Emma Greenwell has something in common with Colin Firth, Jonny Lee Miller and Carey Mulligan: They’ve all starred in multiple adaptations of Jane Austen novels. But Greenwell has a familiarity with Austen mania that none of these other actors can claim: She appeared in two Jane Austen movies in the same year.
Currently in theaters, you can see Greenwell play Catherine Vernon, the sweet sister-in-law of the conniving Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) in Love and Friendship, which also stars Chloë Sevigny. Just a few months earlier, Greenwell appeared in Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, playing Caroline Bingley, Elizabeth Bennet’s rival for Mr. Darcy’s affections.
BUST caught up with Greenwell via email and talked about transitioning from TV series to period dramas, Chloë Sevigny’s coolness, and the Bennet sister she most wants to play:
Love and Friendship is one of Jane Austen’s lesser known works. Were you familiar with it before taking the part?
Honestly, I’d never even heard of Lady Susan or Love and Friendship before reading Whit’s script.
You were also in Pride & Prejudice & Zombies this year! Why do you think Jane Austen adaptations are still so popular?
Austen is a fantastic storyteller. She creates such beautiful characters and worlds in her novels. Her themes transcend time and are still relevant today making her perfect for adaptations. Her writing is accessible and can make you laugh and cry between sentences.
Were you a Jane Austen fan before acting in these movies? What are your favorite Austen books and characters?
Austen was introduced to me at school. I do remember renting Emma (Gwyneth Paltrow’s version) to watch with my friends at my ninth birthday party sleepover — I don’t think we got through it, though. I’m familiar with a few of her novels, although I’m definitely not an Austen buff. It may be cliché, but Kitty from Pride and Prejudice is one my favorite characters, as is Lady Susan.
What was it like acting with Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny? What was the set like?
Working with [director] Whit Stillman was an amazing experience. I was a huge fan of his work before and I felt so lucky to be involved in Love and Friendship. Watching him work and create his style on set was so interesting. I trust him implicitly, I think he’s a genius. He knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to demand it, in the best way possible. He’s refreshingly honest and specific. The cast couldn’t have been more wonderful, incredibly kind and funny. Kate has the naughtiest sense of humor and although I didn’t work directly with Chloë, I definitely feel cooler having been in the same film.
These period dramas are very different from your TV series Shameless and the Path! What was it like to make that transition, both to movies and to costume dramas?
I wanted to act because I never wanted to do the same thing everyday. I’ve been so fortunate to play a variety of characters that allow me to delve into different cultures and time periods.
Top photo: Emma Greenwell and Xavier Samuel in Whit Stillman’s LOVE & FRIENDSHIP. Photo credit: Bernard Walsh, Courtesy of Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions
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