The realizations are coming fast and furious for Wendy Ohata (Emily Piggford) in the CBC Gem original series Warigami. First, she finds out that she has a twin brother Vincent (Kai Bradbury), and that together, they are kami-jin. This means that they can turn paper into deadly weapons. Because of this ability, Wendy and Vincent also are being hunted down by a kami-jin warrior named Sadako (Miho Suzuki). Whether or not the newly found twins can work together to explore their new gift and elude Sadako is at the core of the series, now also available on the CW Seed in the U.S.
Piggford, who received a Canadian Screen Awards Best Performance byan Actress nomination for her role in That’s My DJ, recently spoke about Warigami and her role as Wendy with The TV Junkies. She called in from New Zealand, where she is currently on location shooting her role as Esther Ishikawa, as part of the upcoming CBC series The Sounds. Set to air on CBC in 2020, the eight-part drama stars Rachelle Lefevre, is written by Sarah-Kate Lynch, and is directed by Peter Stebbings.
The TV Junkies: What can you tell us about your character, Wendy, in Warigami, and what drew you to this role?
Emily Piggford: I loved how driven Wendy is, and her character description was so intriguing. She has a very commanding presence. She’s very intelligent, organized, and likes things done a certain way. On top of that, she’s also really proficient at martial arts.
TTVJ: In having watched all of Warigami, I have to say it’s so nice seeing such an interesting and driven woman at the center of the story.
EP: It was so great to see that she was going to be upfront, not only with her twin, but then going toe-to-toe with Sadako (Miho Suzuki). There are really cool characters across the board, regardless of gender, but it is definitely exciting to see such strong female characters at the front.
TTVJ: Wendy soon learns that not only does she possess this special gift, but that she has a twin brother as well. How does she deal with these new discoveries about herself throughout the season?
EP: She does extensive research to track down her birth family and discovers her grandfather is the only one left alive, as far as she knows. Once she discovers him, she realizes her family has this ability, but she doesn’t seem to possess it. So she spends the previous 2 years training and trying to unlock her ability. She’s been provoking danger to try and unlock her ability. As fate would have it, she discovers her twin and that she gets to have him present. So it’s a double discovery and blessing to know that not only is her brother alive, but together they have this power. It’s a little less ideal when she finds out that Vincent would rather have nothing to do with any of this.
TTVJ: The idea of paper turning into weapons seems very fantastical. How is the show able to bring that to life on screen because one would think it’d lead to some pretty cool visuals?
EP: It was a real marriage between departments. On set we had Tina (Tsai) and Damian (Zuch) in our art department who work with the company Devil’s Workshop. They built all of the origami weapons and origami armour. They made them to be practical and so we could use them. There’s some katana making at the end that was a collaboration between Devil’s Workshop, the VFX team, and then the choreography of folding it by Miho and I. We came up with that on our own after our director [Jason Lapeyre] and producer Bob Munroe asked us to get some paper and send a video of us folding the katana so they could map it for VFX. That was really fun to choreograph, and so, what you see on screen comes from me folding nothing in the air, but them CGI-ing it in.
TTVJ: It sounds like you got a chance to do things you don’t normally get to do in lots of roles — from helping with choreography to the fighting and stunts. What was that like and how did you like the physical aspect of this role?
EP: I loved it. I was so excited because I always wanted to do roles like this, and want to continue to do roles like this. I really enjoy watching action, fantasy, sci-fi, and superhero films so it was a dream to train specifically for a role. In my day to day life, I do a lot of gentle fitness like runs, long walks, and yoga, but it was so nice to get to train in taekwondo.
It was quite an intensive turnaround as well because we only had 2 weeks to train. I also had just wrapped a show where I was in a much different headspace and physical space. I was playing a very self conscious character with an eating disorder and went to playing Wendy, someone that is very confident. It was really fun to switch gears. Our stunt coordinator, Master Tommy Chang, runs an academy called Black Belt World, and he gave the cast full access to drop in when we could and take classes. We had an incredible stunt team.
TTVJ: It certainly seems like the door is left open for Season 2. Are there any plans to further the story?
EP: Nothing is scheduled by way of shoot, but there’s certainly a lot planned for these characters and this story. It’s really exciting to talk to our showrunner Andrew Allen about where he and the writers room have talked about this show going. I really hope we get other seasons because there’s so much backstory for each character to be explored.
TTVJ: You’re currently in New Zealand because you’re shooting a role on the new CBC drama series The Sounds. What can you share about that series and the character you’re playing?
EP: It’s beautifully written and very exciting, with incredible twists and really rich characters. It’s written by Sarah-Kate Lynch, who is a best selling author with 9 novels as well, and directed by Peter Stebbings. He’s wonderful and doing all 8 of our episodes. Rachelle Lefevre is the lead alongside Matt Whelan who is playing her husband. They play two Canadians, Maggie and Tom, who come to New Zealand to set up an eco-friendly fishery with the best of intentions, but Tom goes missing. Maggie has to deal with all the pieces he’s left behind, and it turns out there’s more loose ends and unexpected surprises.
My character is Esther Ishikawa, and I actually had the chance to choose her last name to match my heritage, which is part-Japanese. I was actually sitting in a sushi restaurant in Toronto with Kai and Miho and asked what Japanese names they like. Kai suggested Ishikawa, which means “rock river,” and it seems appropriate of my character. Esther actually reminds me of Wendy, a bit grown up and down the line. She’s a financial investigator sent down by Tom’s family to manage things on the ground, but inevitably gets tied up in all these mysteries. She becomes a detective of sorts and a definite thorn in Maggie’s side.
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.