At a very young age, Emilie Ullerup knew what she wanted to do with her life and that was to become an actor. After graduating from high school in Copenhagen in 2003, she moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and attended the Vancouver Film School, where she graduated in 2005. Right out of the gate, the first role she landed was for the hit Syfy series Battlestar Galactica and she hasn’t stopped working since.
Many science fiction fans will not only know her from her work on Battlestar Galactica, but for her run on the Syfy series Sanctuary where she played Ashley Magnus for two seasons. She’s had guest appearances on hit shows such as Supernatural, Smallville, Riese and True Justice. In 2012, she starred in the hit Canadian series Arctic Air, which ran for 3 seasons and most recently she appeared in an episode of the Hallmark television series Signed, Sealed, Delivered.
Emilie has been nominated four times for a Leo Award and won the award in 2008 for her work on the series Jpod. She was kind enough to sit down with the Pop Culture Principle to talk about her work in the science fiction genre, the fans and how diversity in roles is important to her.
Pop Culture Principle – The very first job you booked was Battlestar Galactica. How was that experience as a new actor?
Emilie Ullerup – That was my very first audition. Battlestar Galactica was a huge hit show and it ran smoothly and everyone was so professional, so for me as a first time experience, it set the standard pretty high. At the same time, I had no idea what I was doing. It was overwhelming and terrifying, but a great experience because everything was just easy there. It was just lovely.
Pop Culture Principle – At the time did you realize that you were part of a show that is being called one of the greatest shows of all time?
Emilie Ullerup – It’s pretty epic. I mean I know I had a very small part and I don’t think I realized until later on how much of an impact Battlestar Galactica has had on people and the world. I went in blind, which I think is sometimes the best thing because then you are not trying to do or be anything other than the best you can be. People are still talking about Battlestar Galactica to this day when I go to conventions which is pretty amazing.
Pop Culture Principle – You are also known to science fiction fans for your work on Sanctuary. How was that experience?
Emilie Ullerup – Again, I was so green. I booked that show during the first year of my acting career and had no idea who Amanda Tapping or Stargate was. I remember we shot a web series first and Damian Kindler who was the creator of Sanctuary said that when this comes out it is going to be crazy. People are going to go nuts because of Amanda Tapping and you are going to have fans, so be ready. It’s just incredible when you put stuff out there and people really like it. As an actor, you get told you’re not good more often then you are good, so it’s so refreshing to have the fans that I got from Sanctuary and Battlestar Galactica. They are the most loyal and kindest fans. They watch everything that I do now and I am so thankful for Sanctuary. The actual Sanctuary experience was amazing. We shot seventy percent green screen which is a lot and there was a lot of running through walls that I didn’t know where there until the directory yelled cut. It was quite an experience and a lot of fun.
Pop Culture Principle – What did you bring differently to the table this time as an actor as opposed to your first job on Battlestar Galactica?
Emilie Ullerup – Because I was so green, it was all a blur to me. It was a whole new world so I was taking in everything that I could so I don’t know how much I was able to register and say these are the dos and don’ts because it was all crazy to me. What I did learn is the science fiction is a big thing in the word and so I understood that Sanctuary could become something big.
Pop Culture Principle – Your role was a very physical role. How involved where you with the stunts and fighting scenes?
Emilie Ullerup – I was very involved with the fighting and stunts. I learned one of the important requirements for the part was that the actor was capable of doing a lot of their own action stuff. During my callback or test, they had a stunt coordinator in the room and he taught me a simple hand trapping move which I had to do right away. They wanted to see if I was physical and capable of doing these moves. Once I got the part for the web series, it was James Bamford who was the stunt coordinator who took a lot of time training with me. When the show went to series, I had a great teacher names Rob Hayter who taught me all the basics so I understood what was going on. Once you start shooting, everything moves so fast and there isn’t a lot of time to learn things on the fly. So this was a great base and I was excited to get to do a lot of the stunts myself.
Pop Culture Principle – Unfortunately your character was killed off in Season 2. When did you find out that you would be killed off?
Emilie Ullerup – I found out in between the two seasons. It was good that I knew going into Season 2, but it was also the hardest because we had great success after Season 1. We were going to conventions, meeting fans and everyone wanted to know what was going to happen in Season 2. That entire time I was holding back tears knowing I was only going to be in three episodes and not able to tell anyone. It was also hard to go back and do three episodes knowing you were going to say goodbye to this family you have been with for a couple of years. Sanctuary did great things for me and taught me so much and I wouldn’t’ take anything back! I got to move on and life hasn’t been half bad since then.
