While Emilie Ullerup has won a Leo Award for Best Actress in the acclaimed show jPod, she is probably best known for the role of Ashley Magnus on Syfy’s Sanctuary. Having already guest-starred in such sci-fi and fantasy shows as Battlestar Galactica, Blood Ties and the film Paradox, she’s about to dive into another with a guest spot on this week’s Smallville. The timing couldn’t be more perfect, either.
With recent events on this season of Sanctuary, Emilie has gotten a lot of attention over the past few weeks. IMDb.com searches have gone up over 95% and a Google search of the past three weeks of posts regarding Emilie turned up almost 32,000 hits! With growing interest like that, a lot of Emilie fans may be tuning in to Smallville for the first time this week.
If you haven’t watched the first three episodes of Sanctuary this season and have avoided spoilers as of yet, don’t read any further until you’ve gone to Syfy.com and watched those episodes.
ÜberSciFiGeek (ÜSFG) I know you had surgery this summer. I’m sorry to hear you had complications! How are you recovering?
Emilie Ullerup (EU) Yeah… thank you. It was quite the process. Basically, it was a tumor that had grown out of my sacrum, wrapped itself around a couple of spinal nerves, and was causing me some grief. So, the only way to get rid of it was to surgically remove it, leaving large margins to make sure it wouldn’t spread. They took my tailbone, the nerves that were involved and (I think) some of my sacrum.
(EU) Ouch is right. Cool scar though! It’s easy to say that now that I’m on the other side of it. It was a life changing experience, wouldn’t do it again, but also wouldn’t take it back. I haven’t actually given the official statement until now! I know people have been wondering, so it’s time I let them know.
(ÜSFG) Yes, they have been wondering why you’ve been so quiet about it. I realize part of that would have to be because some of that time period overlapped with the Sanctuary shooting schedule and you can’t give away too many spoilers for the season. Are you expecting a full recovery? Will it affect your ability to do most of your own stunts in future projects?
(EU) It shouldn’t affect anything. It’s just a reaaalllyyy slow recovery. I’m not good at being patient but I’ve been forced to be in this case. I definitely count on being able to kick ass again some time in the future!
(ÜSFG) Good to hear!
(EU) Thanks and also thank you to everyone who has been thinking of me.
(ÜSFG) It did give you lots of time to spend with family though, right?
(EU) My mom came to Vancouver a couple of times throughout. Because there were a few unexpected bumps along the way, she felt best being here at times. It was scary and when it gets scary, the best one to have along with you is your mom… so we spent lots of time together in the hospital, talking, talking and talking.
(ÜSFG) Moms do have a knack with providing comfort in scary times.
(EU) They do indeed.
(ÜSFG) Are you pretty close to back to normal now or will it take a few more months?
(EU) I can do almost everything. I wasn’t allowed to sit for about four months, so that is still new to me. I can’t drive yet because of that but I’m going to the gym, core strengthening, trying to get back in shape, but at least I can be on my own now. I can do all the daily things. It’s crazy how much you can all of a sudden appreciate being able to put your own socks on!
(ÜSFG) When we spoke back in February about Season 2, you said you hoped the Sanctuary team would give you “some juicy, juicy stuff for us all to sink our teeth into” and “I would love some sort of head to head conflict with mom.” It seems you got what you wished for but not exactly in the way you were expecting. After being turned into a super-mutant vampire warrior and sent to destroy her mother and the rest of the Sanctuary network, Ashley apparently dies at the end of Episode 2 after being disintegrated by an electromagnetic field.
(EU) Yeaaaah… not exactly what I was expecting, you’re right.
(ÜSFG) Did your surgery have any effect on that or was this something they had already scripted before you found out about it?
(EU) No, my surgery had nothing to do with this. Killing off Ashley was a network decision made before I knew I had to have surgery but I have faith that there are no real deaths in sci-fi… There will be storylines in the future where I’m sure Ashley could be worked in…
(ÜSFG) What was your reaction to the death of Ashley when you first found out about it?
(EU) I was of course sad. I’ve had a blast on the show and I felt Ashley had so much story to explore still.
(ÜSFG) Yes, she did. And with the turning evil bit, there was so much to explore with her and through her interactions with her friends and family.
