The second season of CBC’s This Life has been one of self discovery for Emma Lawson-Crowley (Stephanie Janusauskas). Natalie’s (Torri Higginson) middle child has been trying to reinvent herself, especially at work where she met new friend Miranda (Devery Jacobs). Unfortunately for Emma, the web of lies she had spun to Miranda recently were exposed and she was left to deal with the consequences in this week’s episode, “Joyride,” written by Joseph Kay and directed by Rubba Nadda.
One of the main consequences was finally admitting to herself that her feelings for Miranda may extend beyond just friendship. What will Emma do with that realization? Elsewhere, Emma had a heated confrontation with Natalie over her summer job and it remains to see where their relationship will go from there. In order to gain more insight into Emma, The TV Junkies recently spoke with the Montreal born Janusauskas about her journey this season, what it’s like working on This Life as one of the younger actors and why Emma’s story of self discovery is so important to tell.
The TV Junkies: Emma’s been trying to reinvent herself for much of this season, but realized lately she doesn’t really like that person. What will we see her do with that information?
Stephanie Janusauskas: A part of Emma’s self discovery lies in the fact that she had to let go of who she thought she was in order to find this new, reinvented version of herself. Particularly in Episode 207 you see this in every character where there’s a degradation of their morals, values and who they thought they were. For Emma, she let go of herself and wanted to distance herself from the definitions she so often attributed to having a sick mother, being the abandoned child or being the sister. She just wants to be somebody else and that’s something a lot of teenagers can identify with at some point in their lives. In order to realize that she loved her life, and that she loves who she is, she had to go through that transition.
TTVJ: It seems like Emma has been developing feelings for Miranda that are beyond just friendship, but this week she seemed to finally admit that to herself. What is she going to do with that realization?
SJ: Obviously in this day and age it’s more of the norm for people to develop feelings beyond just the opposite sex. The whole point of this is to remove the stigma from that and it’s not necessarily to say that she and Miranda feel anything romantic for each other. What is important, and what we’re trying to highlight, is that it’s beyond a friendship and that’s OK. Emma is discovering herself and just because she feels more than friendship for Miranda doesn’t mean she’s necessarily attracted to all girls. Her fling with Jayden last year didn’t mean that she only felt an attraction to guys either. Leaving it ambiguous is OK because that helps so many more teenagers identify with the fact that it’s OK to be finding yourself, it’s OK if people judge you off the bat, but as long as you know who you are and what you want then you should be comfortable with yourself.
TTVJ: Emma called Natalie out on pushing her away this week. What will Natalie do with that information and how will it affect their relationship going forward?
SJ: I find Natalie identifies more with Romy. Torri has even said that to me, that Romy is a lot more like Natalie would have been as a child and because of that Emma feels left out. Her problems are always deemed trivial because she’s a hormonal teenager and whatever her feelings are she’ll just get over it. The realization for Natalie is almost a way of saying ‘OK her feelings are valid and even though she put herself in this position she shouldn’t be condemned to staying in this position and being miserable.’
For Natalie, as well as for Emma, it’s this realization where she gets it off her chest that ‘you have to pay attention to me too. I’m also your daughter and I need help. I need guidance even though Romy is the one that is more visibly troubled, that doesn’t mean that what’s going on in my mind should be swept under the carpet.’ It’s going to form an awakening for both of them in terms of forging a deeper connection between them and a deeper appreciation for each other.
TTVJ: Emma was recently there for Romy when she had a panic attack and helped her get over it. Why is the relationship between Romy and Emma is so special?
SJ: As Emma I modeled that after the relationship I have with my sister, we’re two years apart. I feel that for Julia as well, a kind of protectiveness and urge to keep her under my wing which Emma feels too. Even though Emma is sometimes seen as selfish, bitchy and self-absorbed, at the end of the day she loves Romy and feels for her and understands. Though they are very different in many ways, that sisterly bond brings them together so she can feel for Romy, be there for Romy and more than that, just love Romy for who she is.
TTVJ: On screen Emma is pretty close to both Romy and Caleb (James Wotherspoon). Do you have a similar closeness with Julia and James?
SJ: We act like brothers and sisters on set, it’s just crazy. We’re always making jabs at each other and hanging out. When we don’t have a scene we’ll just go out together and it’s very much a family dynamic. We just feel that bond and it comes from the fact that we’re portraying something that’s so honest and genuine. We can all see parts of our characters in each other in everyday life so there’s a beautiful symmetry to our relationships on the show and then in real life.
TTVJ: Early in your career you’re getting to work with some really great actors on This Life. How valuable has that experience been for you, getting to work with Torri, Rick, Lauren, Kristopher and the others?
SJ: This show has provided me with so many new opportunities, but more than that I’ve become a far better actor because of it. It’s just like in sports where they say you have to play with someone that is better than you to improve, and that’s very much the same thing with acting. Acting with these people that are significantly more talented than myself is eye opening to see them performing, but more than that, it pulls you into your character, your scene and moment so that you’re not thinking ‘oh gosh I have to do better. I have to look better.’ Instead you think ‘OK well they’re here, they’re present, open and vulnerable so I’m just going to take their lead.’ It’s been such an invaluable lesson and I’m so grateful for having worked with all of them.
What do you think of Emma’s journey this season? Sound off in the comments below!
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.