The Modern-Day Ingénue: Emily Meade


Among 50 Cent in Twelve (2010), Michael Pitt in Boardwalk Empire (2010), and Lee Tergesen in Silver Tongues (2011), Emily Meade has had her fair share of onscreen flings with older men. “I wonder what the universe is trying to tell me,” she laughs when we meet her at The Mercer Hotel in New York. With elfin features and deep voice, the 23-year-old exudes a worldly innocence. Although the characters Meade plays often begin as wily—Boardwalk‘s tragic prostitute Pearl and Twelve’s steely perfectionist turned drug addict, Jessica Brayson—they tend to get themselves in over their heads. “This female director actually said that there’s ‘just something’ about me that you want to see interestingly bad things happened to me,” the actress tell us. “It’s a little bit scary that that’s what people see me as.”

This year, Meade will continue this trend alongside Gwyneth Paltrow and Mark Ruffalo, in the indie film Thanks for Sharing. “I’m someone from Mark Ruffalo’s past of sexual deviance,” Meade tells us. “I cause trouble.” She is also set to appear in Gimme Shelter with Rosario Dawson, James Earl Jones, and Vanessa Hudgens; and Bluebird with Adam Driver and John Slattery.

AGE: 23


HIGH SCHOOL: LaGuardia High School of Music, & Art, and the Performing Art. Al Pacino went there, but I wouldn’t be like, “Hey, that’s a thing we have in common.” That wouldn’t be why I’d be excited to meet Al Pacino. [But] when you see somebody [from LaGuardia] having success, that’s pretty exciting. There’s some camaraderie there.

EARLY ACTING AMBITIONS: My first draw to acting was [that] I was obsessed with I Love Lucy—Lucille Ball—and then Christopher Guest and Saturday Night Live in the ’90s, growing up. Basically I wanted to be a male comedian; those were my idols. I was really specific about not wanting to be professional until I was 18. I was like a really neurotic kid and I planned it out.

FAVORITE FICTIONAL CHARACTER: The first thing that came to my mind was Amelia Bedelia, which is really stupid. I just grew up really liking her. I was obsessed with language. But let me think of a better one.

ON THANKS FOR SHARING: The movie itself is about sex addicts. It focuses on several different stories: there’s Mark Ruffalo, and he’s trying to have a new relationship with Gwyneth Paltrow. And then there’s Tim Robbins, and he’s dealing with his family—he has a wife and a kid, and he’s far along in his recovery. And then there’s Josh Gad, who is court-ordered to go to sex rehabilitation because he was arrested, but isn’t actually guilty at all. I’m somebody from Mark Ruffalo’s past of sexual deviance. I kind of reenter his life a little bit.

OH, CANADA: Did I go to the Toronto Film Festival? Yeah, I did. It was quite an adventure. [laughs] The person I was driving with could not get over the border at first, so it actually took us two days. You are not allowed in Canada if you have any sort of criminal record of any kind, and my driving partner had a DUI, so we gave up. We just stayed at a little hotel in Niagara Falls, on the American side, “We’re here, we might as well go see the Falls on the American side.” [We] accidentally got to the border, they thought we were trying to sneak in, and we wound up being interrogated for three hours. And then the [immigration] guy was an angel, and for some reason felt a need to help us. Not only did he not arrest us, but he let us into Canada.

Apparently there’s a few actors who couldn’t get into the film festival for that reason. So many people have some sort of criminal record, and nobody seems to know that.

ACTING IN P!NK’S FILM DEBUT: Was I a fan of P!nk before Thanks for Sharing? Yeah, I was. Especially when she became popular. I was like little-miss wannabe punk-rocker, I would go home and secretly listen to P!nk, and dance around, like, “Ugh, she understands me so well!” So I found that pretty crazy that the first movie she was in, that I would be in it.

