Interview by Holly Grigg-Spall
Images by Jan-Willem Dikkers
Styling by Lisa Madonna
Set Design by Gillian Deeds
Hair by Aaron Light
Makeup by Anthony Merante
Fashion Assistant: Amanda Hyatt
“If I had my way, I’d do all and everything.
I love working on television and going to a workplace every day.
—Emma DumontI sleep on Sundays a little bit.” — Emma Dumont
Born in Seattle, Washington, Emma Dumont began ballet training at the age of three and has been an actor since landing a role in True Adolescents at 12. Since, she has appeared in Bunheads, Nobody Walks, and Inherent Vice, and currently plays Emma Karn on Aquarius. Dumont is also a model signed to Ford, and participates in the FIRST Robotics program.
Emma Dumont is an actress, model and dancer. She was first cast in the feature True Adolescents alongside Mark Duplass and Melissa Leo at just 12 years old. A year later, she found herself modeling at New York Fashion Week as a result of winning the Ford Models and V Magazine’s V A Model Search. She nabbed a central role in the popular ABC Family series on ballet dancers, Bunheads, which she followed up with a role in the Silver Lake, Los Angeles-based indie flick, Nobody Walks, co-written by Lena Dunham and starring John Krasinski and Olivia Thirlby. Most recently, she appeared in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice. Now she’s set to star as a young girl led astray by Charles Manson in ’60s era Los Angeles in a new NBC series, Aquarius, featuring David Duchovny as the police detective searching for the missing Emma.
Born in Cincinnati, OH, Charles Manson was a previously convicted criminal who formed and led a California-based commune in the late 1960s known as the Manson Family. At his instruction, members of his group committed many murders, most famously the brutal 1969 killing of seven people in Los Angeles, including actress Sharon Tate. Manson was found guilty for most of these murders through the joint-responsibility rule for conspiracy, and has been serving a life sentence since 1972.
Holly Grigg-Spall: Tell us about your role in the upcoming Aquarius.
Emma Dumont: My character is Emma Karn. She is a child of wealth and has always been sheltered. Every member of her family has some sort of struggle. Emma goes to a party with her boyfriend where she meets Charles Manson. She is consumed by him and his world and runs away to join the Manson family.
HGS: Were you interested in the era or the mythology around the Manson murders prior to taking on this project?
ED: I have always had an interest in the ’60s. The East Coast ’60s more than the West Coast ’60s—the Factory, the Velvet Underground, etc. Until now, I didn’t know much detail about what was happening in California at that time. I’ve done a lot of research to delve into that world.
HGS: What kind of research did they have you do for this role?
ED: The week I booked the role, the show’s creator called with a long list of homework—books to read, documentaries and films to watch. Obviously, I studied a lot about the Manson girls, but more about women in the ’60s in general and their role and place in society. For example, they spoke differently back then—they had a specific cadence. I’m the youngest cast member and the furthest from the ’60s out of everyone, so I did a lot of research.
HGS: Through your research, were you able to understand or appreciate why these girls were so fascinated by Charles Manson and so influenced by him?
ED: My character is fictional, not based on a specific Manson girl. That made it easier in a way. But by researching them I still can’t fully understand why they made those choices. I think each of them was looking for something missing in their own life that they hoped to find in the family Manson created. For my character, I got to create my own fictional background and my own reasons for her involvement.
“I think each of the girls
was looking for something missing
in their own life that they hoped to find
in the family Manson created.”
— Emma Dumont
A group of New York City club personalities in the late 1980s and early ’90s known for their intricate, scandalous costumes and penchant for drugs. Michael Alig and James St. James mostly ruled the Club Kid scene, and their fame grew as they threw illicit parties in public places around the city and were on the payroll of various local clubs.
An actress known for her television career in the ’80s and ’90s, including All My Children and Homicide: Life on the Street. Leo later moved to film, earning an Academy Award for her role in The Fighter (2010) and a nomination for Frozen River (2008).
HGS: Has working on the show made you perceive that era differently?
ED: It was the first time history fully entered the contemporary era. Young people finally had a voice. The general populace stood their ground for what they believed in. The series begins in 1967 and continues through the early ’70s. The world turned 180 degrees in that time.
HGS: If you could choose to live during any era in any place, when and where would that be?
