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.