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After a series of breakout roles in Game of Thrones, Four Weddings and a Funeral and the Fast & Furious franchise, Nathalie Emmanuel landed her first Emmy nom this year for her performance in the Quibi shortform comedy Die Hart (now streaming as a Roku Original). Appearing opposite fellow Emmy nominees Kevin Hart and John Travolta, Emmanuel plays a female action star in the making, undergoing stunt training alongside Hart (playing himself) at Travolta’s character’s famed Action Star School. Following her nom, Emmanuel spoke to THR about her own path to action stardom, her first TV Academy recognition and the show’s post-Quibi journey.
Why was this a project you wanted to be a part of?
I had to give an answer whether I liked [the script] and was interested quite quickly. I remember I was in Los Angeles and I had a really crazy day of meetings; I had about an hour and a half, and I thought I could just get a little power nap in and then get on to my next meeting. And then I was like, “No, Nathalie, be responsible and read that thing that has a really short turnaround.” So I sat in a chair and just blasted through it, and it just made me laugh so much.
Have you ever been through anything like the action-star school featured in the show for your own training?
With every project you do that has an action element, you absolutely have to do some kind of training and you have to get an idea of what is physically going to be required of you. We always have fantastic stunt coordinators and stunt performers who train us and teach us what it is we’re going to have to do. There is an element of a training school, but I’ve never been asked to run through a burning fire just to see if I can or any of the other crazy things that poor Kevin gets put through in Die Hart.
Your character in the show talks about the lack of action roles for women. Is that something you’ve also encountered?
In the past five or 10 years, you’ve been seeing a lot more opportunities for women — as in, they’re not just a male-gaze version of what they think a female action hero is. The characters are nuanced with complex personalities and not like they’ve just changed the pronouns to “she” when it could have been played by a guy. I’ve found myself in a couple of action things, but I’m not really doing crazy action in the way that I did in Die Hart — this was the first time I’d done proper fight scenes, and I actually got to really get involved physically, and that was really exciting. I felt really proud of it because I got to draw on a lot of my own experience of physical activity, like boxing and yoga, and then I finally got to apply it and learn new things as well. But yeah, I think that there are more and more action parts for women happening and the women who exist in those spaces are less tropey or stereotypical. That’s the change that we’re really in desperate need of, and I love that.
This show has had quite a journey — from Quibi to really being nowhere to now being on Roku. What was that limbo period like?
It was such a shame that it didn’t work out, but it was very well received on Quibi. You do jobs all the time [that] sometimes don’t even come out or they go straight to DVD and they never get a theater release. That unpredictability of the business — it’s part of it in a way. I was sad that Quibi didn’t survive, but I was like, “If people really liked it, they’ll find a way for people to see it in some capacity, wherever that may be.” And it turned out to be Roku, which is fantastic. The fact that it’s been through this journey and now it’s Emmy-nominated, that’s kind of unheard of. It’s pretty spectacular, really, and a testament to the show and to the work.
And what was it like to get that Emmy nomination for this?
I got a message from one of our producers, Candice [Wilson, who sent] me a screen capture of my nomination on the list. I was like, “Huh? What is that?” My brain just did not compute that I had been nominated, and I didn’t really understand what was going on. It was such a lovely surprise, I was so blown away and didn’t quite know what to say or what to do. I was just kind of stunned for a moment, and then when it settled in that that had happened, I felt really proud of the thing that we’ve made. I’ve been doing this a long time and to have someone say, “Oh, we like that thing you did,” it means so much and it’s really, really humbling.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story misspelled the first name of Nathalie Emmanuel.
This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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