THE LEFTOVERS' Emily Meade Talks About New HBO Series Before Sunday's Premiere

THE LEFTOVERS' Emily Meade Talks About New HBO Series Before Sunday's Premiere
Emily Meade. Photo credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO

BroadwayWorld had the privilege of chatting with Emily Meade this week in anticipation of the premiere of her new series THE LEFTOVERS. The new drama series was created by LOST'S Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta and debuts exclusively on HBO on June 29th at 10pm.

Based on Perrotta's bestselling novel of the same name, THE LEFTOVERS is an original look at The Rapture...or was it The Rapture at all? Set in a small New York suburb, the intimate family drama focuses on residents of the fictional town of Mapleton, whose preconceptions are shattered in the wake of a global event dubbed "The Sudden Departure." Three years after the fateful day when 140 million people disappeared without a trace, the series focuses on the ways ordinary people react to inexplicable events that can unite or divide families and communities, examining how their untold grief and the strain of an unprecedented calamity can turn faith into cynicism, paranoia, madness or cult-like fanaticism.

Meade plays Aimee, a free-spirited high schooler who seems unfazed by The Sudden Departure. Read the interview below to find out details about how Meade connected with Aimee, her experience working on her first play DOMESTICATED at Lincoln Center and more!

BWW: Were you at all familiar with Tom Perrotta's work or had you read the book before you auditioned for the THE LEFTOVERS?

E: I was familiar with his work through the film versions of his books - I had never read THE LEFTOVERS but I was a huge fan of both the movies of ELECTION and LITTLE CHILDREN. But no, I hadn't actually read THE LEFTOVERS.

BWW: Did you go and read it at all after getting cast as Aimee?

E: I started to read it, and pretty much right from the first page there were a few technical differences and it kind of threw me off. I stopped reading it when we were filming the pilot, and then I went back to it while we were doing the series itself...but I felt like it still kind of threw me off. So, I've decided that now that we're coming to a wrap, I'm going to read it in the time off because now it doesn't matter as much. It's kind of getting into my head, these little differences between the book and the show.

BWW: Has collaborating with Damon Lindeloff been helpful to you as an actress? Are you one of those people who wants to know how your story ends, so to speak? Or do you kind of want to be surprised as you go along?

E: Usually when I'm doing a film, I like to fill in all the backstory for the character. Obviously you don't know in real life what's going to happen to you, so it's okay if you don't know what's going to happen to you as a character. But with a series, basically as you go you're filling in the backstory, because each episode is developing something that could affect your path. You're kind of weirdly in the middle of not knowing your future but also not knowing the past of the character. Damon is very open and available for any questions you might have and that's been a really interesting process. I don't actually need to know the future of the character but I do need to know the past. With a TV show, the future and the past are kind of tied in together, information-wise. That's been an interesting way of developing the characters.

THE LEFTOVERS' Emily Meade Talks About New HBO Series Before Sunday's Premiere
Emily Meade, Margaret Qualley. Photo credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO

BWW: I can imagine that especially with someone like Damon it's all very intertwined, the future and the past being revealed at the same time, besides just being in the genre of episodic television.

E: Yeah, your character will say something and you'll be like "Oh, so I guess that means that they did this five years ago!"

BWW: You worked on BOARDWALK EMPIRE, which is also on HBO, but that is a period piece. How has this experience been different from that?

E: It's totally different - just being a regular and a part of this growing family unit. That itself is an interesting thing. BOARDWALK is a completely different world and I knew way more about the arc of the character I was working on way more right off the bat. Her history, her future-I kind of knew who she was more, whereas this is definitely a longer, slower development. It's been completely different, it's night and day. I'd say doing BOARDWALK was closer to doing a film in that I knew the beginning, middle and end of her arc. This is very different as far as not knowing how it's developing.

BWW: How has this been different for you from doing DOMESTICATED which was your first major stage production?

E: That at first, doing a play, was the most overwhelming, terrifying experience of my life [laughs]. I definitely had moments where I thought I couldn't possibly do this. But, it's so different from both TV and film because all the preparation is beforehand. It's been really interesting because all in one year I did a film I really loved, I did the play and I did the TV series, and each thing has such a different process. I feel like this year has been like having a big appetizer dish so you're really seeing everything juxtaposed together. But with a play, it's also a slow process but the whole process takes place before you perform it. Whereas a movie, it's taking place while you perform it but you know what's happening. Then with a TV series it's after the fact, when you're done then you're learning things after you've already started developing a character. It's really as different as it could get.

BWW: Did you love being on stage? Could we possibly see you back in something again?

E: Yeah! I mean, I totally-I went through like my second or third week of rehearsals, you know breaking down, crying, and being like Oh My God, I'm not cut out for this, I'm going to get fired, I can't do this! But, it was also the most rewarding thing to actually get through it and learn how to project my voice. It felt like running a marathon, even the physicality of every night doing a performance. I felt like wow, I'm actually doing something. Plus, having the audience's reactions every night...I definitely would like to do it again. I think now that I know more about it, I feel it would definitely have to be a specific part in a specific play...I think I started with such an incredible team, Anna Shapiro and Bruce Norris, and an amazing cast that it almost makes it scarier. Like now I'm coming from a totally different standard. [laughs]

BWW: Were you a big fan of LOST? Or if were you not familiar with LOST, did you then go and watch it at all?

