From Better Call Saul to Preacher, the characters Julie Ann Emery portrays have a way of sticking with us. She stars in a new show, Five Days at Memorial, airing on August 12 on Apple TV, which is sure to have the same effect. Based on the eponymous book, the show follows the real-life impact of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath on a hospital and its caretakers, who are forced to make difficult decisions. The show has an eerie resemblance to the chaos that ensued during the pandemic. We caught up with Emery to learn about the challenge taking on this role and what she enjoys outside of work to keep her grounded, from skin care to hiking.
How did the pandemic affect the perspective while filming Five Days at Memorial?
“John Ridley, at our first cast meeting over zoom, quoted Mark Twain and said, ‘History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.’ We’ve seen that many times since Katrina. Frankly, shooting this during the pandemic was, I’m not going to lie, depressing that we haven’t come further than we have as a society in how we handle these ailments. So I really hope the show can be a conversation starter for people. I hope people really pay attention to their institutions, their government on every level, local, state, federal. That’s the place where we can hopefully make a difference when disaster strikes. I describe the show this way: ‘When disaster strikes and no one comes to your rescue. What do you do? Who do you become?’ But I hope, as a larger society, we can do better for each other. I really hope this show spotlights that.
I also have healthcare workers in my family. Watching what they went through during COVID and how that had affected them, I think had a big impact on my performance and my approach to the show.”
What’s something new that you learned about yourself while filming this show?
“We’ve had a big conversation over the last couple of years about toxicity in the workplace. This set was so full of kindness and respect from the top all the way down through the crew. Everyone became more dedicated because of that. I think I blow off my environment sometimes and how it affects my emotional life on screen, but [in this case] it benefited my emotional life on screen so very much. Sometimes we don’t realize how much we’re protecting ourselves. If you’re going to be kind of emotionally naked on screen, this show requires you to tear down that wall over and over again all day, but this was such a beautiful place to be. It’s a hard story to tell, so the fact that we were in that environment and the cast really loved each other and had a desire to spend time together as people helped a lot. I think I learned a lot about my environment and not just what I can survive in my environment, but what is actually beneficial.”
What are some skin-care products you swear by?
“I have some pretty bad rosacea, so all of my stuff is very gentle. I try to really streamline and not get too complicated with it. There’s a Caudalie almond milk cleanser ($28) that I love. I love the way it smells. It almost feels like aromatherapy while you’re using it. I’m a devotee of that. I use a lot of La Mer products, the serum, and I like their masks. More affordable than La Mer, but I think almost as effective is Le Mieux. My facialist uses a lot of Le Mieux, and I have quite a lot of those products as well that I really like.”
You’ve worked with a lot of great makeup artists. Have they introduced you to any products you love?
“I always take pictures of what they’re using. I have chronic dark circles that I’ve just had since I was a kid that have nothing to do with sleep. It Cosmetics Bye Bye Under Eye ($29) is the most effective thing I’ve ever found for them. It seems scary because it’s really thick. You just need a little bit of it then you can layer it. I bring it when I’m having my first day on a set now. I’ll bring some with me so the makeup artists can try it out, and we can use it. I love it.
The Giorgio Armani base that I use ($69) I think I mostly like how it goes on. It goes on really smooth, and it doesn’t crack. It feels really good. It’s just a really good match to my skin. I’m not girl enough that I’m going to mix two foundations. I really need something that I can just put on. I’m not going to through that much trouble.”
You have some relatable posts about exercising on your Instagram. What are some of the workouts that you like to do?
“I hike a lot. So wherever I am, I look for hiking and my husband and I, when we vacation, most often take big hikes. We’ve hiked the Grand Canyon twice. We did a 100-mile hike in Scotland. I like to get into nature and climb a hill or a mountain. During the pandemic, when I didn’t feel comfortable going to the gym, I got a spin bike. I really love my spin bike a lot. When I’m away from it, I miss it. Those are my main go-tos, and I do some yoga as well.”
Do you have a favorite national park?
“So you know you’ve got Yellowstone, and then you’ve got the Grand Tetons. Grand Tetons are like 30 minutes from Yellowstone, and Yellowstone is sort of the Disney of National Parks. Well, the Grand Tetons are even more gorgeous and not nearly as crowded. We did an 18-mile hike over Paintbrush Divide in the Grand Tetons, and you go over the Continental Divide. It was so challenging and yet so spectacular. It was so beautiful. We’re so lucky to have the national parks. It’s such a beautiful and affordable thing to be able to do.”
So besides exercise and hiking, what else do you do for self-care?
“In the last year, I have discovered how to meditate for myself. I’ve never been very good at meditating. I don’t sit still very well, and my mind tends to race. I’ve always just thought I was bad at meditating. It wasn’t for me, but I had a friend who was teaching a class, and I took it, and it has been just wildly beneficial for me.”
Do you meditate morning or night?
“I like mornings. My husband took the same class after I did it. He prefers night, so I don’t think it matters when you do it. I like to start my day that way, but I also like it as an anxiety tool. Sometimes, especially when you are in any kind of performance career, you can feel like you’re out of your body sometimes, so even just [meditating] for five or 10 minutes to put yourself back in your body has helped me immensely.”
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