Interview with Emma McDonald of “Moonhaven” on AMC+ by Suzanne 7/8/22
This was a fun Zoom interview with the star of this great new sci-fi show! She is the main character, Bella – the newbie who learns what’s going on from the other characters (and thus, the audience learns as well). Almost every show has this type of character, but Bella is far more than that . Emma is an amazing actress and excels in this role. Her co-stars include Dominic Monaghan (Paul), who is always great; Joe Manganiello (Tomm), Kadeem Harison (Arlo) and many others. I really enjoyed this series, and I hope you do as well. It’s totally worth the $7 per month (not to mention their other many fine shows), or you can also get it bundled with other streamers if you look around for deals. You won’t want to miss this series. It’s only airing on AMC+ (at least for now). It’s a completely original and riveting scifi series. You can also watch the first episode for free on YouTube! It’s only 6 episodes, which you can consume quickly as it sucks you right into the story.
Suzanne: I watched your show last night. Well, I had previously watched two episodes, and I watched the other four this morning.
Emma: Oh, the whole thing?
Suzanne: The whole thing. (Laughs)
Suzanne: I wanted more, but they did pack a lot into those six episodes, I have to say.
Emma: They did. I think [showrunner] Peter [Ocko] said it was almost treating it as, like, a prologue, in some ways, for the world… because it’s sci-fi – when you’re doing world building, it’s a lot to pack in, like you say, to develop this whole new culture and for people to understand that.
Suzanne: Yeah. No, it makes sense. It was really good.
Emma: It could be the next (???).
Suzanne: Yeah. Now, have you heard yet whether there’s gonna be a second season, or are they waiting to see?
Emma: Oh, I think we’re waiting to see.
Emma: So hopefully we have some good fans. It’s an interesting story.
Suzanne: Yeah, definitely. I was surprised that that the showrunner created it. It was so good. I thought maybe it was based on books or something, right?
Emma: Oh, that’s lovely to hear. He’s a very clever, man, is Peter Ocko.
Suzanne: Maybe they’ll come out with some books later.
Emma: I think it started with a sort of (???). So maybe we can get someone to make a comic book. ‘Cuz I think that would be really cool.
Suzanne: That would be cool, yeah. So, tell about your audition process for this.
Emma: Yes. I auditioned first on my birthday, and that was [with] an American accent. I got the script — I got the first episode. It was an earlier draft that’s quite different than what we showed in the pilot… and yeah, I read it from cover to cover. I was just hooked by it and the character. I did my audition, and then, I think it was a few weeks later when I got a message from my manager, and he said, “They’d love to meet with you” — the producers. [I said,] “That’s amazing. Fantastic.” “And they want you to do it in your own accent.” So I was, like, “Oh, okay, cool. I can do that. Sure.” So I stayed up really late – I think it was 11:00 PM where I was in London – and I got to meet everyone, which was just so much fun… and to chat with Peter as well. And he said, in that audition, “I think you’ve got the heart of the character.” And I said, “Oh, I think so, too. Should we just stay and read the rest of the episode?” We didn’t do that, but then the next – I think it was two days later – I read with Dom [co-star Dominic Monaghan], and we were doing a chemistry read again over Zoom, which is really difficult to get…
Suzanne: I imagine!
Emma: …that virtual environment. But yes, and my internet logged out, like, twice… my thing kept freezing. I was there pulling my hair out, [and I] thought, “Well, that’s it, that’s it… it’s gone.” And then a few days later, when I was working in an estate agency in Campbell (well, where I lived, sort of, cycling around between my viewings.), I got a message from my manager, saying, “You’ve got the job!” and that was it. And then a week after that, they said that they wanted me to go back to an American accent for it, and so, I was, like, “Cool!” but yeah, I was sort of elated for the next few months and then turned up in Ireland, and we started shooting.
Suzanne: Oh, wow. And, where and when did the shooting take place? How long did it take you?
Emma: During COVID time, so we were in a big utopian bubble of our own, in County Wicklow in Ireland, mostly between the Woodlands – the Locks. it was absolutely stunning, and that was all, sort of, August to November/December time. Last year. We shot it all in three months.
Suzanne: That’s fast. I guess a lot of it was done after you guys shot it. They went back and added a lot of special effects and things…?
Emma: Yeah, we did a lot on location, though.
Suzanne: Did you?
Emma: But there were a few blue screen moments, mostly involving the spaceship.
Emma: My baby, CAT. but yeah, a lot of it was on location… but yeah, some things added in afterwards. Great team.
Suzanne: Did they ever say what CAT stands for? I don’t think they– if they did, I don’t remember.
Emma: I don’t know! No, that’s something I need to figure out because I should know. She’s my one sort of, I suppose, almost home within everything. She’s, I think, the place where Bella feels the most comfortable.
Suzanne: That makes sense.
Emma: Yeah. When she’s on her own, she’s in her element… she’s not got anyone, really, nearby, telling her what to do.
