When everyone wondered how a TV show of 12 Monkeys could work, here’s one answer. Turn Jeffrey Goines into Jennifer Goines. While the Brad Pitt role in the movie was a memorable, and Oscar nominated, turn for Pitt, changing Jeffrey to Jennifer puts a new spin on it and offers a juicy part for Emily Hampshire.
I met Hampshire when she joined the 12 Monkeys cast at the Television Critics Association winter press tour the week 12 Monkeys premiered on Syfy. I had already seen a few episodes ahead so that catches us up to what’s airing this week, Friday the 13th at 9 on Syfy.
Nuke the Fridge: It was such a surprise at the end of the pilot when it turns out to be Jennifer Goines instead of Jeffrey. When you got the part, did they tell you exactly what this role was?
Emily Hampshire: Well, I knew it was for 12 Monkeys and it said in the breakdown that it’s the part Brad Pitt played in the movie.
Nuke: So they put that on table.
Emily Hampshire: Oh yeah, that was definitely on the table. I keep thinking it was a really smart decision on my part to not watch the movie before my audition, but it was really a time factor. I had to audition really fast and normally I’m the type of person who wants to do all the research and I would have watched that movie and studied things. I just decided I’m going to spend my time on the script and what I have here on the page. So my first introduction to a Goines was Jennifer and was the TV show, not the movie. I’m really happy that that was the way it went because I found out later what Terry Matalas, our creator, and Travis [Fickett] and all them liked about me was that I didn’t try to do an impression of Brad Pitt’s performance, which I later watched and was like, “Oh my God, I was supposed to do that?” But I later watched it and it’s an amazing performance and I think it was really smart of them to change it to a woman. There still is the pressure of it’s the Brad Pitt part, but at least I don’t have the pressure of having to have his abs or something.
Nuke: Had you never seen the movie just in your life?
Emily Hampshire: I hadn’t. I knew about it. I remember when it came out. There was a big brouhaha about it and I hadn’t seen it. So I watched it after my first audition.
Nuke: How many episodes is Jennifer in?
Emily Hampshire: I think eight or nine. It got to be more. I thought I was supposed to be in only a few but then it took me by surprise where they take her.
Nuke: So far, she seems unpredictable, but is Jennifer in control of her personality?
Emily Hampshire: I mean, I think so. I think that there’s this thing about Jennifer being crazy. To me, the crazy people sometimes are the people who know the truth about things and say it and don’t have the inhibitions to not say it. Actually, when I’d spoken to a psychiatrist before when I was preparing for the part, and he said something I always felt but didn’t have proof of, that people with mental illness to that scale don’t have those inhibitions sometimes that we have in society to not just go to the heart of the matter and say what it is that’s going on. So I think with Jennifer, you don’t know if she is a part of this conspiracy with the 12 Monkeys or if she’s a victim of it. I think that really goes back and forth.
Nuke: I think we can tell there’s a lot of different streams going through her mind and she might be switching back and forth on a dime. Do you see her that way? Are there a lot of thoughts she’s expressing maybe not in the most clear and fluid way?
Emily Hampshire: Yeah, it’s interesting that you say that because first of all, I feel like that’s maybe a lot of me. Sometimes it’s very hard for me to just go one place. I have a million thoughts going on at the same time but it’s also such a time travel thing. I think it seems to me like Jennifer a lot of the time is seeing the past, future and present all at once in this way. I think that she has her own logic. My character goes places I never thought in a million years.
Nuke: Were you doing any of the charcoal drawings yourself?
Emily Hampshire: I was doing the charcoal drawing but they had sketched it out in the way they wanted it to be. Except I keep saying to people, my friends in New York, I went to Grand Central Station and monkeys are everywhere, I’m like, “That’s my monkey!” They’re like, “You drew that?” I’m like, “Yes! I drew that monkey! There’s shots of me drawing that monkey.” But I can’t really take credit for that artwork.
Nuke: I can tell you have a lot of energy. Is acting a great outlet for that?
Emily Hampshire: You know, when I’m not acting, it’s not really good. If I don’t have a job, I feel like I was born with this desire, like one life is not enough. I need multiple lives. So acting really gives me that in a safe and sane way as opposed to leading double lives and triple lives.
Nuke: But if there’s not a character as outrageous as Jennifer Goines, can you turn it off too?
Emily Hampshire: I feel like Jennifer is where I finally for the first time, it sounds terrible, I guess to illustrate this, when I got the part I put on Facebook “I’m the Brad Pitt part.” All my friends were like, “That’s the most perfect part for you.” And then when I went into wardrobe, I’m meeting the wardrobe woman for the first time just being my self and she says to Terry, “She’s perfect.” I’m like, “Wait a second, I’m just being myself.” I was like, is this an insult? Is everyone saying I’m crazy? But it is the first time where I can be as big as I sometimes am in life but they also give me the opportunity to play parts. Jennifer is kind of the Orphan Black of roles. Where it goes, I really sometimes get to be the head of a company or head of something. It’s crazy because she really just does take on these parts.
Nuke: At the same time, the dialogue must be very specific. So do you have to get it just right?
Emily Hampshire: I try to. I try to because I really respect the writers and initially they really wrote Jennifer in a specific way. She had a definite vernacular and a tone. I think that has merged, theirs and mine in life. Sometimes I’ll see things, I’m like, “I say that. That’s me.” So I think what they’ve done, a lot of people, as the show goes on and you get to know people, you play to their strengths.
Nuke: How many auditions did you have for the role of Jennifer?
Emily Hampshire: I had two actually. Two and a test with Aaron.
Nuke: The first scene where Cole meets you in the asylum, how much time did you have to do that? Did it pop right off the page?
Emily Hampshire: You know, that was actually one of the audition scenes, so Aaron and I had done that together actually. In a way, that made it a bit harder on the day because we had done it so many times not in the setting. So you get used to this rhythm of doing it in a vacuum, like in a room where there’s no props or you’re not in a real room. My first day on set was everything in that second episode, everything. That was a little daunting so it did take a bit for me being free and not realizing the pace of television. I think I’m used to more independent film that you spend all day on a scene. I am kind of a perfectionist that wants to get it right but we have such a great [crew]. Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett are there, and Natalie [Chaidez] really guiding us.
Nuke: What was your background before you landed 12 Monkeys?
Emily Hampshire: Mostly I had done Canadian movies. I’m a Canadian actor. The only TV thing I’d really done was this show called Rookie Blue. I did some episodes of that but mostly I do independent festival films. I did a Cronenberg movie called Cosmopolis and a lot of festival films. That was a real departure for me, being on a show that’s like a machine with so many cooks and producers and everybody has a say. I wasn’t used to that.
Nuke: Are there any upcoming episodes that are as big for Jennifer as episode two was?
Emily Hampshire: Oh yeah. Oh my God, have you not seen episode five? I think five is, at least the very turning point, like it’s a game changer for the show, for Jennifer. It’s bigger than episode two for sure.
Nuke: The pilot was already done when you were cast. Was that a unique experience to get to see the entire pilot?
Emily Hampshire: Oh, absolutely. Especially I’m just in the tail end of the pilot but that was great because you got to see the world you’re going to play in, in a way that you don’t usually get to see that. And also, when we went to Comic-Con, we had a screening at the Paley Center of the pilot and for the first time I got to watch the show like an audience member because I wasn’t concerned with my performance and everything. And it blew my mind. I couldn’t believe the reaction and how I felt about it. It was so great to get that opportunity to watch it like an audience.