(EU) At the same time though, I am excited for what lays ahead. I am excited to get into new projects and hopefully remain busy with lots of colorful characters to explore.
(ÜSFG) I’m looking forward to it, too. I’m certain you have big things in store!
(EU) I believe that there is a reason for me to be out in the world of unemployed actors again and I can’t wait to see what happens next in my career.
(ÜSFG) Was it hard to keep the secret after reading the script?
(EU) At times it was hard. Being at Haven 1 was hard.
(ÜSFG) Oh? Lots of fan questions, I imagine.
(EU) Yeah… They were good though. They knew I couldn’t reveal too much.
(ÜSFG) You didn’t have a lot of dialog in your final three episodes so most of your acting was non-verbal. The final look Ashley gave Magnus broke a lot of fans’ hearts. What was the feel on set while filming that emotional final scene with Amanda Tapping?
(EU) Tough day for sure. Amanda and I were both really feeling the heaviness of the situation; gave way to some true organic moments. There were a few of the tough guys who had to clear their throats here and there. It was really sweet.
(ÜSFG) There’s been a lot of anguish over that final scene. That final glance, you looked 100% sincere.
(EU) Yeah, that was all real and the final scene of Eulogy was almost impossible to do. It was the final scene for me, and throughout rehearsals I was in tears. The director had to remind me that I couldn’t be in tears, that Ashley was supposed to be at peace, so I really had to pull myself together. Ryan, Robin, Chris and Amanda were all there, all so sad, and I was like “REALLY?!? I have to pull it together as the only one?!?!” There was so much love though… it felt really nice.
(ÜSFG) It’s good to know everyone was there for you though, feeling the pain of losing you to a network decision. I know you said you’ve seen some of the comments from fans over killing Ashley. Many fans, especially those who’ve been watching since the web series days, are saying they are done with the show and don’t plan to watch anymore unless she is brought back. Were you expecting this kind of backlash from fans and how do you feel about it, knowing that you’ve got such a strong, supportive fan-base? I imagine it’s a mixed feeling, appreciating the support but wanting something you put so much of yourself into to continue to thrive even without you.
(EU) I have been completely overwhelmed with the outpouring of support. I am so grateful to have so many people that care so much! And hopefully that will mean that there will be a place for Ashley in the future.
(ÜSFG) You’ve been so genuine and available to fans and that makes a huge difference in the sci-fi community.
(EU) Well, they’re all so genuine and available to me, so really, it’s a two-way street. Aw shucks… so much love everywhere…
(ÜSFG) Whether or not you return to Sanctuary, I’m certain it will continue to have a lasting influence on you as an actor and on your career. What do you think is the most important thing you have learned while working on Sanctuary?
(EU) I will be eternally grateful to Sanctuary. Were it not for Sanctuary, I would not have this huge fan-base who (I hope) will continue to follow me as I venture into new projects.
(ÜSFG) I’m sure they will!
(EU) I think the most important thing I have learned is to never take anything for granted. Things can change in a heartbeat… and also to try to not take things too personally.
(ÜSFG) Difficult but good lessons to learn.
(EU) Invaluable in this business I think.
(ÜSFG) Well, you’ve proven to be a tough cookie so I’m sure you are going to do just fine, whatever comes your way. Many fans are hoping this is a marketing ploy to stir up the fans and drive stronger interest in the show. With the body absent, it does leave lots of room for Ashley’s return at some point in the future. A lot of fans want to know what you will do until we all know if Ashley really is dead or just being manipulated by Dana and the Cabal. There are tons of independent film projects in Vancouver as well as a dozen TV shows. Have you had any auditions lately?
(EU) Oh yes, I have been very busy lately. There are still projects that I am not able to do physically, but I try to get out for as much as possible. I have been incredibly close on almost everything, which feels great. And I did an episode of Smallville but I also have to remember to heal first, work later; so, one day at a time.
(ÜSFG) You’re playing Catherine “Cat” Grant in the episode “Crossfire” which airs tomorrow night on the CW. There are a couple of leaked shots of the episode and I have to say, you are looking great! That dress suit is quite a departure from the dark outfits Ashley wore on Sanctuary or the casual wardrobe Kaitlyn wore on jPod.
(EU) Ha, yeah it sure is.
(ÜSFG) Did you like getting to play a sunny, feminine role again?
