Actor Emily Piggford has already built quite an impressive resume in Hollywood.
Born in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, Emily grew up on a farm by the sea in East Sooke, British Columbia. When she was 11 years old, that is when she found her passion for acting.
Emily appeared in the film Flatliners and has been in television series such as The Umbrella Academy, The Girlfriend Experience, Killjoys, Lost Girl and Hemlock Grove. She also starred in the series That’s My DJ where she earned a nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Program or Series Produced for Digital Media at the Canadian Screen Awards. Currently, she stars in the CW Seed series Warigami.
We had the chance to sit down with Emily and talk about her new series Warigami. What she did to prepare for the role, what message she’d like viewers to take away from the series as well as talking to us about some of her upcoming projects.
Pop Culture Principle – What was it about the pilot script for Warigami that made you sign on to the project?
Emily Piggford – I was onboard just reading the character and story description. First of all, I was super excited by the prospect of getting to perform super-powered martial arts, but what really got me was the rarity of getting to be a character like that– a fighter, intelligent and full of determination, with room for humour and vulnerability– who was also specifically of Japanese descent and a lead. And on top of that, a lead in a series with other elements inspired by Japanese culture in a contemporary North American setting.
Pop Culture Principle – For those who don’t know yet, can you tell us what Warigami is about?
Emily Piggford – It’s about long-lost twins, Wendy and Vincent Ohata, who discover they are kami-jin– descendants of an ancient Japanese bloodline who possess the power to weaponize paper with a touch. Wendy having been adopted and Vincent having gone through foster care after they were separated as toddlers, has kept them ignorant to the full nature of their history and abilities.
It comes at them in full force at the top of this season when they discover an ominous organization of kami-jin called the Akuma is after a powerful item their family protects. Wendy, Vincent and their friend Mark find themselves in the Akuma’s crosshairs and must scramble to fight in spite of being complete opposites and still getting used to how their new superpower works.
Pop Culture Principle – Can you tell us about your character Wendy Ohata and her journey so far in the series?
Emily Piggford – Wendy applies herself to every task with incredible focus and an appreciation for order and efficiency. Vincent operates on a much more impulsive level, and Mark is loyal and a tech whiz, but also generally much more cautious than both Wendy and Vincent. Wendy’s journey through the series involves her trying to work with these two and stay on-mission while dealing with the enemy at the door and a couple of demons inside. Wendy is much more used to operating in isolation, so she learns to collaborate and trust. Sometimes her hard work and vulnerability are rewarded, other times she takes a hit. Either way, there’s no going back.
Pop Culture Principle – Did you have to revisit your origami skills before shooting the series?
Emily Piggford – I learned a new one, actually! I’d never made an origami shuriken before, which is definitely in the kami-jin arsenal. I wasn’t sure how much folding I would have to do when we shot and I knew Wendy would be really good at it, so I wanted to be ready. (I can fold up a quick crane any day, but didn’t think that’d be as necessary for the action in “Warigami.”) In the end, the kami-jin weapons of all types – origami or otherwise – were crafted by the talented Tina Tsai and Damian Zuch of Deville’s Workshop. But now I have a fun party trick, at least.
Pop Culture Principle – Can you name one similarity and one difference between you and your character Wendy Ohata?
Emily Piggford – Similarity: We both work hard, always wanting to do our best. One difference is that I smile more. 🙂
Pop Culture Principle – There are some incredible fight scenes in Warigami. Did you do any special training before taking this role?
Emily Piggford – Thanks to our stunt coordinator, Master Chang, for those awesome fight scenes and the incredible performers who threw it down! Yes, I started training in Taekwondo for the role. Before that, I’d had some experience training in dramatic combat and years of dance.
Pop Culture Principle – Do you do any of the stunt work? If so, how have you enjoyed the physicality of the role?
Emily Piggford – I was SO excited to get to train, rehearse and perform the fights and was very fortunate to get to perform them alongside my doubles, Melanie Phan and Tsu-Ching Yu. We’d take turns performing takes of almost every fight to give options to edit around. I particularly enjoyed doing the fan fight and the katana fight.
I love getting to be physical for a role, in fact, a large percentage of my work in theatre is in movement-based theatre. With my film work so far, I hadn’t gotten to bring as much of that in. It felt familiar and so good to get to buckle down and learn a new physical skill for a role and perform it onscreen.
Pop Culture Principle – The series has some incredible VFX. Can you talk about working with the VFX effects in Warigami?
