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Emma Caulfield

Emma Caulfield - "Timer" Movie - Ifmagazine.com Interview

Sunday 4 July 2010, by Webmaster

The actress talks about her love for her new movie, the comic book she’s co-created and what she got out of five years on ’BUFFY’

In the world of the independent film TIMER, directed and written by Jack Schaeffer, a device has been invented that gives its wearer a countdown – years, days, minutes – to when he or she will meet that one soul mate, setting off a loud beep when the connection is made. Emma Caulfield plays Oona, a woman who, to her dismay, has a blank timer, which activate at all until she finds her perfect opposite number. Caulfield, known to viewers of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER as Xander’s girlfriend and ex-vengeance demon Anya, is obviously very much in love with the film project.

iF: What initially appealed to you about TIMER?

EMMA CAULFIELD: I think initially it was the premise of the film. It was completely original and I am a huge fan of science-fiction, [a fan of] any point that anybody can take science-fiction and do something original with it, and also make it accessible to the masses. There seems to be a stigma against science-fiction, which I don’t understand, because I think it creates some of the most original ideas out there, but I think people have an idea about science-fiction being about strange-looking people with bumpy faces and speaking weird languages, so it was really nice to be a part of something where they took something with the face of science-fiction and turned it on its head and put some romantic comedy elements into it and it’s a beautiful marriage. And the character of Oona is so integral in telling that story that I think [the character and the story are] almost interchangeable.

iF: Did the filmmakers come to you with the project, or did you audition for it?

CAULFIELD: Both. I was asked to come in and I auditioned for it and I was very nervous, actually, when I walked in, because I seldom actually want anything I read for, and I really wanted that part and usually when I really want something, I end up totally screwing it up in the audition, but I didn’t actually mess it up and she [Schaeffer] loved what I did and I’m so thankful she did. I’m very, very proud, very honored to be a part of something that I really loved from start to finish.

iF: What do you feel like was the key to playing Oona?

CAULFIELD: It sounds weird, but I almost think to make her almost invisible. She has to be Everywoman. She has to be interesting, but nothing that extraordinary, because I think she represents the search for love, particularly with women. She had to be one of those characters that anybody, from any age or race or experience, could identify with in the search. And somehow Jac, because she’s brilliant, managed to make somebody who could essentially [be] “insert woman here” and be totally unique at the same time. [The object was] to give her a personality without making her unrelatable, to make her subtle appeal, as much as I could, universal.

iF: As an actor, how do you do that?

CAULFIELD: I have no idea [laughs]. I think it has largely to do with following Jac’s direction, staying true to her words. The look of [Oona] was very integral to that, making her very sort of I guess plain to a certain extent, not making her seem very glamorous, the color choices in the wardrobe, everything about her seeming very gray – not gray in terms of undecided, but just like a blank slate, a neutral perspective in a crazy situation.

iF: If timers really existed, would you want one?

CAULFIELD: Never in a million years. I like surprises. A lot of people ask that question, but in truth, no matter how much of a control freak I am, denying yourself that experience [of finding a relationship the regular way] I think would be really kind of sad, because you’re so defined by your past, you’re defined by all the successes that you have in relationships as much as you are defined by the disappointments. I don’t really like calling them “failures,” because I don’t think a relationship [can be considered a] failure. I think it gives you experience and perspective and how it redefines who you are makes clear what it is you really want out of life. I don’t think that without all of the steps you can find clarity, ultimately, [no matter] how much heartbreak we all have, where we end up walking away, going, ‘Well, that didn’t work, so at least I got that one out of the way, so now I know not to look for that.” I think that’s an integral part of the process of falling in love and finding a partner.

iF: What was the process of making TIMER?