E: I must admit that I am probably the worst TV fan in the world and have hardly followed. Probably the only show I've seen every episode of is FRIENDS and maybe SEINFELD. [laughs] For the most part I knew about of LOST and I knew how amazing it was but since then I've definitely tried but it's almost is too overwhelming to me, the idea of actually starting. I am not one of those people who binges on TV so I think I need to really set aside at least two years of my life to catch up on LOST and maybe even watch that while THE LEFTOVERS is going on instead of THE LEFTOVERS. something. [Laughs] But yes, I knew of Damon Lindeloff obviously and the phenomenon of LOST but there's literally no TV show that I've ever really followed all in that way.

BWW: Considering the circumstances of THE LEFTOVERS, and Aimee's storyline in particular, what's it like for you to be the moral compass while still playing a reckless teenager? And is that close to you at all in real life?

E: I don't know if you can give yourself the credit of calling yourself a moral compass but I think what I share with Aimee, or maybe how I connect to Aimee, is ever since I was a little girl I had this instinctual understanding or trust in the universe. I didn't grow up with any sort of religion or even being told to believe anything specific but I always knew there was something, and things were being taken care of, and I did believe everything happens for a reason. I do think Aimee, as much as she's kind of reckless, weirdly has this trust for the universe or what's happening that other people don't. And, what could look like recklessness is really just not being afraid and having a bravery that comes with trust and faith. People may think of her as the least religious or spiritual person, but I think that she has her own spirituality or just grounded faith. Not only has she experienced pain in her life before 'The Departure' happened, she's had to deal with that as well and I think there's a trust that brings her safety that a lot of other people don't have. I definitely relate to that, maybe I'm just projecting that onto her because that's what I feel like I have. But, I definitely relate to that.

THE LEFTOVERS' Emily Meade Talks About New HBO Series Before Sunday's Premiere
Margaret Qualley, Emily Meade. Photo credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO

BWW: Do you feel that as much as she is kind of a reckless teen, she's almost like a mother figure now to Jill?

E: I absolutely feel that way. And I do feel like that's a role that I've taken on in my life ever since I was a kid, wanting to comfort and take care of people. It's that person who pretends that they don't give a shit but really is super-nurturing and motherly, but without ever saying it out loud. I think she really has a deep care for Jill and I don't think Aimee has a very strong family of her own. She kind of feels abandoned and orphaned but in turn taken on a mother role, and has incentive to mother the whole family, not just Jill. Obviously she can be snappy and snarky but I feel like that's her way in of having a family.

BWW: You grew up in New York City-how's it been living and working all around your hometown?

E: It's pretty bizarre. On the one hand, it's totally normal because it's all I know. It's the only place I've ever really lived. It's New York, I've never lived anywhere else. On the other hand, one of the first movies I did called TWELVE, we filmed a lot of scenes in Central Park. I was supposed to be a drug addict and I was buying drugs in this scene with 50 Cent and all these kind of great characters right in front of a playground I used to play in when I was four years old. That was certainly a surreal, awesome experience. It's amazing and it's surreal but for the most part when it comes to like shooting-unless I'm shooting somewhere that I have a childhood memory, it's just kind of normal because it's all I know.

BWW: What is a must-have in your trailer when you are on location?

E: I know I haven't made any demands or requests! The first thing that comes to my mind is Chapstick. Which sounds ridiculous but I'd say Chapstick is my go-to. My favorite thing to do in my trailer is literally to sit and think. There's always a TV and stuff but I never put on the TV. I always bring a book but for some reason I hardly ever can read in an actual trailer. There's something I really enjoy about just sitting and thinking on the couch, or just taking a nap with my shoes and all my clothes on and sitting up. I don't know what it is, there's just something really soothing about that. There's silence, there's something about that that I really like. But yeah, Chapstick, that I'm neurotic about, I'll have it in my costume pocket, like I need Chapstick at least, within a foot of me.

BWW: Are there any plans that you can reveal, either about THE LEFTOVERS or anything coming up for you? I know you have a movie coming out ME HIM HER.

E: I don't know, I can't think of anything I could reveal about THE LEFTOVERS that wouldn't be giving something away. Because...that's the thing with the show, it's so bizarre and all over the place that I don't think I can effectively tell what is a spoiler alert and what is not. ME HIM HER, I'm really excited about that, the movie and isvery close to my heart.

BWW: We can't wait for THE LEFTOVERS to appear and we'll be on the lookout for ME HIM HER-is it out this fall or is it in the winter?

E: I don't even know the release date or anything like that. Max likes to keep information from me, he likes to tease me, so I have no idea. But hopefully soon!

BWW: Well we'll be on the lookout! Congratulations on THE LEFTOVERS and have a wonderful rest of your day!

E: Thank you, you too, thank you so much.

THE LEFTOVERS debuts exclusively on HBO on June 29th at 10pm.

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