From Scary Monsters to SkyMed – Interview with Emilia McCarthy

What do you get  when you combine creative Canadian flavour, some zesty spice from Mexican culture, and the power to change the world? The answer is… Emilia McCarthy, who has boosted my hope and confidence ever since I got the special opportunity to speak to her and learn about her, and even learn from her. Starting at a young age of 7, Emilia got her first gig Babel with some of the best like Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Elle Fanning. For her, it was no big deal. But for anyone else, it sounds like she had the coolest childhood ever. But it didn’t end there, obviously. Emilia went on into other great roles on other great productions, like Hemlock Grove, Zapped, and Max & Shred. Speaking of roles, she just finished years of work in the Z-O-M-B-I-E-S trilogy, and is now moving to a medical drama called SkyMed. Emilia McCarthy leads such an exciting life.

What makes her even cooler is that she’s an advocate for positive change, looking to improve the world from small conveniences like cleaning up the planet to big impacts like forming strong communities. Alone one person is a particle, but when we stand strong together, we form a strong mass that can’t force us apart. Every little bit counts, and we’re all in this together. But let’s hear what Emilia has to say about her life, and what she’s up to. I had a long beautiful conversation with her, and wished it could never end. Now, fasten your seatbelt, and extinguish your cigarette as I take you on a flight of Emilia McCarthy’s new outstanding accomplishments. Don’t be scared of the zombies. They won’t bite!


HNMAG: You started out at a really early age. What was your first acting experience like with a few A-listers?

Emilia McCarthy: My very first audition was for a movie called Babel. We filmed in a Mexican desert for 6 weeks, so it was a really crazy experience. Alejandro G. Iñárritu directed it, Gael García Bernal was in it, I also got to work with a lot of other incredible Mexican creatives. Brad Pitt was in it, which was no big deal. My first experience was like I didn’t want to do anything else. How could you? I was having fun.


HNMAG: You’re half-Mexican. Did you learn anything about Mexico while you were there?

Emilia McCarthy: Yeah, in Puerto Peñasco where we filmed, I had never been there before. It was really interesting to see that part of Mexico as well. We stayed along the water where the tides are insane, you have the desert and Pacific and it was just a beautiful area of Mexico that I had never been to. I was grateful to see that through that experience.


HNMAG: Are there other places in Mexico you’ve gone to for film work?

Emilia McCarthy: No, that is actually the first and only place I have filmed in Mexico which is pretty wild. 


HNMAG: But do you hope to go there in the future?

Emilia McCarthy: Yeah, of course. If that’s where the opportunities take me, I would love to be there again.


HNMAG: Now I understand you’ve also recently done work on Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3. Did you enjoy working on that?

Emilia McCarthy: Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3 was one of the most fun experiences ever. It’s the third movie so it’s bigger than ever, the cast and everyone, we’ve been together doing this franchise for almost 6 years now. It was a very nice conclusion to our experience together. We have some new characters in there, some aliens, even RuPaul.

Emilia told me it was pretty big and extravagant but still had the theme of community coming together and embracing differences that everyone had. Be sure to keep an eye out for it as it comes out July 15th on Disney+.


HNMAG: And what was it like having RuPaul involved?

Emilia McCarthy: RuPaul does the voice of the spaceship, so it was all voiceover. But it’s pretty iconic to have RuPaul’s voice as a spaceship voice. All I can say is, it’s legendary. 


HNMAG: You’ve been on all of those movies as well. Did you always have fun on set with the cast and crew?

Emilia McCarthy: Yes. It’s been a long time being together. Meg and Milo were 16-17 when we started so we kind of grew up together. I was 19 in the first one but, we became so close like a family. Its just been really nice to experience that with all of them and really have created long lasting friendships.


HNMAG: Do you definitely hope to reconnect both on and off film sets?

Emilia McCarthy: Definitely. We love to hang out and now that I am living here in LA permanently, it’s nice to actually have that group of people that do live here as a friend group. I’m very thankful for that.


HNMAG: You mentioned the movies also share inclusive values of building communities. Do you feel more people will take these values even given the interesting subject matter with zombies?

Emilia McCarthy: I think it’s a really interesting concept because it’s a movie for children. So how do you relay such deep complicated messages to kids? We have zombies and aliens and werewolves in this extravagant world, but I think the movies do a really good job in presenting as a metaphor embracing people’s differences. At the same time, it’s done in a way that is fun with the songs and the dances and I think the kids have really taken the message from it.

Emilia’s part was playing the sassy cheerleader named Lacey, much different from her in real life, but still very interesting.


HMMAG: Have you found you could relate to Lacey in some instances?

Emilia McCarthy: (laughs) Um, I guess more recently so in this third movie, she has come around a little bit more and is fully realizing that everyone can get along and you don’t have to necessarily see everything as a competition and more as a collaboration. I can relate to that more so in Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3. Lacey evolves a little bit, thankfully.


HNMAG: Have there been any challenges on set? Was it even hard to get into everything at first?

