Zoe Terakes discusses how her character Emmy is driven by self-protection in Lucas Hnath’s script.
Note: the following interview contains spoilers.
What do you think the driving force behind your character is?
Emmy is driven by self-protection. She is incredibly motivated by not letting her mother see the damage that has been done over fifteen years, and goes out of her way to make it appear that she’s not hurt. She tries to convince Nora that everyone was better off without her, but really, there’s fifteen years of pain.
How do you inhabit your character? Do they have specific gestures, movements, facial expressions?
Stillness is a big one for Emmy. Personally, I’m a big mover, so I’m learning to put my hands behind my back and be poised as Emmy, because her stillness is her power. Stillness is how she shows she doesn’t care. As that stillness starts to unravel, you start to see a ‘holding down’, a physical manifestation of trying to maintain the mask, to keep things within and contained.
How does your character grow during the course of the play?
During the course of the play, the cracks start to form. The more familiar Emmy and Nora get with each other, the more it starts to unravel. Emmy has been sitting on this for most of her life – she’s nineteen, and Nora’s been gone fifteen years. The lines that sting are when Emmy starts to see the fall of her great expectation, when she realises that Nora didn’t want to see her. She starts to hate hope, because hope means hurt. When hope starts to grow in her, that’s when Emmy starts to crack. She thinks, ‘I did want to see you, and I miss you all the time, but you don’t care’. Emmy is the cost of Nora’s decision, so we see this girl who is so cold because she’s had no warmth in her life. Anne Marie did raise her, and they’re close, but she’s not family.
What is A Doll’s House, Part 2 about in your own words?
I think the play is about a modern woman trapped in a time that is behind her. She’s driven by building a better world for women. What stings is when you see the things that haven’t changed, where the world hasn’t evolved with us, and that’s the stuff that the play jabs you with. At the same time, it’s about the cost of a decision like Nora’s, and you might become an independent woman but there are consequences for your actions. What this play does better than any other I’ve read, is how you see the four corners, you see each character’s perspective fully, and you empathise with every person entirely. You want to side with Nora, but when you meet Emmy, you ask, ‘how could you leave her?’
How would you describe the actor-audience relationship in this production?
I think the audience is with Nora, and she’s the vehicle by which they see all our points of view. You follow her, like you’re on train, and at each stop you see other characters from her point of view. Then sometimes you get off the train, and you side with another character, but we always jump back on the train.
Emmy never saw Nora leave when she was a child, but this time she does. It’s one thing to know it, but another to see it, so I think the aftermath of her leaving this time would be much more drastic. Everyone has more awareness and more to lose this time. In order for the play to work, we have to go with Nora out that door. I think it’s a deliberate choice from Hnath not to show the aftermath, so we’re on Nora’s side. We’re positioned with her, and we walk out with her.
Do you have a favourite line from Hnath’s script? It mightn’t be your own.
NORA: ‘A wound has to be allowed to heal,
no matter how much you have the desire,
the urge to touch it, to —
It’s not good for the… the healing.’
I think that’s what the whole play is about, it’s why Nora doesn’t want to see Emmy. If you poke and prod at a wound, it won’t heal.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with students about A Doll’s House, Part 2?
The silences, and what they’re filled with, are really interesting things to think about. That’s what we’re talking about in rehearsal right now. I would see this play twice if I wasn’t in it; I’d watch it and take Nora’s side, and experience it that way, then I’d watch it again and side with the family. I think that way you really get to understand the play when you’re rooting for both teams. As a feminist, I agree with Nora’s words and actions, and if it was a one-woman show I’d be totally on her side. However, in this play there are three other points of conflict, which puts your feminism into question, and makes you really examine Nora’s choices.
A Dolls House, Part 2 plays at Southbank Theatre from 11 August 2018.