MAKING OUT WITH 50 CENT IN TWELVE: He’s a real man. He referred to us as the same age; when we were filming, he said “our age,” so I don’t know if he knows how old I am. He’s very, very wise. Did he let me punch him in the stomach? [laughs] I didn’t ask him. I should have. But I was very up close and personal with his scars… everything. He’s incredibly sweet—this sweet, jolly teddy bear. I guess that’s not really surprising, but it’s just funny. He’s very open, and he is vulnerable, which is not something you would expect. Especially acting with him, he really is there and present in the moment and listening to you, which is really rare, actually.

FIDDY, FIFTY, OR CURTIS? I never knew what to call him, he put his number in my phone as Curtis #50 but everyone on set called him Curtis. Joel Schumacher called him Curtis. I think as an actor, he’s fine with being called Curtis. I have 50 Cent’s number in my phone? [laughs] Yes I do. A little bragging right there. Ultimately, he’s still 50 Cent. When “In Da Club ” comes on, you’re still like, “Oh my god, that’s him!” You get a kick out of it.

FRIENDS: Most of my good friends are my friends from high school or childhood, and they’re not actors, they have 9-to-5 jobs. But I’ve obviously, over time, developed friendships with actors. It’s two completely different worlds. I’ve had mishaps where somebody has talked about an actor in front of that actor’s really good friend, [talking] about them like a celebrity, and I have to like elbow them under the table. It’s kind of like in the cartoon, there’s Pluto, a barking dog, and then there’s Goofy, a dog who talks. Once my friends have met certain actors and they become friends with that actor—they’re like Pluto at first, but then all of sudden they’re Goofy. [laughs]

FAME: I don’t want fame as far as the tweeting or the image of it. But, the idea of being famous is actually exciting to me, just because then you can have a choice in what you do. I would like to be at a point where I’m not asking for parts anymore and I’m actually just choosing between a part that I want to do.

AUDITIONS: It’s hard not to be obsessively comparing yourself to everyone else. You’re just sitting in a room sizing up each person and comparing them to yourself which is terrible—something I’m trying not to do too much of. I remember when I first started I’d see people, all of these girls and boys, hugging each other, and everybody talking to each other. And I’d be like, “That’s so weird. How they know each other?” Now you’ll run into like your best friend and your worst enemy every single day. I don’t think there’s anyone I see in the audition room who I don’t at least know visually. You kind of start to lose your mind a little bit.

It is such a weird thing, because you are friends with these people, but you’re obviously competing. You’re each going into the room hoping you’re going to beat the other person. It’s kind of like a reality show, everybody becomes friends and then you’re teaming up with each other trying to get people kicked off. [laughs]

DREAM DATE: My first love was Heath Ledger. I was sad about [his death] to the degree that I missed school for like a week. I was truly devastated by that loss, I looked up to him as an actor and I was desperately in love with him. I actually wrote him a letter, that now I wish I had sent. I wrote him a letter when I was like 16 or 15 and then I purposely didn’t sent him in case I met him one day, I didn’t want to be embarrassed that I had written him a letter. He definitely was my dream date. I wanted to be Julia Stiles and I wanted to be with Heath Ledger. She was like the coolest, tough girl who didn’t take any shit and he was the perfect, rugged yet sensitive, man.

WORST NIGHTMARE: Well, I really hate misunderstandings—to a degree that it’s hard for me to watch sitcoms, or any kind of funny movie where there’s like this big mishap, or miscommunication. It gives me such anxiety that I almost can’t make it through the movie. Anytime I’m misrepresented, I want to be always clear [about] what I’m trying to say, which is hard. Like now, learning how to try to represent yourself when you’re speaking in interviews. Sometimes I’ll see something and I’ll be like, “Oh my god, that was not at all what I was trying to say,” it’s the right words, but the tone and thought behind it kind of changes.

10-YEAR PLAN: Becoming an actor, I’ve realized I really want to be a director and a writer. You grow up loving movies and your first instinct is you want to be an actor, because those are the people you see in the movies. But when you actually become an actor, you’re like, “Oh, wait, this is actually only a small portion of the storytelling. If I want to really tell a story, I’d want to be a director.”

To see more of our 13 Faces of 2013, click here.