Emilia McCarthy: Yeah, it’s definitely one of the hardest experiences I’ve done in my career because you have the singing and dancing, there’s so much going on in the movies. We have 1-2 months of prep before we even start filming. That’s recording the songs, learning all the dances, 8 hour rehearsal days before we start filming. Then when we do start filming, it’s all go-go-go. There’s no time to think or question what you’ve learned, just do it, film it, get it done. Then in the most recent one, because the aliens invade at night, we have a huge number when that happens. We had a week or two of night shoots. We were feeling so jet-lagged, we’d get to work at 6PM and get home at 8AM. It’s a wild ride doing these movies but in the best ways.


HNMAG: Do you want to do more musicals or are they too elaborate?

Emilia McCarthy: It’s a very difficult but rewarding experience when it all does come together. All your hard work pays off so I love doing musicals, they’re so fun. But I’m slowly starting to do other sorts of genres that are more serious. My new show on Paramount+ is more of a medical drama.


The role she’s talking about is her role as a flight nurse in SkyMed. Something less elaborate and more dramatic with intense moments, by the sounds of it. Emilia plays a local girl who falls in love with a pilot and they’re part of a flight crew that attends to remote communities providing aid for them. I spoke to her about that next, but there were so many spoilers I can’t possibly reveal. But I can reveal all the episodes are being released July 10th on Paramount+.


HNMAG: Let’s talk about SkyMed. Have you ever taken a role like that before?

Emilia McCarthy: I have done some serious things before like Hemlock Grove, the first Netflix original series. That was a horror-show so I’ve done other genres, but my character in this new show is definitely not anything I’ve ever done. It was a very crazy but fulfilling experience and I feel like I grew as an actress and person through the experience.


HNMAG: Was the experience fun and comfortable or was it different?

Emilia McCarthy: I can’t reveal too much but it brought me out of my comfort zone as an actress. Throughout the storyline I had to do things I’ve never done before. I’m thankful for that, and there’s a lot happening, very high stakes, lots of drama, and lots of love-triangles. It’s going to be exciting to watch.


HNMAG: And what is your character like? Is she extremely supportive?

Emilia McCarthy: Yeah, she is supportive. A lot happens so at the end of the day, she is a very strong independent woman which was really great to play. 


HNMAG: There’s only 9 episodes, but do you feel they’ll make more of them in the future?

Emilia McCarthy: After we calculate the ratings, we’ll see if we can do a Season 2. 

HNMAG: I also understand you take strong stands in diversity and environmental awareness. Are you a part of any organizations or a spokesperson?

Emilia McCarthy: I love to speak about environmental issues when I use my platform for that. For example, I did an exhibit with United Nations and photographer Justin Wu to raise awareness for climate change. That was really cool, we had a lot of really important people come together for that campaign. 


HNMAG: And what does the exhibit consist of?

Emilia McCarthy: It is photographs by Justin Wu of an array of important people in the film industry holding a glass globe that represents the fragility of our Earth.


HNMAG: What do you do to fight for inclusion and the environment?

Emilia McCarthy: Little things that I do on a daily basis. Like even simply recycling, is not as common here as it is in Canada, I find. Every garbage can on the street has recycling and I think you have to put a little bit more effort, and I think it’s the little things you do consistently that will be impactful and make the difference at the end of the day. I’m grateful to have the platform and the opportunity to speak about things and use that to spread awareness. When it comes to diversity and inclusion, I’m very grateful for being a part of a franchise like Disney Z-O-M-B-I-E-S where at its core it’s so much about that and spreading it to our younger generations.


HNMAG: And what do you dream of for a better future?

Emilia McCarthy: I could go on for so long, but I think we need to act sooner than later, especially for our planet. It’s something that is urgent, but doesn’t feel that way because we don’t necessarily see on a daily basis. I want to remind people of that. 


HNMAG: Are there any film roles you would like to take on in the future?

Emilia McCarthy: Right now, my goal and dream is to be on HBO, I think they have such great high-quality content more and more. I think our industry is going more in the direction of the streaming world so I would like to follow that and continue to be in that world. People have always said that comedy comes very naturally to me and that is something I will always have a love and passion for.


HNMAG: Since you’re in LA, how is it different from Ontario?

Emilia McCarthy: LA is very different. Obviously the weather is a lot better here. LA is a beast in itself especially in the industry. Here, the opportunities feel a lot bigger and a lot of room to grow and evolve here.


HNMAG: Do you hope to move back to Canada or at least do more shoots there?

Emilia McCarthy: I still have my house in Toronto, and I’m very grateful for Toronto because I have built my career there, all the Z-O-M-B-I-E-S movies were filmed there. I’m always open to go back in and work there.


Keep an eye out for the latest and the last in the Z-O-M-B-I-E-S trilogy as it comes out soon. But don’t forget to check out SkyMed either. And also be sure to watch Emilia McCarthy in any more of her future roles, she has proven herself to be an incredible actress with multiple abilities.

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