Emily Piggford – Yes, shout out to our incredible VFX team! One of my favorite aspects was folding the katana for the fight between Wendy and Sadako (played by Miho Suzuki). It started with Bob Munroe (our Executive Producer and Visual Effects Producer) and Jason Lapeyre (our director) asking Miho and me to film ourselves folding a katana in various ways like we would before the fight. We each went home, found some large pieces of paper and did that; then began a series of sharing videos and notes to establish the folding choreography. It was so cool to see how Miho did it versus how I did it. It was so cool to see the VFX make it real onscreen when on set sometimes we weren’t even holding any paper in our hands, we were just performing the gestures. Movie magic, man.
Pop Culture Principle – The series was screened at Cannes. Can you tell us what that experience was like?
Emily Piggford – It was gorgeous! What a beautiful city, fabulous festival, and a wonderful way to celebrate and get a first look (for me) at the incredible work everyone had done. It truly made me so excited to get to share it and grateful to be part of it. I’d also missed just being around members of our “Warigami” family! I wish more of us could have been there, but plenty folks were working on other gigs at the time (of course, because they’re amazing.) Miho and I decided to travel together between Toronto and Cannes, which I loved – she is an incredible person, a talented performer and an excellent travel buddy.
After we arrived in Cannes, we were joined by our producer Andrew Nicholas McCann Smith, Laura Schwartz from our distributor, New Form Entertainment, and of course our director, Jason Lapeyre. I loved walking the pink carpet, seeing exciting new series from all over the world, shopping at markets in the morn and staying up snacking and laughing till the wee hours in the villa we shared. The wildest day was definitely the last. We all woke early, got ready, headed to our screening and pre-talk, got lunch, did a photo call on the pink carpet, attended one awards event, returned to the villa for a quick bite/nap/work– whatever we could fit in– then went back to walk the carpet again and attend the awards night, followed by a screening, then the after-party, which Jason, Miho and I left at 1 am to walk back to the villa, pack, leave the villa by 3 am to head to Nice, to catch a 6 am flight, haha! The best kind of a whirlwind.
Pop Culture Principle – As the lead of the series, do you feel you need to set the example for all of the cast and crew on the series? Do you feel any pressure being the lead of the series?
Emily Piggford – Whether I’m the lead or a day-player, I always hope to (and honestly can’t help but) bring the same attitude to set which is one of so much gratitude for the work and for every person involved who is doing their unique and challenging work. Budgets can be tight, time is often most-definitely tight, there are so many moving pieces and things to consider and we’re all on this ship together. I figure the best thing I can do is come prepared with my character, my lines, and try to be as healthy and mentally/physically ready as possible to work quickly and adapt as needed.
That’s my job, and if I can do that well, it hopefully helps everything run more smoothly and makes everyone else’s job a little easier. I always appreciate the individuals on set, whatever their role or department, who lead with professionalism and positivity. In my experience, I do find the lead actors and director, in particular, can significantly impact the tone of a set. I hope to contribute to a supportive, professional atmosphere whenever I work– I don’t feel it as pressure, but I do think it is important.
Pop Culture Principle – What message, if any, would you like the viewers to take away after watching this series?
Emily Piggford – How important a sense of home and family is; how important human connection and friendship is. “Warigami” is filled with characters who have been chased from their homes, driven into hiding, made to feel alone, or seek company or attitudes that mask their feelings of loneliness, but don’t actually dispel them. In addition to just being fun to watch, I hope “Warigami” serves as a reminder that no one should ever have to settle for feeling unloved or unseen or alone. I think it’s worth it to be brave and step outside of what we know or what we perform in order to feel greater love for ourselves and receive the genuine support and care of others.
Pop Culture Principle – Any other upcoming projects you can tell us about?
Emily Piggford – Yes, later this year, “New Eden” comes out- a hilarious mockumentary series about a cult in the 70s – and I’m currently in New Zealand filming a psychological thriller series called “The Sounds,” which will be out next year! We have a wonderful crew and a fantastic cast starring Rachelle Lefevre and Matt Whelan, directed by Peter Stebbings and written by Sarah-Kate Lynch. I play Esther, a financial investigator from Canada sent to follow up on the disappearance of Matt’s character, Tom, while having to contend with Rachelle’s character, Maggie (Tom’s wife), not to mention almost every other person in the small town in the Marlborough Sounds.
A big thank you to the wonderfully talented Emily Piggford for talking with us! You can catch Warigami on the CW Seed! You can follow Emily on her official Twitter and Instagram accounts via @EmPiggford for all her latest news and projects!
**Main photo courtesy of J Stevens**
**All Warigami photos courtesy of The CW — © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved**