EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Jayma Mays (Emma) from Glee

December 2nd, 2009 by

I have written at length about my love for Glee (see my 1,000+ word reviews every week). It has an outstanding cast, an even more outstanding creator, and it is full of the most wonderful show-stopping musical numbers. It not only has moments to laugh (and cry), but it also has a lot of layers, depth and heart. One of the things I love most about the show, is that everyone has their moment to shine. Everyone gets songs, solos, and showdowns. I recently had the chance to chat with Jayma Mays, who plays Emma Pillsbury. We talked about her character, which relationship she is rooting for, her musical number, and whether we might see her sing again.

What originally drew you to the role of Emma?
Everything, really. Actually, the second I got the sides. I got the sides just for that character before I got the whole script. And just from the sides alone in the pilot, I could tell she was such a well developed character. And there was so much going on with her just from those few sheets of paper that I had kind of describing who she was. I knew immediately that there was a lot that was going to be going on with her. And I think that’s hard to find sometimes with roles for women. There’s maybe not so many layers to them, always. And I just felt from the get go that there was so much going on. And I also knew that Ryan Murphy was involved. I knew that was exciting to me, too. As soon as I heard that, I knew that there would be something good on the page. So I was immediately drawn to it.

Emma is a very interesting character with many layers. She’s very quirky as well. Are you anything like her?
(laughs) Well, (laughs), I’m not obsessive about germs.

I would think not.
I’m not, thank goodness. Although I have to say it, after the first few weeks, after we got picked up and we started filming the first few episodes, I kind of started getting that feeling of needing to wash my hands all the time. And I started keeping anti-bacterial stuff in my purse, just because you start thinking about that stuff more, just naturally, because they’re kinda shoving it in your face at work all the time. I’m not wearing rubber gloves at home, but I definitely keep a little Purell in my pocketbook now.

I think that’s pretty normal. (laughs)
(laughs) Yeah, it makes me feel like a mom. I think moms do that a lot, don’t they?

I think so. I think you’re probably right.
They always have Purell with them, like squirting it on their children and stuff.

Well, at least their children aren’t spreading the germs!
That’s right! When I have kids, they’ll be the cleanest children in Los Angeles.

Good, that’s good to hear! (laughs) And there’s been a ton of different reactions to your character. What do you think of her? She might be very quirky, but she’s a romantic at heart.
She is a romantic at heart. But she’s practical. She’s very interesting, because she does have those dreams and hopes of finding the right man. And in her mind, even though Will’s married, that sort of guy is like the perfect guy for her. She’s very practical in the fact that she doesn’t want to be alone and she knows that she’s somewhat limited in a small town to men. And Ken is a very nice man, he’s not exactly like Will, but he’s good to her and he’s solid. He’s got a job, and he understands her and he understands all her quirks and stuff. So she’s practical, she knows that just might be her lot in life. So it’s weird. She’s got this very dreamy side about her and who she wants to be and what she wants her life to be like. But she’s also got this very practical, down-to-earth, well this is kind of the best I can do thing. It’s funny a lot of people have thought that part about her is weak. Like a weak character flaw, but I actually don’t think that’s true. I really just think that’s the practical side of her. I think that’s her being practical. And I think a lot of people are like that sometimes.

Makes sense. And which relationship are you rooting for to work out? Will and Emma or Ken and Emma?
Oh no! I don’t know if I can say! That’s a hard question because when you see the scenes of Emma and Will, you obviously think “Oh of course they’re supposed to be together, of course, of course!” but the fact is, is that he’s a married man and Emma knows that’s wrong, and she doesn’t want to be a homewrecker. She doesn’t want to ruin a relationship. So I guess in a perfect world, she could find someone like Will, or maybe Ken (laughs) can become a little bit more like Will. But maybe it’s all about respect. Maybe if she can respect Ken enough, that will develop into true love.

Yeah! Who knows? And you and Matthew Morrison have great chemistry. Was that instant when you started filming?
You know, I think so. We were friends. We knew each other before we started this job. We worked together once before. So, that’s always helpful when you know the person that you’re working with, and you already feel comfortable around them. But yeah, he’s a really good friend, so that makes that stuff a little bit easier.

And a few weeks ago I spoke with Jessalyn [who plays Terri] and asked her what it’s like being mean to you…(laughs)
(laughs) What did she say? What did she say?

She said that the crew gets really into it, and they liked when you guys were mean to each other. Is it difficult to film these scenes?
We are actually really close. And it is funny…I think I’m probably closer with her than anyone else on set. So the fact that we are (laughs) like arch-enemies, it’s really strange. But I actually think that makes it more fun, because it is totally a make believe scenario that we kind of play with when we have scenes together. But no it’s actually a lot of fun. And I think she’s just one of the best actresses out there, I just think she’s so good. And (laughs) she’s so intimidating when she becomes this person…this scary person, that it doesn’t even feel like it’s Jessalyn anymore. So we have a lot of fun with that stuff.

Can we expect anymore showdowns between the two of you?
I don’t know! I’m sure something’s coming because that whole relationship and that whole love triangle — which I hate calling it that — but that’s kind of what it is, is kind of set up for that. But maybe! Maybe they’ll let Emma win this one because I kind of think that she knocked me out in the last one.

Maybe they’ll even the scorecard.
Yeah, even the score a little!

And I loved your musical number, I Could Have Danced All Night. Do you want to sing again? Will we see you sing again?
Oh, thank you! (laughs) I don’t know if I want to say that I want to sing again. I actually found that terrifying. I haven’t had to do that before on camera, and I was so nervous that day. I had to keep eating bread and toast because my stomach was so sick. But it was an interesting experience. It was definitely a challenge for me. Of course if they ask me to do it again, I would do it again. But I’m not going to go begging them for it (laughs). Poor Matt. I stepped on Matt’s feet about a thousand times that day [when we were] dancing.

Well it looked perfect on TV.
Thank you. It’s all in the editing. They made me look a lot better on camera than it was in real life.

I hope you get to sing again, though. It’s great to see all of the characters get their moments to sing.
It is a lot of fun. I’m ready to see Jessalyn sing now.

I asked her that too. (laughs) She was like no ones asking where my solo is…and I was like I’m asking that now!
(laughs) I think I’m going to put in a little hint to the writers room, just to tell them that Jessalyn’s dying to sing. I’ve been telling everyone.

Something about her man, and getting off her man would be good.
It would need to be a country song, I think.

Definitely. Maybe a duet between the two of you.
Oooh, that’d be good! I would like that. I would really enjoy that. I’m going to have to start thinking about that.

Sounds good. And what were you like in high school?
You know, I never know quite how to answer that question, because I did a little bit of everything. I don’t think I necessarily fit into one particular group and to one clique. I did the cheerleader thing, I was a cheerleader, so I was a part of that group. But also, I was a total nerd. I loved math. And I would do the little math competitions that we had at school. And we didn’t have a drama department, but we had this small group where you’d go and compete doing monologues and stuff so I was also in that group. So I did a ton of different stuff, which really didn’t make me feel like I was a part of one particular group, but sort of a part of many.

Well that’s good.
Yeah, I guess that’s good. I guess I was well-rounded.

Do you relate to any of the characters — any of the kids in the Glee club specifically?
Well I guess in that way, I can kind of identify with all of them a little bit. I wasn’t a Rachel character, but I definitely had ambition. I think she’s the extreme of what ambitious kids might feel like. And I feel like there are kind of extremes with a few of the kids. I guess I had ambition, I knew I wanted to do something different. I didn’t know if it was possible at the time, but I knew that I kind of had that drive. But also, I did want to try and fit in with some of the kids at school, like being a cheerleader is all about trying to fit in a little, and be a part of that world. So I think I probably identify with a few of them, but not one in particular.

Your character gives out some crazy advice, like telling Finn and Rachel to wear sunglasses.
Right. (laughs) That’s great advice, come on!

(laughs) Well, I mean that does make you cool!
(laughs) It just shows how cool she was in high school.

Have you ever gotten or given out really crazy advice like that?
That’s a good question. (laughs) Let me think…I don’t know. I try to steer clear of giving people advice. I kind of think that can get you into trouble. That’s probably the best answer I can give you there.

And do you have a favorite moment from filming so far?
Actually, I’ve only had one small scene with him, but I really enjoyed working with Chris [Colfer]. We have a scene where he kind of vomited on my shoes. You didn’t really see the vomit happen, but I just really enjoy being around him, and I think he’s a phenomenal actor. And actually, there’s some stuff that hasn’t aired yet. It’s more towards the end, but I have a few more scenes with all the kids together. And that was really fun. They’re a really fun, unique bunch of kids to be around. When you’re in a big group like that, it’s rare that you get to have a big scene with that many actors. And they’re all so different and so unique that actually I found that to be a lot of fun, because there’s always something that you’re kind of seeing differently when you have that many good actors around you. So they’re really great to be around, those kids.

And can you give a little teaser for what’s coming up? I know you can’t spoil too much.
Well, Emma does get more involved with the Glee Club. I guess it’s a couple episodes away. She does gets more involved, so that’s a little teaser.

And you returned to Heroes quite recently. You had an episode centered around your character. Do you think you’ll be returning again?
I don’t know. That’s hard to say. I’m contracted to work with Glee, so technically I can’t really do any more of the Heroes episodes. But whether or not that happens a season away, maybe I go back. I’m not sure what they’re going to do with that character. I really don’t know. But I love working with them. I love that show, and I really love that character Charlie. I was really excited to go back and do another episode with them.

Thank you so much.
Thank you. You had some really good questions. I promise to have an answer for that bad advice question next time.

Be sure to tune in tonight for an all new episode of Glee at 9 pm on FOX!

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