INTERVIEW: Emily Piggford on That’s My DJ, Creativity and Theatre
Emily Piggford is known for her compelling role as Meagan in the award-winning web series, That’s My DJ, and won Best Performance by an Actress at the Canadian Screen Awards. You can also see her in other television shows like The Girlfriend Experience, Lost Girl and Hemlock Grove. We spoke to her about her experience working on one of the most unique web series online and also her work in theatre. Check out the interview below.
What initially drew you to your character, Meagan, in That’s My DJ?
That she was a party girl with a heart of gold! Also I really like my quiet time and country music and staying in and while Meagan and I are both very playful people, we have completely different playgrounds. I was excited to play someone that was so joyfully immersed in this world of partying and EDM and DJs that I was so far removed from.
What is your favorite part about That’s My DJ? What is it like working on a web series versus a movie or television show?
My favourite part about That’s My DJ is how much art imitates life imitates art with this series. It’s inspired by the life experiences of creator/director D.W. Waterson and she became one of my best friends through shooting season 1. So our friendship was simultaneously the best research for playing Meagan because I got to witness D.W. as she launched Home Brew and headlined as DJ hey!dw. Home Brew is the party that Meagan and her friend Sam create in season 2. Jade Hassouné who plays Sam and I have been dancing at the real Home Brew practically every month for the past three years, along with so many other friends who have become involved with TMDJ in some way. It’s pretty exciting to be at Home Brew listening to hey!dw play the title track to That’s My DJ and to feel like both myself and Meagan. I’m often overwhelmed with love and gratitude for the people involved in TMDJ and the times I’ve had being part of that series.
My experiences working on web series and short films have been very similar— there’s a sense of community and collaboration because the team is intimate enough that we feel safe to take time to ask questions, play and explore together. The larger the production or the smaller my part in it, the less freedom I feel to “stake my claim,” as it were, and it can be a bit unsettling to not be sure if you’re on the same page as the people around you who have been involved since the beginning. But whatever the size of my role or the budget of the production, I always at least like to help create a sense of community. Simply learning people’s names helps me to feel like we’re all in this together, because we are!
How do you feel about the way technology has impacted the relationship between media and audience?
Oh the impact is huge! Audiences have bigger appetites and faster metabolisms for media these days because of social media and the fact that so many households have multiple devices on which to access, evaluate and interact with content and artists. This can be so fun for audiences and can actually, I think, be stressful for artists who may feel pressure to “perform” beyond their work. This boom of tech and social media, though, can really be seen as an invitation to be authentic and brave! We can share our stories—personal or fictional— across so many platforms, whether we’re making a web series or an Instagram story. Audiences are a click away, these days, so if you have something to say, there’s a good chance it’ll be heard. All this is resulting in really savvy audiences too. For example, before a film even hits the theatres we may have an opinion on its social or political impact beyond its simple entertainment value. As a result, content-makers have to be really attentive to the information and activism that is happening online to make art that reflects and stands a chance of satisfying the rapidly-evolving tastes of audiences.
Tell us about your work in theatre and will you be going back to the stage any time soon?
Oh I love theatre! I think it will always be close by for me. I did my first play when I was eleven and studied theatre and acting at the University of Victoria. I discovered collective creation there, working with companies like SNAFU Dance Theatre and Impulse Theatre. There are two plays on the back burner right now. One is Impulse Theatre’s, “ana,” a solo show I co-created that explores the oppression of the feminine. We premiered it at Uno Fest in 2016 and hope to rediscover it whenever my schedule aligns with Impulse Theatre AD, Andrew Barrett’s– we’re on opposite ends of the country pursuing our own work right now and that show requires all of our attention so, till the time is right!… Also hoping to remount Canadian Stage’s “Helen Lawrence” after our last tour through New York and Belgium! It’s film noir acted onstage on a blue screen, filmed, and projected live onto a scrim in full black and white glory. Hard to describe, cool to see. We’re hoping to be in L.A. next, so stay tuned!
What is the best part about being a creative person?
Feeling perpetually surrounded by limitless possibilities! I take so much pleasure in problem-solving and find that creativity and the arts are such important and effective ways to better understand ourselves, each other, the world, and to create positive change within ALL of those things.
What is your favorite thing to do when you are not acting?
Watching all the things.
Imagine for a second you are given superpowers. What would it be? What would your superhero name be?
I just want to be Mary Poppins.
Featured photos by David Lopez.