(EU) I had a lot of fun with Catherine Grant. I got to be light and bright and bumbling and a bit dorky. Bumbling and dorky are two of my own strong traits. It would be a great character to further explore but I had a blast with what I was given on the one episode.
(ÜSFG) Did you do any research into Catherine’s TV and comic book history before shooting the role?
(EU) Yeah, but they went in a bit of a different direction with the TV version.
(ÜSFG) If Smallville follows previous storylines in the Superman mythology, Catherine could very well become the third corner of a Lois/Clark/Cat love triangle. Did you and Tom (Welling) have the kind of on-screen chemistry that you think could lead to Cat Grant becoming a recurring role for you?
(EU) I guess we’ll see tomorrow! I had a blast shooting with Tom. He’s so relaxed and fun, and I know Erica (Durance) because Kyle (Cassie) worked with her earlier this year… so it would be a blast getting to muck things up for the two of them.
(ÜSFG) I think adding Cat to the mix would certainly be a great monkey-wrench in the Clark/Lois relationship that is developing this season. Hopefully the producers feel the same and invite you back a few times.
(EU) Yeah! Let’s hope!
(EU) Wouldn’t that be absolutely amazing?!! I think we would all LOVE to work together again. Hopefully it’ll be in the cards at some point. We are all still such close friends. It’s wonderful. That was just the dream cast, for me anyway.
(ÜSFG) I think it was for all of you. As a fan of the show, it’s great to know your onscreen chemistry extended to real life.
(EU) Yeah, we just had FUN on that set. It was nonstop silliness. And it extended well beyond the cast as well. Kyle and I are headed to J.B. Sugar‘s Halloween party tomorrow actually. We all try to see each other as often as possible. Steph just drove me to an audition earlier this week. It’s really wonderful!
(ÜSFG) That was sweet of her. She is pretty awesome.
(ÜSFG) I personally find it an interesting coincidence that Steph’s episode and your episode of Smallville are airing back to back.
(EU) Ha! Yeah, we laughed at that too. We are continuously intertwined, her and I…
(ÜSFG) I talked to her last week and had such a blast. I can just imagine the two of you hanging out and what fun it is.
(EU) We get pretty silly. And we can lean on each other for career advice which is just invaluable.
(ÜSFG) Hopefully you’ll get to work together again in the future. Would you consider doing another web series?
(EU) I would most certainly be interested in another web series. I have full faith in what that can do after my Sanctuary experience.
(ÜSFG) You mentioned doing a music video with Caleb’s Hope. Do you have any musical talents and aspirations for fans to look forward to? You mentioned wanting to work in New York. Is Broadway in your possible future?
(EU) Oooh… eh hehe… I can actually sing. I am shy though.
(EU) It’s not something I’ve worked a lot on, and therefore don’t feel super confident, but the dream is there, for sure. A musical would be a blast, like what Glee is doing right now — SO great!
(ÜSFG) Very cool! So what is your vocal range?
(EU) This is getting technical now.
(ÜSFG) Lol. Um, okay, what singers do you find it easier to sing along with or what musicals and parts do you like best and feel more comfortable belting out?
(EU) When I was driving, I would sing along to Adele. Now Kyle has to drive me everywhere, so I’ve toned down the belting. Chris (Heyerdahl) and I sang along to “Summer Nights” from Grease at the convention (Wolf Haven One), that was quite a sight…
(ÜSFG) Oh, I would have loved to have heard that.
(EU) Hehe… I bet you would…
(ÜSFG) I’m listening to Adele’s To Make You Feel My Love at the moment. How does your voice compare? Do you have that Joplin sound or just more comfortable hitting those notes?
(EU) I’m comfortable in the midrange and can relatively easily go into my falsetto… but I’m sure I’d need some fine tuning. My mom is big on music, so we always played and sang together, weddings and such…
(ÜSFG) You mentioned last night that the theatre scene isn’t that big in Vancouver but have you been to any shows?
(EU) I’ve been to a couple. It’s hit and miss here…
(ÜSFG) Do you have any favorite musicals?
(EU) Yes, Evita is one of my favorites!
(ÜSFG) Awesome. I have been known to belt out “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” more than once.
(EU) Me too!