Emma: [She can] Read a book, listen to her music, and quite literally, away from everyone.
Suzanne: Is that’s something that appeals to you, or are you more of a people person?
Emma: I’m quite a people person. So, I did a bit of an experiment when I was filming, which I think came in as part of my prep as well. I lived in a little converted stables, right on the edge of a cliff.
Emma: With just the sea, sort of, in front of me, nothing else. Stars. I just had, like, goats and chickens as neighbors. The nearest shop was about a 30-minute walk away, and I didn’t have any means of transport. So I, kind of, completely bubbled myself, for the whole of the filming period. And I would sort of meditate. I mean, most of the time I was on set, anyway, but that was sort of my own escape, and to, sort of, see what it would be like to be Bella.
Emma:…in the elements in Ireland.
Suzanne: So, I went to your IMdB page. It’s kind of small, and it only shows your work starting in 2019. What were you doing before that? Were you going to school, or working on your craft, or doing something else…plays?
Emma: Yes, I did a science degree. I did a math and psychology degree, so I was in that for four years.
Suzanne: oh, cool.
Emma: And then I worked predominantly in theater, in and around the UK. doing a lot of Shakespeare…some classical plays…
Emma: That’s what I did for a very long time… long tours. We have an incredible theater community in the UK.
Emma: I’m very proud of it, and I love it.
Emma: But then during lockdown, obviously, all the theaters closed.
Emma: So I did a wonderful production of “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” which was a virtual project. And it made a lot of money for regional theaters around the country, which was great. And we had an incredible team in it, you know… Steven Fry, Joanna Lumley, some legends. And so I got that, and that was my first foray into screens and working with such established, wonderful people. And then I got to audition for this, and I suppose, because I wasn’t doing [anything] and booked in month-long tours, I suddenly had this whole side of the industry opened up to me. And then luckily – very, very fortunately – Peter Ocko and the wonderful folks at AMC decided to take a chance on me, I guess.
Suzanne: I think they knoew it wasn’t that much of a chance, after they saw your work.
Emma: The screen is relatively new for me.
Suzanne: Had they seen you in play before, do you think, any of them?
Emma: No. No, not at all.
Emma: So it really was taking a chance.
Suzanne: Yeah, great. Well, I hope this is successful, and that you go on to bigger and better projects…but that’s great. No, it must be amazing to be in… you’re pretty much the lead character, and with your experience, it must be, at your age (I’m assuming), must be pretty amazing.
Emma: I’m on top, on top of the world, literally. I’m on the moon. Over the moon.
Suzanne: Was that under the moon? (my lame attempt at a joke based on something in the show)
Emma: Yeah. Between, yes. It was so brilliant to work with all of the creatives and such a phenomenal cast, as well, on this. For everyone to just welcome me in, and let me play, and learn. And gosh, I learned so much! I’d never even hit a mark before. On, you know, on day two, sprinting, hitting a mark. I was, like, “What’s camera left? What’s camera right?” It was like boot camp into school.
Suzanne: Yeah. Wow.
Emma: But it was so much fun, so much.
Suzanne: I’m sure.
Emma: And I got to do all sorts. I got to fly a spaceship. I got to do stunts. I got to have these beautiful human interactions that were deep and thoughtful. I mean, it’s such a wonderful show. It’s got so much within it. You’ve got sci-fi, you’ve got the human drama. You’ve got so, so much raw emotion, huge ideas and concepts…
Suzanne: Yeah. No, it’s great. I’m sure that one of the things they liked about you is that your face is very expressive, and your character doesn’t really say as much as other people, I noticed. She’s quiet, very quiet, and they’ll ask her something, and she’ll just kind of look at them and not necessarily respond. And you’re very good at that, at that expressiveness.
Emma: Yeah. She’s an interesting one because she chooses when to use words and when to not. Like you say, she, she doesn’t speak if she doesn’t have to.
Emma: She takes everything in…in, I think her military background as well, you know, she buries her emotions deep, but we see those unfold and come out more as the season progresses. But yeah, you’re right. I am quite like a high energy person, so, for me, some of the trouble was to really keep it (faint?}, which in itself was a whole different challenge… but a fun one. And yeah, I love to play with her lightness, as well as her heart, and her humor – and her judgment, when it comes out. It was a lot of fun.
Suzanne: Okay. And yeah, you mentioned the stunts. So, you did your own stunts, or just some of them, or what?
Emma: All of them.
Suzanne: Oh, wow.
Emma: Yeah, no, except for – there was one, but it got cut, so it was all fine. There was this scene where we were meant to get hoisted up in a trap. And I was so excited. I came to set, like, “Yeah, me and Dom, we’re gonna get hoisted up in a trap today! This is so much fun.” And they looked at me, like, “No, you’re not. There’s no way you’re doing that.” But I, yeah, I loved learning all the stunts… and I did have a stunt double, Belle Williams, who was amazing, and she really helped hone all of my movements. A,nd we got to work with Vic Armstrong who directed that unit of fights, and he was Harrison Ford’s stunt double.