Pop Culture Principle – What has it been like going to conventions, meeting fans and knowing people are appreciating the work you do?
Emilie Ullerup – My first one was quite gentle actually. It was in England and it was just Sanctuary. They flew us over and it was between the first and second season. There were a few hundred people, so there wasn’t this mad dash of people. I remember when we were introduced and you went into this room and all these people are clapping and I was terrified. You never know how people are going to react to you. Now I love them and I do conventions once in a while when the schedule allows it. I think it is so important to say thank you to the people that bother to tune in every week. I mean, I have fans who watch Arctic Air which isn’t really something that they would normally watch, but they do so because they want to support the work that I do as an actor. That’s all we ever want as artists so the conventions are important.
Pop Culture Principle – You played another interesting character on Arctic Air. What can you tell us about working on that show?
Emilie Ullerup – There have been many highlights in my career and that was when I finally came into my own. There was a great level of trust from the creator that I hadn’t experienced before. I got to go with what I felt Astrid should be and she turned out to be a multi-layered, difficult woman and at the same time the comedic relief. It was such a blast to be on that show for three years and it’s also the longest I’ve been on a show. It truly was a dream job. Everyone was one big family and it’s crazy that it is over.
Pop Culture Principle – Was it tough working on the show because a lot of it was shot in planes?
Emilie Ullerup – There were a lot of times that I didn’t know if I was crashing the plane right now with the buttons I am touching, but we had people there who told us the right buttons to push. Space is surprisingly limited, especially the DC3 which is a big cargo plane. The cockpit was tiny and with two of us in there with camera set up, there was hardly any room. Luckily we were in the studio where they could pop the windows out and shoot through the windows. When you are shooting in the studio, you are looking at nothing and imagining many things. It’s always challenging and it’s an extra level of acting when you don’t have your true surroundings. We did a lot of helicopter stuff in Season 3 when Astrid became a co-pilot then a pilot. A lot of that was real flying, not by me sadly, but I got to sit in the co-pilot seat and that’s an experience that you don’t get anywhere else.
Pop Culture Principle – You recently guest starred on an episode of Signed, Sealed, Delivered on the Hallmark Channel. How did you get involved with that project?
Emilie Ullerup – Kevin Fair directed my episode on this series and Kevin was a director that we had on all 3 seasons of Arctic Air. He and I really enjoy each other and I think when this part came up he said come in and it just felt right. It felt like they were on board right from the beginning and I was looking to do something heavier. I had just come off Arctic Air almost and I was really ready to dig my teeth into something heavy. It was great to get to play on there as they were also finding out what kind of show they were making. I think they have done a really good job.
I had such a good time. They were all really nice and very respectful of the fact that I had some big stuff. It’s nice when the leads of the show are able to give you that space. This is your moment, this is your scene, go take it, we don’t need this one.
Pop Culture Principle – You’ve done so many diverse roles. Is diversity something important to you when you pick your projects?
Emilie Ullerup – Absolutely! As much as I love the roles that I’ve done already, once the scene wraps, I am ready to do something completely different. When I’m doing a horror movie, while we are shooting, I am ready to do a comedy or when I am doing a comedy, I am ready to do something that I can sink my teeth into. The grass is always greener. As an actor, unless you get to explore many different sides, you don’t find your strength and you don’t find your weaknesses. Your weaknesses are important to know so you can work on them. Here in Vancouver, we simply audition for parts so it’s not like we have this dream life where roles are offered up to you. We take what we are offered a lot of the times and I think I’ve been really lucky because I haven’t been typecast. I am very grateful.
Pop Culture Principle – What would be your definition of success in the business?
Emilie Ullerup – It’s funny, I feel like my definition of success keeps changing. When I graduated from film school, my idea of success was just to book a job. Then I booked my first job and then it was book a bigger job. Then it became I want to live off this; I don’t want to be a waitress or do any of those things. Now that I am living life as an actor, now I want my own series or I want to star in a big Hollywood film. It always changes because it is all relative to where you are now.
Pop Culture Principle – Any upcoming projects you can talk to us about?
Emilie Ullerup – I start a movie on Monday and I am pretty excited. I just did a guest spot on a TV show called Packaged Deal which stars Harland Williams. That is going to air in the fall and it was my first experience with an adult sitcom which is a whole different wheelhouse. I did do a sitcom before, but it was a kid’s sitcom.
The film that I start is a horror film called Blackburn. It’s not a monster film, but it has people with disfigurements and we are stuck in the woods, so it will be a great ride!