CAULFIELD: All we did was laugh the entire time. I’m actually really relieved to talk about a project where there’s no part of you that’s feeling like you have to bullshit somebody. And I’ve had those experiences, where you’re trying to sell something, and trying to find something really good to say about it to get people to go see it [laughs]. That’s not the case with this film at all. I loved every single one of them from the moment I met them – the entire cast, Jac, the producers – we all just had an immediate rapport, as if we’d all known each other forever. The chemistry between all of us was not forced, it was very real and we’re all friends. They’re all amazing people. Luckily enough, we all discovered we were all doing the same film. Sometimes that doesn’t happen. Sometimes you’re in the film and the person you’re opposite is doing a completely different film and it makes the struggle for connection that much more difficult, but we just connected and it was effortless. It was one of the most happy, fulfilling experiences I’ve had.

iF: You’ve produced your own independent film, BANDWAGON, a few years ago. Did you learn anything working on TIMER that you can use in your career going forward?

CAULFIELD: Well, I think it motivated me more to seek out projects where you’re in bed with people that you want to be around all day long. And that doesn’t always happen, and oftentimes you kind of settle and there are some elements that work and some that don’t and then you end up struggling through the process. It’s inevitable that being a performer of any kind, sometimes you have to settle. But it hit home how painful that is to do. When you’re in a situation where there is no settling involved, it’s actually just lifting you up and inspiring you. So if you can continue to seek that out in any way possible, your life is much better. There was an environment created by our cast and Jaq Schaeffer that permeated the entire experience and I’d like to be able to follow that. Whatever she is, it should be bottled, because anyone who works with her is incredibly lucky.

iF: Kali Rocha played your BUFFY character’s best friend Halfrek and she turns up in TIMER as your Timer technician. Were you instrumental in her being cast in TIMER, or was that a coincidence?

CAULFIELD: [laughs] That was a total coincidence. I wish I could say I could take credit for that, but that was as much a surprise to me as anybody else. I cannot say enough good things about her. I think she is the funniest person I have ever met in my life, hands down. She is so effortlessly funny and witty and charming, and being reunited with her was like no time had passed whatsoever. I just love her – if I could keep her in my pocket all the time, I would.

iF: Speaking of Kali Rocha, how much has being a BUFFY regular affected your subsequent career?

CAULFIELD: Well, it gave me a fan base that is very, very loyal. And being the comic relief on the show for five years honed my skills for comedy. So to that extent, it was a learning experience and a gift. It was like a five-year boot camp. I have never been thought of to do comedy and I didn’t even know I was funny. I didn’t even know I could do it, and I guess I could [laughs]. It wasn’t anything I thought to pursue. I was lucky enough to be given amazing writing for five years and work with an amazing creative team who fostered independent thought and creativity and bold choices, so that can’t help but rub off on you. And since then, I’ve just been on a search for something like that, to be able to do comedy to some extent on that level of originality and greatness, and it’s really, really rare. There are a lot of people out there doing comedy, but I don’t happen to think it’s funny. I don’t know if it’s just me or whatever – maybe my taste is so spoiled at this point. When you work with creative minds like [series creator/executive producer] Joss Whedon and [executive producer] Marti Noxon, almost everything pales in comparison, so when you get hold of a script like Jac’s, you think, “Oh, thank God there’s something else out there. Somebody else is saying something. Somebody else is doing something original, and doing it well.” So I count myself very fortunate.

iF: Now, you had said in an interview in the L.A. Times that you had told your agent after BUFFY you didn’t want to do any more science-fiction. Did you not like the genre at that time, or were you afraid of being typecast?

CAULFIELD: Typecast. I love the genre – it’s my favorite. I’m a sci-fi lover/connoisseur. I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say I’m a Trekkie, but I own all seven seasons of NEXT GENERATION on DVD and I can pretty much name that episode in about three bars. And there’s a reboot of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, another classic example, taking a genre and turning it in on itself and reinventing it in such a way that it crosses over for people who, for whatever reason, have a button on that genre and think, “Oh, it’s just aliens and weird phaser guns.” Which, p.s., I also love. It actually is a lot more than that. So I would be happy to continue to be a part of that, as long as I’m not redoing something I’ve already done.

iF: What changed your mind about doing genre?

