Currently starring in the hit show Come From Away at the Phoenix Theatre in London we got to spend some time with actress Emma Salvo and speak about her role as a reporter in the show and playing other roles in Come From Away plus learning a new dialect.
Emma trained at Liverpool Institute for performing arts, Liverpool and Royal Academy of music, London before going on to appear as God in Holy Crap (King’s Head), Jan in Grease (Royal Caribbean/David Ian Productions), Performer in Newsrevue (Canal Cafe Theatre) Fairy Crystal in Sleeping Beauty (Mercury Theatre) and Mother in Sincerely, Mister Toad (Selladoor UK Tour) and many more productions.
How did you get into acting, was there a particular performance you saw that resonated with you?
I was a lucky kid, my parents got me to try as many things as they could (any way to calm down their odd and somewhat hyperactive child I guess), swimming lessons, piano lessons, dance classes, even chess club. But it was when I think I was about 12 I was persuaded to get involved with the local Am Dram group where I was given the opportunity to really try out and fall in love with performing and theatre, and really became a second family. They still regularly put on shows, and now my parents still volunteer for them today.
What has been your favourite role you have played and why?
Tough one, I’ve not got a huge list being a bit of a young’un so it is like choosing between children! I’ve been lucky to play some really fun roles the last couple years though, and I am a sucker for anything with comedy.
Where did you train?
I first trained at LIPA (The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts) in Acting, and then went onto the Royal Academy of Music in Musical Theatre.
Can you tell us about your current, show direct from Broadway: Come From Away what drew you to the role?
Come From Away is based on the true story of how 7,000 passengers were grounded on a small Canadian Island in the wake of 9/11. With the help of the community in Gander and other towns of Newfoundland. Over the 5 days, fear became trust, and strangers became friends. It was always an easy decision to make to be a part of, the challenge of not only telling an incredible and true story, plus the opportunity to work with the renowned team on board.
What can you tell us about your character and their real life tale?
My main part, Janice Mosher, is actually a composite of two people’s stories, Janice Goudie who had just started as a reporter in Gander, and Brain Mosher who hosted the local TV news station. With this show its not really about an impersonation or imitation or any individual, but sharing what these guys did and sharing their side of this huge event. For Janice and Brain, it really was fascinating to read their interviews that David and Irene had with them when writing the piece and meeting them here in London. It wasn’t just a job for them in that time, it was a way to help their ‘Come From Away’ guests and fellow volunteers. Janice, 21 years old was on her first day on the job, interviewed so many people to share their stories, and Brain was doing shout outs every few hours for specific supplies for each makeshift shelter, neither of them really sleeping for those 5 days! It was an honour to meet them here, and find out more first hand from them.
How was it to get the accent for your character, what training did you have?
It was tricky, and something we have to keep keep working on! I had never heard a Newfie accent before so it was fascinating getting to grips with it, the huge influence of Irish traits, mixed with American ones. Not only that, the whole cast has to play several parts so we cover a whole range of nations. Thankfully, we have our wonderful dialect coach Joel Goldes to steer us in the right direction.
How do you think this show will inspire people and what do you want them to take away from the show?
The only reason this story exists is because an entire community opened their homes and gave whatever they could to help thousands of refugees in need. What the people of Gander gave I think really shows what effect kindness and generosity is capable of, and if we can all learn to be just that little more giving the world could be a better place for those in need, even if it is just a cup of tea and an ear to listen.
Where has been your favourite place to perform on stage and why?
Couple of years ago I was in ‘Grease’ on what was the biggest cruise ship in the world. Not only was the spec of that theatre on board just incredible, I’m talking an entire HD wall backdrop, insane lighting rig, multiple fly points up top, awesome set pieces, the list is endless. Not only that, but you’d wake up the next morning and get to go to a stunning beach in the Caribbean, never a bad way to start the working day!
What is the most rewarding thing about your work?
I love that I’m constantly learning, starting every job is like the first day of school all over again (without all the pre-teen anxiety), whether it’s research or working with new people, every day I try and soak up as much as I can. In Come From Away, I have a pretty outstanding group of people around me, every day is like a masterclass!
What’s been a funny moment for you on stage? Any mishaps you want to share!?
In Toxic Avenger the list was endless, we even had a few mishaps that ended up staying in the rest of the run!
If you hadn’t had been an actor what would you be doing?
I’m honestly not sure, other than performing I’ve always been a jack of all trades and a master of absolutely none. I think it’d have to at least be something a little creatively stimulating, having done the odd desk job ‘inbetween gigs’ I have gone stir crazy. Maybe a professional tea drinker?
What advice would you give to someone who would like to get into the theatre industry?
I can’t remember who told me this but I realised how true it is now in our industry, you cannot wait for someone else’s permission. It’s surprising how easy it is to sit and wait for opportunities to come to your door, and it’s great when they do. But at the end of the day, it’s only yourself that can prepare for when the auditions come and go, who will believe in yourself when times are hard, who can keep confident between highs and lo’s.
Who are your influences and inspirations?
There are so many people that I look up to in the industry, all time heroes have to be Julie Walters and Victoria Wood. Now and again I’ll watch Elaine Stritch: At Liberty too, brilliant autobiography in an amazing performance from a Musical Theatre legend.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’ve realised now that being in this job you have to stay healthy and maintain in shape, so I’m starting, albeit reluctantly, headed for the gym now. Other than that I’m a bit of a boring old soul, you can usually find me having a pint, doing a bit of cooking or baking, or in my armchair knitting with a cup of tea.
What’s your go to song for auditions or just singing in the shower?
Easy, got to love a bit of Whitney in the shower.
Is there a role (regardless of gender) you would love to play in a show?
Dot in Sunday In The Park With George, love it, always been a dream role.
Where can people follow your work on Twitter/Facebook/YouTube etc?