Emma Appleton on being bitten by the acting bug
The word of mouth for new Channel 4 spy drama Traitors is strong. As is the buzz around one of its rising stars, Emma Appleton.
In what feels like a golden age for emerging British acting talent, Traitors could prove the launchpad that sees Oxford-born Emma become a big star on both sides of the Atlantic.
In Traitors, Emma plays Fiona “Feef” Symonds, who sees the end of the Second World War as a blow to her burgeoning career as a British secret agent.
We caught up with the 27-year-old ahead of what could be your new favourite Sunday evening TV event…
EMMA, HOW DID THE ACTING BUG BITE?
Looking back, although I didn’t know it then, I’d say it was when I was a kid. I was always happiest when performing or pretending to be someone else, somewhere else. That carried on through school to drama lessons – to me it felt like the only subject I enjoyed and excelled in. After contemplating applying to drama school I decided it wasn’t the route I wanted to take and fell into modelling instead but it never filled the performing and creative shaped hole – until I was given an opportunity to act in my first short film and I jumped at the opportunity without hesitation.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT TRAITORS?
Traitors is a political spy thriller which centres around my character, Feef. It’s post-WW2, dramatic, political and social changes are taking place and Feef is at the centre of it when she is tasked to spy on her own government for the Americans. We also see contrasting ideologies and agendas come into play. It’s hard not to say too much without giving anything away, but Bash’s scripts are fast-paced, rich and engaging which makes for a very exciting show.
HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?
I remember doing a self-tape back in early 2017 and then not hearing anything until December last year when I was asked to go in and do a chemistry read with Luke Treadaway. Thankfully I still remembered the scenes, probably due to the fact they were so much fun to do and the character of Feef had so much depth – there was a lot to get your teeth into and play around with. Dearbhla Walsh (director of episodes 1-3) was there and we worked with her in the room, did the scenes a few times and that was it. I genuinely walked out of there thinking there was no chance I’d get the role but I’d had fun anyway. Lo and behold a week later I get off a flight and immediately have a text from my agent saying “CALL ME”, and that’s when I found out I’d been offered the role!
HOW DO YOU PICK A ROLE?
Considering I’m still relatively new to this, that’s something I’m still trying to work out if I’m honest. I find there is something magical that happens when I’m preparing scenes for a character – either something about them strikes a chord with me, maybe it’s something we have in common, or I come across a way of doing it that feels honest and real which is ultimately what I’m always looking for. If I can find that then I can believe in it too and that’s exciting. So I suppose feeling that comes from the heart. I also enjoy pulling a part a characters psyche – why would they make that decision? Why do they have these character traits? How do they form relationships? Fundamentally who are they? Which I think comes more from the head… Sometimes you’re lucky enough to find roles with both.
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR BALANCE?
One of my favourite things to do is take my dog for a walk in a big park, around the time of day the light is starting to change and everything gets a bit quieter. I find it’s one of the times I feel calmest and it gives me a break from the list of things I have to get done that seems to consistently run through my mind.
Traitors is on Channel 4 at 9pm on Sunday 17th February