How Model and “Aquarius” Star Emma Dumont Landed Her TV Role

21 June 2015

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Emma Dumont Photo: Courtesy Wilhelmina

According to most models who graduate to acting do so after an extended period in fashion, but newcomer Emma Dumont flipped the script. Growing up as part of Seattle’s theater scene, Dumont immersed herself in musicals, favoring adult shows like Cabaret and Company over kid-friendly fare. She was spotted by a  modeling scout while she was studying drama. Thrust into the fashion world, she soon found herself booking gigs a world away in China. She didn’t let her connection to the theater wither, however, opting to send audition tapes for films while traveling abroad. One of them happened to catch the eye of director Alexander Payne. “It ended up that my audition tape got sent in for the George Clooney film The Descendants,” Dumont tells “I had to fly from Hong Kong back to L.A., and all this craziness happened. I had never done screen acting before, so it was such an honor to even be up for a part like that.”

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Aquarius    Photo: Courtesy NBCUniversal Media

While the Descendants role eventually went to Shailene Woodley, the experience gave Dumont a look at her career’s potential. Encouraged, she began trying her hand at other parts and most recently landed a leading role opposite David Duchovny in NBC’s thriller Aquarius. The series, which provides a fictionalized account of the events leading up to the Manson Family murders, presented Dumont with her most challenging role to date. Playing Emma Karn, a wealthy teen who finds herself under Manson’s spell, she was pushed to find the humanity in her complex character. “I think trying to find the soul of the character was the hardest part. I look at her and I’m, like, What are you doing? Don’t do this! But I spent a lot of time searching through Emma’s backstory and through the scripts to find out why she does this, why she joins this family and does these crazy things.”

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The cast of Aquarius  Photo: Courtesy NBCUniversal Media

Dumont’s role may be dark, but working on the expansive period piece came with its own set of perks, including getting immersed in the 1960s and its distinctive style. “Obviously I wasn’t around in the ’60s,” she quips, “but I come to work, and they do me up in ’60s clothes and makeup, then I go to this set where everything is completely retro, and it starts to feel like you’re actually there in that period.” Acting alongside Duchovny proved equally invigorating. “David is obviously so amazing. Working with him is such a joy; he’s so dedicated and such a hard worker, it makes everyone in the cast just want to worker harder and be stronger and do a better job because he sets the bar so high as our number one.” While Dumont currently has her hands full as a series regular, there is one role she’d love to try in the near future. “I have a soft spot for tomboys with a heart of gold—probably because I personally relate!”