Emily Hampshire is no stranger to the cold Toronto weather. It’s -8°C, and there was a snowstorm last night, but despite the snow-filled sidewalks, she’s meeting us at 8:50 a.m. sharp at Bar Lala. The 35-year-old actress—wearing a dark-grey, long-sleeved sweater and black ripped jeans, her dark hair teased out—is in the middle of hair and make-up for a photoshoot with our team.
You may remember Hampshire from our chat during TIFF in 2013. At the time, she was premiering the movie My Awkward Sexual Adventure and living in L.A. Now, just three years later, she’s back in Toronto, shooting Schitt’s Creek and 12 Monkeys, and finishing The Death and Life of John F. Donovan—her schedule is crazy busy, which is just the way the Montréal native likes it. We caught up with her to chat about her work, life and beauty products’ obsession.
VIOLET MACLEOD: Take us back to before you got your role on Schitt’s Creek.
EMILY HAMPSHIRE: Before I got Schitt’s, I had just gotten divorced. I was moving my stuff into storage. I had no money, and I was moving into my friend’s closet, literally, because she had a really big closet with a bed in it. I auditioned for Schitt’s and got it. I packed a suitcase, came to Toronto, then shot [Schitt’s], and while I was here, auditioned for 12 Monkeys and got that. I feel like I can appreciate work now for having not had it instantly before.
You’re in Toronto a lot, but your home is L.A.?
Well, it is and it has been, but this year, I decided to get an apartment [in Toronto] because I’ve been staying in hotels or Airbnbs and living out of a suitcase. Now, I have a permanent place here. So, home is in both places. It’s been fun decorating because I haven’t had a place since I started Schitt’s three years ago.
Three years ago, that’s the last time we talked to you. Back then, you told us about a character box you used to develop characters—is that still something you do?
Yes! I’ve moved that with me to every city. It’s kind of antiquated now because it’s magazine tears, and most stuff is online now. But, anytime I read a magazine and see something interesting in a face, wardrobe or character, I file it in this box.
What kind of pictures did you pick for each of your current characters—Stevie Budd (Schitt’s Creek) and Jennifer Goines (12 Monkeys)?
I don’t think I pulled anything for Schitt’s because it was kind of close to me, especially wardrobe- and look-wise. The minute they put me in my little plaid shirt and Converse [shoes], I felt like Stevie.
For Jennifer in 12 Monkeys, I actually did a pull. (laughs) I call it a pull, like when they do magazine shoots—I sound like such a nerd. I do a pull for every episode because my character is always role-playing. I’m really into what her wardrobe would be for whatever she’s doing.
How do you balance Schitt’s Creek, 12 Monkeys and the movie?
Well, I’m divorced—it opens up a ton of time. (both laugh) But, the truth is that I’m happiest when I’m working; I don’t feel like it’s work. So, it’s not about balance for me. Honestly, the only hard thing about it is I do feel like I can’t have a relationship where I have to dedicate the amount of time that it needs, because I will always choose my work now. And I know that’s a bad thing because I wouldn’t want to be in that relationship. So, for now, I’m married to my work.
We talked about your character’s wardrobe, but what’s your personal style?
Actually, the showrunner for 12 Monkeys coined it very well. When Hello Magazine’s Canada’s Best Dressed list was published, and I was named one of the best dressed, on set that day when we were doing blocking, he announced, “[Emily is] best dressed, and that is just proof of the sham of the entertainment industry—if anyone here has ever seen Emily not in grey jogging pants coming to work, please raise your hand!” No one raised their hand. (both laugh)
So, I definitely am kind of bipolar in my style and wardrobe because when I’m not working, my standard is somebody’s big T-shirt and my grey jogging pants. But, when I go to an event, I love coming up with a look and the whole package.
Speaking about getting recognition, you won a Canadian Screen Award for your work on Schitt’s Creek. What did that moment feel like?
That was actually a way bigger deal to me than I ever expected it to be. When I went up on stage, I looked at the audience, at all these people who, in a sense, had raised me. I’ve been in acting since I was 14, so I saw my first agent—who I’m still with today—and Jerry, who directed me in my first movie, Boy Meets Girl, and so many people who’ve been important in my life and career. It was quite emotional and wonderful.
Did you ever consider leaving acting and trying something else?
I did. Right before My Awkward Sexual Adventure, I hadn’t worked in so long. I was in L.A. auditioning, and it’s very different than auditioning here—at least for me, because here I know all the casting people, and if I go in and I’m nervous or do a bad job, I don’t feel that they think I’m a bad actor; I feel they know my work. But then I go [to L.A.], and it’s like “You suck.” It’s a cattle call. So I totally lost my confidence and was doing bad auditions. I was going in super nervous—breaking-out-in-hives nervous. I felt like I couldn’t do this anymore, couldn’t audition anymore. And I really wanted to do something else.
I guess it’s true when people say, “Don’t have a plan B because you’ll fall back on it.” I totally would have done so, but I didn’t have any other skills. Then, I got offered a part in My Awkward Sexual Adventure. I ended up really loving the script and the character, and that movie made me love acting again.
We were also told you are a beauty-holic.
I am, I love products! I get a cart at Shoppers Drug Mart and go through every aisle, and look at every new product. I go really slowly and get into a daze. It’s so soothing.
So you’re an expert! What are the three amazing products you’d recommend?
Oh, I have good recommendations because I’m trying to find the perfect best-of-things, and I feel like I’m starting to curate it slowly. So, first of all, CeraVe moisturizer, contains hyaluronic acid, which you normally get at the dermatologist.
Then, there’s the Glytone KP Kit. My dermatologist recommended it to me when I was doing My Awkward Sexual Adventure. I told him I was playing a stripper, which was hilarious because no one would ever ask me to be a stripper, but they did. I think my dermatologist thought it wasn’t a comedy, which it was, and that I’d be actually revealing my body, which I didn’t really do. He was like, “You should try Glytone, it’ll make your skin super soft and smooth.”
Oh, and the last product is EyEnvy, which grows your lashes and really works!
I’m typically very skeptical about lash-growing serums!
Me too! Well, I only used it because our make-up artist on Schitt’s Creek was talking about it. She rides a motorcycle to work, and she would put the lash serum on in the morning. She started getting hair growing down here (gestures to the top of her cheek bones) because the serum was traveling down from the wind on the motorcycle. So, that was proof that it grows hair where you put it.
So you’ve got to be strategic with it.
Yes, only put it where you need it. (both laugh)
Last question: what’s been your biggest success to date?
I think The Life and Death of John F. Donovan is definitely my biggest break to date. The cast includes—I need to take a deep breath here—Jessica Chastain, Kit Harrington, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Natalie Portman … it just goes on and on.
And I have the best girl part in it because Xavier [Dolan, the director] wrote it for me years ago. As these huge stars signed on, I definitely thought my part was going to go to someone else, but he was like: “It’s you. I wrote it for you, and you’re going to do it, of course.”
It has been the greatest shooting experience of my life thus far.
FAJO would like to thank Bar Lala in Toronto for providing location for this photoshoot and interview. Bar Lala is open Wednesday through Saturday, from 4 p.m. Enjoy their cocktail specials or nibble on a selection of Latin American-inspired bites, such as Lala’s Patatas Bravas or freshly sliced jamón Ibérico. As the lights begin to dim, the Latin beats blend into the chatter of conversations, and you are invited to lounge and linger in the cozy nooks of Bar Lala. Call 416-507-3378 for reservations. Walk-ins are also welcomed.