CAULFIELD: The [TIMER] script was really original. I think it was able to take the genre and turn it in on itself again and make it accessible to the masses, make people understand that it doesn’t have to be all about aliens with strange faces and phaser guns – you can actually take a sci-fi template and make it completely unique and make it audience-friendly. Very quickly, I think, with the film, it becomes just about the human condition and the universal search for love, which I think everybody can relate to, unless you’re an alien, pardon the pun. You’re human, you relate. I don’t care how old you are, if you’re fifteen and it’s your first crush or you’re sixty-five and you’ve been tortured and heartbroken a dozen times – that search for somebody, a search for a connection is just part of who we all are.

iF: TIMER has won film festival awards and it’s gotten theatrical distribution, which is like the Holy Grail of indie film. Were you confident that it would hit, or was that a pleasant surprise?

CAULFIELD: It was a pleasant surprise. I mean, you always hope that anything you’re proud of will be seen by more than a handful of people. I don’t think it’s any different than a musician who’s playing at coffeehouses, because they really enjoy playing at the coffeehouse, but they really hope that at some point they’re playing at a bigger venue. And that was true for all of us. We were all very proud of it and we all had such an amazing, positive experience from it that we hoped for the best, that people would respond to it the same way we did. And we couldn’t be more grateful, particularly in this climate, which seems to get worse by the minute, when the vast majority of product out there is pre-existing material, they’re remakes or sequels, they’re safe choices. So for something that’s none of those things, for it to actually get seen, see the light of day, is a miracle.

iF: What are you working on now?

CAULFIELD: I’m knee-deep in a Web comic that my writing partner Camilla Rantsen and I started last August, called CONTROPUSSY that’s online and actually we just went to print for the first time and we’ve been doing book signings, which is another weird thing to say – I’m published. That’s a whole other thing I didn’t think I’d be saying in my lifetime. CONTROPUSSY centers around a controversial cat and her band of sort of strange [associates]. They all represent pieces of our personalities, and it’s satirical in tone. Nothing is really off-limits. We’ve gone very political this season, whereas the first couple seasons, we really had – we made it more pop culture-based in terms of references, which is definitely there this season, but I had always wanted to go political. I thought, “Let’s give it a minute before we do that, let’s get people sort of acclimated toward the world,” because even though it centers around animals and their lives, it’s an exploration of human behavior told through a different kind of animal.

iF: Any other acting work?

CAULFIELD: I’m working with my old boss from BUFFY, Marti Noxon, on her new show called GIGANTIC [for Nickelodeon Networks], where I’m in slightly familiar territory, playing kind of a lovable assh*le. [The character is] a fashion victim, an attention victim, seeking notoriety to mask insecurities and working with someone who shares a shorthand at this point. She just knows how I’m going to deliver a line and writes it exactly the way I’m going to deliver it, and that is a gift. She’s just so good, she can tell me to do anything and like, “Whatever you need, Marti. I’m going to be okay with it, don’t even ask, just tell me what you want me to do and I’ll show up and do it, and that’s it. I trust you completely.” And that’s so very rare, to trust implicitly the person that’s spearheading the ship. The best way I could describe the show is, it’s sort of, I think is if MY SO-CALLED LIFE, GILMORE GIRLS and GOSSIP GIRL had a child. There’s another indie film I did called WHY AM I DOING THIS [released theatrically in May].

iF: What kind of part are you playing in that?

CAULFIELD: I guess kind of what people think I do well, which is to play an assh*le [laughs]. She’s a struggling actress who finds herself always at the best parties, always networking, very, very shallow. But again, likable. I don’t tend to play people who aren’t likable. I’d actually be intrigued to play someone who wasn’t likable. Maybe put that on my next “to do” roster, play someone you really don’t want to root for.

iF: Is there anything else you’d like to say about TIMER?

CAULFIELD: I just believe so wholeheartedly in this film and it’s by far, of everything I’ve done, the project I’m the most proud of. I think it’s a beautiful film that is completely out of the box. It’s not non-linear in story, but it certainly has an unorthodox approach to telling its story that leaves you never quite knowing what’s going to happen. And I think people will be very grateful that they saw it. It’ll make you think. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry, it’ll make you think.