CBC Actors Conservatory Spotlight: Alumna and ‘That’s My DJ’ Star Emily Piggford
By Emily Gagne ● March 15, 2018 16:30
The CFC is currently accepting applications for the next CBC Actors Conservatory, the only full-time comprehensive professional on-camera acting program in Canada. In the weeks leading up to the application deadline (March 30, 2018), we will highlight several Actors Conservatory alumni through featured Q&As, during which we will discuss their craft and their development since their time at the CFC.
Our first CBC Actors Conservatory Spotlight focuses on Emily Piggford. This 2016 CBC Actors Conservatory alumna has appeared on series like The Girlfriend Experience, Michael: Every Day, Killjoys and Hemlock Grove, and is a lead and producer on webseries That’s My DJ (from Cineplex Entertainment Film Program alumna D.W. Waterson!).
What were your biggest takeaways from your time in the Actors Conservatory? How have you utilized them while working on series like That’s My DJ and The Girlfriend Experience?
With so many incredible mentors sharing their skills and approaches to the craft with us, I emerged from the CFC with new tools in my kit and a sharper edge on some I'd been carrying with me and I am so grateful for that.
[For example], we practiced the Meisner technique with Risa Bramon Garcia and I have found that incredibly useful when I need to quickly and deeply access my character and connect with a situation/my scene partner. Before the CFC, I first did Meisner with Dayle McLeod on That's My DJ to develop the strong, personal connection necessary for our work. After exploring Meisner at length with Risa at the CFC, I discovered just how useful a tool it is for me. I have used it on days where my energy is low or unfocused on set, or if I didn't have a significant amount of time with material due to tight turnarounds or rewrites. Even if I didn't have a partner, I modified, flowing through a one-sided Meisner style warm up (I did this in my trailer on Killjoys, for example, to help me drop in and connect with the text).
When I have more time with the material and I know it won't change too much, I love to apply the approach we studied with Lindy Davies of rigorous research and "dropping in" the material. When I worked on The Girlfriend Experience, ourwonderful writer/director, Lodge Kerrigan, informed me that his shooting is quick and his direction succinct. I was provided with the scripts sufficiently in advance and there were few rewrites, so I did my "Lindy" work and came to set with a rich foundation that allowed be to perform quickly, cleanly and confidently.
Emily with fellow CBC Actors Conservatory alumnus Jade Hassouné in That's My DJ Season 3.
How did working with residents and alumni from other CFC programs (during the Conservatory) affect your approach to acting and collaboration?
Working with my fellow residents and alumni, there was a strong sense of mutual investment and excitement in each other’s growth and potential. I think this was enhanced by our awareness of shared experience, of being part of the CFC community. This truly is what all collaborations should be and it can be sometimes forgotten or not pursued, especially in an environment where we may feel like a visitor.
Being quite introverted, I have definitely experienced making myself smaller on a big set where I was there say for a day or two and didn't want to "impose." Experiencing the sense of patience, pride and support when working with my peers at the CFC alerted me to the notion that collaboration is as much an attitude as it is an action, and that it can't exist if I don't show up, open up and make a connection with the people I need to work with. I've learned to adjust my perspective on collaboration and see it not as imposing, but supporting and contributing.
What advice would you give actors just starting their careers (and perhaps considering applying for the Conservatory)?
Don't box yourself in before you've even unpacked yourself. Put yourself in circumstances and company that will allow you to explore your range, abilities and desires.
I think it is excellent to be aware of the technical or commercial aspects of the industry and how you can work with it (i.e. being aware of your "hit" or being aware of what is "trending" in terms of content and casting) but, ultimately, trust the integrity of who you are and what you have to offer. Establish a positive relationship with your ego where you have the confidence to be proud and aware of your abilities and ambitions, but don’t let your entitlement hinder your ability to be patient and collaborative.
Observe. Breathe. Trust. Leap. Enjoy.