Emily Hampshire on ‘Humane’ and the Evolution of Her Career 

While most actors put parts of themselves in their roles, Emily Hampshire loves to pick roles that give her something in return. In Schitt’s Creek, she played Stevie and that allowed her to be, as she puts it, cooler and more chill than she is in real life. Now in her latest Caitlin Cronenberg feature, Humane, she gets to be a tough, no-bullshit daughter in a wealthy family – a character she loved playing alongside Jay Baruchel

Cronenberg’s directorial debut is a thriller that takes place over a single day, mere months after a global ecological collapse that has forced world leaders to take extreme measures to reduce the earth’s population. In a wealthy family, a recently retired man (Peter Gallagher) has invited his four grown children (Hampshire, Jay Baruchel, Sebastian Chacon, and Alanna Bale) to dinner to announce his intentions to enlist in the nation’s new euthanasia program. But the father’s plan goes horribly wrong and chaos erupts among his children.

Credit: Elevation Pictures

In a recent interview, Emily chats about what she loved about playing a tough as nails and not so likable character, working with Caitlin and Jay, as well as what’s next on the card for her. 

MF: Congratulations! I don’t think I have seen you in a role like this before.

EH: “Thank you, my agent was also saying that to me. What’s funny is that when I read it, I felt like it was the kind of part I love playing. I feel like I used to do this kind of thing a long time ago. Or I guess actually, I did this movie called Good Neighbors with Jay Baruchel a long time ago. And that was similar in tone. And it’s one of my favourite tones, not only to play but to watch. So yeah, I haven’t had the opportunity to do that much, but it is my favourite.”

What is it about this character that spoke to you?

“Well, I love anything where adults get to become kids and act like their base kind of self and especially like a family drama such as this when you go home to your childhood home with siblings and stuff, I feel like everybody regresses to their teenager and I just find that funny. Also with Rachel, I got to say and do the things that if I did it in real life, people would hate me, but you can at least like with Rachel, you get to hate to love her. It’s fun to watch somebody in the movies do that.”

Credit: Elevation Pictures

If every character is a little bit of the actor who plays them, how much of yourself did you see in Rachel York?

“I would say she’s myself with certain people. I think that’s why my agent was like, I’ve never seen you play a part like this because my agent I’ve had since I was like a kid. Now when I think of it, I think I just want to be like Rachel. It’s the kind of boss attitude and confidence that I wish I had. I think I do that a lot with roles as opposed to, I know a lot of actors use themselves in their roles. I like to take a part that can give me something. For instance, in playing Stevie on Schitt’s Creek, I got to be way chill-er than I am in real life and be just cool, which I’m not. And with this, I got to just be the no-bullshit, tough person and just stab Jay (laughs)…he’s like my brother in life.”

Is that your thought process when choosing roles – ones that are often departure from yourself?

“Yes, I just want to get something from that character. There’s something I admire in the character. With Rachel, you would think she’s not admirable but Rachel will just say shit and and kind of just do shit to win. I think I always have my Canadian-ness and my just human quality of not wanting to hurt another human getting in the way of that. I remember when I did this movie called My Awkward Sexual Adventure, I played a kind of woman who was comfortable with her sexuality and just confident and I felt like after I did that movie I became more like that. So I do do that. It’s usually that I want something in there for me.”

I loved seeing the family dynamics play out, especially with you and Jay! It seemed like you were having fun like actual siblings.

“Yes, so Caitlin DM’d to me and said, ‘Will you be in my movie?’ And I just said yes without having read a script, because we’re friends and then I read the script, which thank God was amazing. And the minute I read it, I was like, well, Jay has to be Jared. We have known each other since we were kids. We’ve done a lot of movies and TV shows, and we’ve done a lot of things together. I couldn’t believe that we hadn’t played siblings because that to me is our most instinct with each other. We have such a shorthand, that there’s no one on who I like working with more. He makes me laugh. I think he makes me better. I think he elevates everyone because Jay is always present. He’s never faking something. I love working with him.”

Credit: Elevation Pictures

Caitlin said you were the first person she cast and texted you. How would you describe her as a director making her feature debut?

“I was impressed. I remember because Jay was friends with her as well, so after our first day, Jay and I were riding home in the van and we both looked at each other and he was like, phew, she’s great because there’s that fear with your friend like what if she was terrible but she was everything you want, or I want in a first time director – which is somebody who is not trying to pretend it’s not their first time. She was confident with what she wanted and how she saw things. But she was also so open to learning things and just even asking stuff, like how I like to work or something I think you can be a first or 10th time director and every time you get on a set, it’s a new set. It’s new people. It’s like the first time at a new school and to consider that other people have different ways of working is a just kind of confident and smart thing to do as a director, I think. So she was wonderful and just made this world for us to play in.”

So you’ve been in the industry on the big screen and on TV for decades. What are you looking for at this stage in your career? What are the goals you’ve set for yourself as an artist?

“Well, I’ve started to move into writing a lot. I got my first job recently as a writer and I’m not acting in it and it was like the greatest compliment ever to me that it was just I was asked to be a writer on something for other actors. It is so exciting to create roles for actors and give them great stuff to do. That’s always at the forefront of my mind in writing stuff – I want each actor to have great stuff to do. I think that even happened with Enrico. I was just talking to him the other day because I think he’s such a great actor. He is brilliant in this movie. But then, anything I’ve seen him in, he stands out as being miles above everybody else. He’s just so real and funny. And so I DM’d, and was like, ‘Can I talk to you? I want to know what you want to play. I want to write something for you because I just think you’re so amazing.’ And I think that’s what Michael, the writer of Humane, did. He wrote that part for Enrico so it’s so great to be inspired by other actors and to give them something that just like I’ve been given something that they haven’t done before.”