ED: I would definitely live in the late ’80s to early ’90s New York City. It seemed like a very fun and creative time. I’m a big fan of the Club Kids movement, Michael Alig, etc. I find the mix of club culture and performance art so interesting because my generation has nothing like that.
HGS: You’re pretty young yourself, making your way in Hollywood. How do you keep yourself focused?
ED: I’ve had a really easy time staying composed and keeping my core values strong. My mom and I are really close. If I’m having a bad day, I just call her and she gets my head straight. I’m surrounded by very supportive people. The young people I know work so hard. They’re an inspiration to me.
HGS: Which actor do you admire the most?
ED: I’ve been a Melissa Leo fan since I was young. She’s such a chameleon. I’ll see her in one film, and then I’ll see her in another and won’t even recognize her.
A 2008 film written and directed by Clark Gregg, known for Fight Club, and starring Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Huston. Based on the 2001 novel by Chuck Palahniuk, the plot follows a sex addict who intentionally chokes on food in fancy restaurants to make money.
An American novelist and freelance journalist known best for his fiction, including Fight Club, Lullaby, Choke and Haunted. His writing style began as transgressive fiction, often minimal and disturbing, and evolved later into satirical horror stories.
A 2009 novel by John Green, which follows a boy searching for the missing girl next door and debuted at #5 on the bestseller list. The forthcoming 2015 film is directed by Jake Schreier and stars Cara Delevingne and Nat Wolff.
An acronym which expands to “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” The program inspires young people to become science and technology leaders by engaging them in hands-on programs and instilling valuable skills.
HGS: What was the last film you watched, and what are your favorite movies?
ED: The last film I watched was Choke, based on the Chuck Palahniuk book. Billy Elliot and Fight Club are my favorite films of all time. I could watch Billy Elliot a million times. That and Fight Club. Two very different films.
HGS: What was the last book you enjoyed?
ED: The last book I read was Damned by Chuck Palahniuk, but I stopped a third of the way in and started reading Paper Towns, the teenybopper John Green book. I wanted to read the book before the movie comes out.
HGS: You seem to take academics seriously as an engineering student and having been part of the FIRST robotics program. How did that become a passion?
ED: It’s in my blood. I have a lot of engineers in my family. I grew up playing Legos and drawing blueprints of electrical schematics for houses. Students at FIRST receive thousands of dollars from corporations like Boeing and NASA to build robots and develop engineering skills. I was part of an all-girls team. It was an amazing experience—I got addicted to building robots. I didn’t just play robots, I realized could make a career out of it. Spatially, I’m good at math, and FIRST helped me figure out I wanted to be an engineer.
“I have a lot of engineers in my family.
It’s in my blood.
I realized I didn’t get to just play robots,
I could make a career out of it. ”
— Emma Dumont
HGS: I know you were involved in another all-girl team with the LA roller derby—the Derby Dolls.
ED: I love an all-girl team. I started playing roller derby in Orange County and switched to a team in LA. I was on the junior (under-18) all-star team. It was super fun.
Derby changed my life. If you fall, get back up—as fast and as well as you can. I started at 16, and there were girls under 10 who would fall and get bruised and beat up, but they would hop up as fast as they could. Derby teaches those lessons for the sake of sport and also for life. My nickname was Smax Factor, like the makeup brand Max Factor.
On Bunheads I got to skate on the show.
Directed by Drew Barrymore, Whip It is a 2009 film about a Texas women’s roller derby league starring Barrymore, Ellen Page and Kristen Wiig.
HGS: Did you like the movie Whip It?
ED: I love Whip It! I have a Whip It poster. The book made me want to join derby because it sounded so fun.
HGS: How was your experience working with Paul Thomas Anderson on Inherent Vice?
ED: Super fun. I just shot a week, but it was amazing. PTA likes things to be natural and for women not to wear a lot of makeup, so we got sunscreen and that was it. I was in a party scene at a hippie ranch commune kinda deal. It didn’t feel like work at all, it felt like a good time.
HGS: How do you want your future to pan out? What are you working on right now?
ED: If I had my way, I’d love to do all and everything. I love working on television and going to a workplace every day. But I have no control over that really, so we will see. Right now, I’m working on an indie horror film. We’re filming at night with this crazy schedule. It’s set in Siberia, but we’re shooting in LA. Turning LA into Siberia is always a fun adventure! I’m working during the day and at night. I sleep on Sundays a little bit.