Interview: 'I Know I'm Going to Learn So Much': Emily Fairn on Accents, Opportunities and Making Her Stage Debut in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN @sohoplace

The actor talks about getting a leg-up in the industry, perfecting a Wyoming accent and returning to the stage after her television work

MATILDA THE MUSICAL Announces West End Extension; See New Footage From the Show!
Photo Credit: Phil Sharp

The infectiously bubbly Emily Fairn is sitting on the top floor dressing room of @sohoplace. A window behind her looks onto Tottenham Court Road. A glimmering electric billboard with a poster of Brokeback Mountain, the new stage adaptation of based on Annie Proulx's short story, looms large over the bustling London street. There are worse places to make a stage debut.

BroadwayWorld caught up with Emily, the breakout star of BBC's The Responder as she prepares for her role, along with Mike Faist and Lucas Hedges. She plays Ennis' wife Alma, played by Hedges. We spoke about getting a leg-up in the industry, perfecting a Wyoming accent and returning to the stage after her television work.

"It's a bit crazy really. The play is incredible. I'm so honoured and excited to be able to tell the story. Everyone is so talented. The theatre is so cool. You step out onto Tottenham Court Road. It's hard to stay in the moment and not get overwhelmed." Emily says.

Emily graduated from Guildhall in 2020. Covid brought the industry to a halt; her final year left her in a temporary limbo before she was cast opposite Martin Freeman in the critically acclaimed BBC police psychodrama The Responder.

"I was lucky that there was a scouse TV show with a young lead that I was right for. I know that it's not that easy for everyone. I was lucky."

It was The Office and Sherlock star Freeman himself, executive producer and lead actor on The Responder, who spotted Fairn and gave her a leg up into the industry: "We had a chemistry reading. He was so lovely. He really wanted me to get the part. I've got everyone to thank for the opportunity, but when we wrapped, I said to Martin: you have changed my life. He was like "oh shut up." He's really been there for me with career advice. Before I started, I didn't know anyone in the industry. Even stuff like explaining how to do taxes. I'm so thankful that I've worked with lovely people so far that have helped me build my career and my confidence."

The Responder has been nominated for six BAFTA TV Awards: "I honestly - I don't know what's going on. I've got the preview for this incredible play, then I'm going to the BAFTAs. What is going on? Responder was my first job. I'd never even been on screen. What if I don't even like it? I'm 60 grand in debt...what's it even going to be like? I kid you not, it was the happiest time of my life."

MATILDA THE MUSICAL Announces West End Extension; See New Footage From the Show!
Emily Fairn as Alma

Her training at Guildhall was mostly stage-based. Returning to the stage from television felt like a homecoming: "I started rehearsals for Brokeback. I took a deep breath and said I've missed being in a rehearsal room. This is nice. Being a part of community and this group. With telly you flip in and out. A few takes and you're done. I didn't realise how much I missed working together to find those beautiful moments."

She doesn't know which she prefers: "I love both for different reasons. They feel like different ways of life. With telly you are picked up at 4am with your trailer. With theatre we commute on the tube, we have lunch together. With the run we have every day free until five."

The return to theatre certainly won't be a walk in the park with performances almost every day for just under four months. For Emily it is a learning curve: "I'm a bit apprehensive about the run. That's where I'm going to have some learning. The most I've done is ten days. And this is four months. But I know I'm going to learn so much."

MATILDA THE MUSICAL Announces West End Extension; See New Footage From the Show!
Mike Faist (Jack) & Lucas Hedges (Ennis)

Brokeback Mountain is a new play infused with original Country and Western music by Dan Gillespie Sells. As well as Fairn's stage debut, it also marks the West End debuts of Mike Faist and Lucas Hedges.

"It's a such an incredibly heart-breaking story about human love. For me it shows the dangers of expectations, boundaries and rules on a person. How damaging it is to force someone to be who they are. It ruins their lives and the lives of those around them. There is a huge effect on everyone. It really reminds us why we have things like Pride. It has a serious resonance today."

Despite being only twenty-six, Lucas Hedges is Hollywood hot property with a resumé that most actors can only dream of. He can already count cinematic collaborations with Wes Anderson, Greta Gerwig, and Martin McDonagh to name but a few.

"It was quite funny. Lucas asked me who I wanted to work with. I replied not being funny, everyone you've worked with. But it's so lovely working with him. They are both so open and down to earth. I really feel safe with them. I was afraid I was going to feel out of my depth."

Set in a rural working-class community in Wyoming in 1963, Brokeback Mountain follows the lives of two cowboys who develop a taboo-shattering emotional and sexual bond.

"We are doing Wyoming accents. It has made me feel better - at the beginning I was like there are two real life Americans, and I'm Scouse! But It's nice because it's not their natural accent either. They are working on it too. I'm not running behind."

@sohoplace poses an extra challenge to performers: its stage is in the round, surrounded by audience on all sides. Emily feels enthused by the prospect.

MATILDA THE MUSICAL Announces West End Extension; See New Footage From the Show!
Emily Fairn (Alma) & Lucas Hedges (Ennis)

"I'm excited because of how intimate you are with the audience. You can really fill it the space with your body and your breath because of the way it is made. There's not one bad seat in the house."

Emily's schedule post Brokeback Mountain is already packed. She will appear in the new series of Black Mirror, which she assures me sternly that she cannot say anything about. I believe her. However, she is eager to share that The Responder has been confirmed for a second series.

"I'm super excited to get back to Liverpool and continue with that story. I've had chats with the writers. Its very exciting what's happening to my character."

She dashes off to return to rehearsals leaving the electric billboard perfectly placed through the window. She might not be on it, but her time will come.

Brokeback Mountain is @sohoplace until 12 August 2023

Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan


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