeth… She astounds me in every single role she plays because she brings such love, depth, and honesty to each of them.

You wrote and starred in the short film Les Confines. Is writing something you'd like to continue to focus on?

Absolutely! I’m currently working on a feature screenplay that I’m really excited about. Whenever I’m between projects, I try to spend as much time as possible writing or developing my own stories so that I can always keep myself engaged creatively.

You portray Megan in the newly released film The Last Son. Can you talk me through the role?

Of course. The film follows Isaac Lemay — an outlaw played by Sam Worthington — who believes that he is destined to be killed by one of his children, and he is on a quest to track down and kill them before they can do the same to him. My character Megan (like Cal, played by Machine Gun Kelly) is one of those children. When the story of the film takes place, she is coming of age in a very harsh and violent world. She has grown up isolated, and her family’s daily struggle to survive in the harsh frontier has made her strong, but there is a profound freshness about her, and a childlike curiosity for the world beyond her isolated fields and forests. I deeply identified with that innocence, and hungry curiosity.

What was the most challenging aspect of this production?

The weather was exceptionally challenging. When I first arrived at the Montana ranch where we shot most of the film, the weather was warm, and sunny, and beautiful. Less than two weeks later, the temperature plummeted below zero, and it snowed non-stop. Sometimes there would be these kinds of dramatic shifts within just a few hours! We shot in a mountain range called “The Crazies” — and some say they derived their name from their highly unpredictable weather patterns. That definitely posed a significant challenge on many days, and I’ve never been colder in my life than I was while shooting this film.

What are you currently watching/reading?

At the moment I’m reading several books as part of the research for my current writing project, but historical nonfiction is one of my favorite genres and these are all books I’ve read before, or have always wanted an excuse to read. At the moment it’s Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years by Carl Sandburg, The Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny by Michael Wallis, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, and Devil’s Gate: Brigham Young and the Great Mormon Handcart Tragedy by David Roberts — among others. I love reading so much that sometimes it’s hard to get myself out of the research phase and into the execution of the project. There’s always more to learn!

I’m currently watching Ted Lasso and loving it — and really looking forward to new seasons of Cobra Kai, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Could you tell me about your other upcoming projects?

I’d love to. The screenplay I’m working on is a thriller set in the Ozark Mountains in the 1850s, and it’s absorbing a lot of my attention and energy at the moment. I also have some exciting projects on the horizon in 2022, some of which I’m not able to talk about just yet, so stay tuned.

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