‘Boardwalk Empire’: Emily Meade Talks Pearl’s Demise

Emily Meade and Michael Pitt in Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Emily Meade and Michael Pitt in Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Farewell Pearl, we barely knew ye.

On last week’s episode of ‘Boardwalk Empire,’ Jimmy’s (Michael Pitt) prostitute girlfriend Pearl was brutally slashed across the face in a revenge move by a rival gang. Last night (*Spoiler Alert*), with all hope of pursuing an acting career gone, she shot herself in an Opium-induced haze. It was a devastating moment for both Jimmy and viewers looking forward to watching the duo’s relationship grow.

Emiliy Meade, the 21-year-old actress who played Pearl, opened up about the personal parallels between her and Pearl, and the on-screen intensity shared by her and Michael Pitt.

You’ve been spending a lot of time around fake blood lately, with your roles in ‘Boardwalk’ and Wes Craven’s horror flick ‘My Soul to Take.’
Yeah, I have actually. [Laughs]

How was Pearl initially described? ‘Hooker with a heart of gold?’
[Laughs] I’m trying to remember. The breakdown was [she’s] from the Midwest; one of Al Capone’s prostitutes who develops a mini romance with Jimmy.

Watch Full Episodes Of ‘Boardwalk Empire’ On XfinityTV

What was the casting process for ‘Boardwalk’ like?
It was pretty simple. I went in for the casting director once. She brought me in for a call back and I did the two scenes in the fourth episode, and I got a call two days later.

Did you have an idea of what this show would become?
Yeah. HBO with Martin Scorsese and Terry Winter, you know, I was pretty sure people would be watching it and enjoying it. And as soon as I was on set, it was the most amazing, extravagant place. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

On a scale of 1-10, how intense is Michael Pitt to work with?
[Laughs] 1 would be totally not intense, and 10 would be overwhelmingly intense? Maybe somewhere like a 5. We got along well. He’s fun to work with. We’re both willing to take chances. He’s not frightening by any means. It’s fun. He changes things up. You’re actually present in the moment with him.

How long did you have to sit in the makeup chair for that scar?
Oh geez. It was a whole process. I had to drive to upstate New York to get a face mask, which was the scariest thing I have ever experienced. I already have panic attacks and am a very anxious person. They basically cover your entire face, [and] you can’t hear. It’s like you’re underwater – everything except for your nostrils. It was at least two hours. That’s how they molded the scar for my face. Then on the day they were shooting it, it was probably three hours to apply it.

What do you do during that time? It’s not like you can read.
I have panic attacks where I will pass out. I just had to keep reminding myself that I was still conscious. I was just telling myself, You’re OK. It’s a practice in meditation.

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Do you have any scar stories?
Nothing too exciting. I have a scar on my knee from falling on the ice on my tenth birthday.

Did it make you think, What if this had happened to me? And, What would it mean for my career?
Oh God, absolutely. That’s always been in my mind. I think all girls and boys can relate to [the idea] that regardless of whether or not people tell you you’re beautiful, you look in the mirror and always find something to complain about. I’ve always realized I should be grateful for what I have because it’s not promised to you. This was really close to home for me since I’ve always struggled with judging myself, and also being grateful for what I’ve been given. Just being able to look at myself in the mirror with that scar was so intense. It looked so real. It almost felt like it was a part of me.

What do you not like about your face?
I am very harsh on myself. I can point out a list. My nose is very strange. I have a very round face. I sound so ungrateful [laughs]. Obviously I’m being hard on myself. Whether it’s body dysmorphia, or whatever it is, I can always find something wrong.

Does that make it difficult to watch yourself in your roles?
Definitely. Every once in a while I think, Oh, it’s not so bad. For the most part, the things that I’m worried about, I can spot them instantly. It can be painful sometimes. Sometimes you just have to look at yourself like you’re a stranger, like you’re objectively watching the story.

What’s up next for you?
I have two independent movies that are finished that are on their way out now.  Hopefully if everything goes well these things it’ll be coming out in the next few months. I’m very selective, so I’m looking for something that will meet if not top what I’ve done so far.

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You’re on the rise. How are you maintaining your sanity?
It’s very difficult. I don’t know if I’m succeeding. I went right from school [and] having a schedule every day – even though I was miserable doing it – I had my life. These past three years I moved right into doing this and it is very difficult to find a balance between working and your down time. When you’re working, you’re working all the time and you feel like you’re on the verge of a mental breakdown. Then when you’re not working you feel like you’re on the verge of a mental breakdown because there’s nothing to do. You’re sitting around basically waiting for somebody else to give something to you. I’ve been really fortunate so I’m hoping it keeps going.

Are you doing other work outside of acting?
I’m only working on acting, which is pretty weird. I mean, I grew up with like no money. Then as soon as I started making money acting I got my own apartment. Now I could be on the verge of being evicted. If I don’t get another job soon I might have to take up another job. I’ve been crazy lucky that I’ve never had a day job. I get really close to having no money, then I always wind up getting some kind of great job. I’ll be fine. I know it.

I read Michael was struggling before he got this role, too.
Yeah. I think that’s how it works. But you know in your gut that everything is going to be okay. I talked to him about it. He didn’t want to do any jobs he didn’t care about, and he didn’t want to just work for money. He also has that selective quality. But then Martin Scorcese wanted to meet him. It works out!

Do you have time for a personal life?
I always have a very complex personal life as far as romance goes. Sometimes I have a little too much time to get into too much trouble…and drama. It’s either I’m working or I have nothing to do but focus on my personal life. It’s a little hectic.

Do you date other actors or do you steer clear of them?
Unfortunately yes, I do. [Laughs] A lot of people say, ‘I’m not going to date actors anymore.’ But they are the people that understand your lifestyle and your passion. They’re the people most similar to you, and those are the people you meet. It’s hard to meet anybody who’s not an actor.

Are you dating an actor now?
I’m going to be as cryptic as possible about that. [Laughs] I spend time with actors. The funniest things is I never understood why actors were so shady about who they’re dating. Then I realized the things you say get printed and the people you’re involved with read them. That’s what’s tricky. Nothing goes unnoticed. I don’t want to get myself in trouble!

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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