(ÜSFG) You really have tons of freedom at the moment so it must be just as scary as it is exciting for you. Are you planning on sticking around Vancouver for a while longer or are you looking at making a move or spending the summer in some place like LA or New York?
(EU) I’m actually planning to do this LA thing in the New Year. It’s time to try and swim in the big pond. I feel like I’ve got enough under my belt to make it worthwhile.
(ÜSFG) You definitely have accomplished a lot in a fairly short amount of time. And you’ve covered quite a spectrum of characters in that time.
(EU) Yeah, I’ve been so lucky. There’s still so much more to learn, but at some point you have to take the leap, right?
(ÜSFG) Yes, you do. Hmm. Steph said she was going to LA this summer, too. Are you going on that adventure together?
(EU) I’m in!
(ÜSFG) You know, Steph has the production side of things (because of Island Films) and you all have such great chemistry. Ever thought of doing an indie project together, as in you all write it and produce it together? Look at films like The Brothers McMullen and Paranormal Activity. Friends got together and produced something they loved for about $10,000-$15,000 and made more then $10,000,000 at the box office.
(EU) We all have dreams of getting our own stuff made. Kyle and I have several projects that we are working on. The dream is to get to work with your friends. So when we can fit characters in that work for people we want to work with, we try to make that happen. Right now though, Kyle and I are all about developing. We’d like to sit on a bunch of creative property so that when the right connections are made, we have several different genres to lure people in with… That sounds evil… it wasn’t meant to.
(ÜSFG) No, it doesn’t sound evil. It sounds like a smart business plan. When you do get that break and produce some amazing content, you want to make sure you have another ace up your sleeve for the follow-up.
(EU) Precisely… It’s exciting to be on this side, too; to feel like you’ve got some say in your career. When the phone goes silent, it’s all about making it happen for yourself.
(ÜSFG) Yes, exactly. That’s why so many talented people are taking advantage of the Internet to directly produce their own projects, cutting out the middleman and taking control of their lives and careers.
(EU) I think that extends so much further than our profession. We have to take responsibility for our own destinies.
(ÜSFG) Yes, we do. Is there anything else you want to say to fans?
(EU) I actually have a question for the fans.
(EU) If Ashley ever came back to the show, how could it be done in a manner where viewers aren’t like, “Oh, what a boring way to bring her back”? How to not make it “cheap”, and in what capacity would they want to see her back?
(ÜSFG) Oooh. Good question. I’ll make sure to plaster that all over the message boards, if that’s okay with you?
(ÜSFG) Well, I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me and for being so candid. Thank you!
(EU) You’re welcome! Always a pleasure.
In science fiction, even when there’s a body, dead isn’t always dead. A perfect example would be Daniel Jackson of Stargate SG-1 who died and came back several times throughout the show and Carson Beckett of Stargate Atlantis who was brought back in the form of a clone after much backlash and an unyielding fan campaign finally overwhelmed the producer’s decision. On Battlestar Galactica, actress Katee Sackhoff and the producers of the show staged a huge blowup over the death of her character Starbuck that even the other actors of the show weren’t aware of. As part of a super-secret plot and marketing strategy, she and the producers had a very public falling out that turned out to be a ruse and Starbuck came back in a season finale surprise that completely steered the direction of the remainder of the show. Sometimes, though, favorite characters are killed off permanently, as was the case with Stargate SG-1‘s Dr. Janet Frasier.
While her future seems grim, there is some cause for hope. In a promo for interactive fan experience, Sanctuary and Beyond, we see Will Zimmerman speaking with a mystery woman in the infirmary. She asks, “Will my blood be of any use to Dr. Magnus’ daughter? Will she be able to save her?” Zimmerman replies “I don’t know” before getting interrupted by our eavesdropping.
Season 2 is already filmed and in post-production so we fans will just have to wait out the season to find out if Ashley is Daniel-Dead or Janet-Dead. In the meantime, get your Emilie Ullerup fix by watching her tomorrow night on Smallville and by picking up the DVD of the wonderful series jPod. Paradox is still in post-production but should be out sometime in 2010 so don’t forget to keep watching for that as well.
Thanks to Emilie for taking the time to speak with us today and a special thank-you to 2Shy, ljscott, PlayItGrand, WR_Systems, Missreepicheep, Aaron and Victoria for sending in questions for her.