Suzanne: Oh, wow.
Emma: A living legend. He said I was like Catwoman.
Suzanne: That’s great.
Emma: …And Ray Nichols as well, and Miles, were the stunt team coordinators. And yeah, it was a lot – there’s a lot of stunts throughout the season, so it’s fun to watch those happen. And I loved doing every one of them.
Suzanne: Oh, good. And one more question. So, the show just started yesterday, for the rest of the world. Have you gotten any feedback yet from viewers, on social media or anywhere?
Emma: We’ve got some incredible reviews across the board. You know, Variety, Indiewire, The Hollywood reporter, Time – everything. Everyone has come in and been so positive about it. But, like, the oppositions within the show, I mean, the Earthers and the Mooners, and the dichotomy there… it’ll be interesting to see what people make of it. And hopefully, it will stir some people up and get people talking. Because I think it could be divisive, in some ways, which is something that I find really exciting. So, yeah, we’ll see. We’ll see what happens. Who will be Team Earth? Who will be Team Moon?
Suzanne: Yeah, that should be fun. Sometimes with science fiction fans, though, they can always find something to nitpick about, or complain about. You just gotta ignore those people…
Emma: As long as they’re talking. No, I can’t wait to see what effect is has on the world.
Suzanne: That’s good.
Emma: The world… I think the world really needs it right now.
Suzanne: Yeah, no, definitely.
Emma: It’s the whole optimistic look into the future, and a very open one at that.
Suzanne: Yeah. What’s interesting about it is – it’s partly optimistic and partly dystopian.
Suzanne: You have both in one show, which is so unusual.
Emma: Yeah, it is. It really is.
Transcribed by Jamie of SciFiVision
A skeptic in Paradise, Earth pilot Bella Sway is sucked into a conspiracy to gain control of Moonhaven, a utopian colony on the Moon 100 years in the future. She must team up with local detective to stop forces that want to destroy Earth’s last hope before they are destroyed themselves. Watch new episodes weekly.
Starring: Emma McDonald, Dominic Monaghan, Joe Manganiello
Directed by: Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy, Laura Belsey, David Caffery
AMC+ SUSPENSE THRILLER ‘MOONHAVEN’ FROM PETER OCKO
New Series Starring Emma McDonald, Joe Manganiello and Dominic Monaghan to Debut July 7 Exclusively on AMC+
AMC+ is excited to share the upcoming suspense thriller Moonhaven from creator Peter Ocko (Lodge 49, Black Sails, Elementary) in the two-episode premiere on Thursday, July 7 exclusively on AMC+. The series is set in a utopian colony on the moon that may hold the keys to preserving life on Earth, which has become increasingly perilous, and features an acclaimed ensemble cast including Emma McDonald (Queens of Mystery), Dominic Monaghan (Lost) Amara Karan (Doctor Who), Ayelet Zurer (Losing Alice), Joe Manganiello (True Blood), Kadeem Hardison (Black Monday), and Yazzmin Newell (The Last Tree).
Moonhaven centers on Bella Sway (McDonald), a lunar cargo pilot and smuggler 100 years in the future who finds herself accused of a crime and marooned on Moonhaven, a utopian community set on a 500 square mile Garden of Eden built on the Moon to find solutions to the problems that will soon end civilization on Mother Earth. A skeptic in Paradise, Bella is sucked into a conspiracy to gain control of the artificial intelligence responsible for Moonhaven’s miracles and teams with a local detective to stop the forces that want to destroy Earth’s last hope before they are destroyed themselves.
An AMC Studios production, Moonhaven is executive produced by Ocko and Deb Spera, who is a non-writing executive producer.
Episode 101 – The Pilot – Premieres Thursday, July 7
A murder on Moonhaven puts Earth’s last hope in jeopardy. During what should be a routine cargo loop to the Moon, pilot Bella Sway finds herself the subject of detective Paul Sarno’s investigation.
Episode 102 – The Detective – Premieres Thursday, July 7
Bella wants to get back to Earth, but must wait for Paul and Arlo to untangle a knot.
Episode 103 – The Envoy – Premieres Thursday, July 14
Indira tries to get The Bridge back on track while Bella helps Paul uncover a conspiracy.
Episode 104 – Mada – Premieres Thursday, July 21
On the brink of The Bridge, Paul prepares for some difficult goodbyes.
Episode 105 – Dreadfeel – Premieres Thursday, July 28
Paul and Bella trek through unknown territory in search of Maite. Meanwhile, Arlo takes a journey of his own.
Episode 106 – The Seeker – Premieres Thursday, August 4
In the season finale, Truelune is tested like never before.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda
Back to the Primetime Articles and Interviews Page