Emily Kinney greets me with a contagiously bright and effervescent energy. She is on set in Toronto, Canada for ABC’s upcoming legal drama series, “Conviction,” in which she plays paralegal Tess Larson. Suffice to say, Kinney’s energy and determination have been paramount to her success over the last decade in music, theater, and television. Now Kinney is about to take on two major projects, a primetime television series premiering October 3rd and a brand new album to be released on October 28th, all without without skipping a beat.
SW: You’re on set now for ABC’s “Conviction.” How long does it take to film a normal episode?
EK: Yes! It starts October 3rd. We are just on episode four now, so we are right in the middle of it. We’re taking 7-8 days for this one, but sometimes there’s stuff we don’t get to so we have to go back later. Each show is a bit different, but we tend to do 7-day episodes.
SW: How has it been balancing your music career with filming?
EK: You know, it’s kind of nice to have a break from one or the other. There are a lot of times when I’m on set and I’m just waiting around—away from my normal home, away from my friends and my family. I have a lot of time to myself. That actually really fuels my writing. I don’t have a ton of time to do shows, which is unfortunate, but I have a lot of time to practice and write songs. So, actually, it’s been great. I have two new songs that I’m releasing in October. These tracks are very different from my last album. So even though I’m not doing shows, I can still write music, which makes me really happy.
SW: When did you know you wanted to pursue music?
EK: I’ve wanted to do music since I was really little. I think my first talent show was when I was seven years old! I told my parents “I want to be a singer. I want to move to New York City or Los Angeles.” It was pretty much all I wanted to do. And that eventually changed into knowing that I wanted to perform and act; I just really loved stories. I loved performing and being creative—whether that was writing poetry or writing songs. So I just took whatever avenue would take me there and went for it. I started to really love theater, and I think that became my first focus when I came to New York because I had access to it. Both are important parts of me, but acting is the one that supports me, I guess! It pays my bills more than the music [laughing], but they both come from a similar place. It’s about being able to tell a story.
SW: Are you more vulnerable, or more yourself, working on music?
EK: There are differences. With acting I try to find something in the character that is similar to me and then really tap into that. I try to create the character by filling in the gaps, looking at places where the character and I really aren’t similar. We all kind of have this range of different people inside of us, but with acting you do have to fit into someone else’s vision. Someone has written a script, or you have the director who has a specific idea. You are ultimately fitting into a bigger picture and a bigger story. The difference, and the satisfying part of music for me, is that I’m the one who wrote the song. I get to decide how much of that is going to be something from my personal life. Most of my songs are definitely way more revealing, but just like with acting, I can also take on a character.
SW: Do you think that allows your work more universal meaning?
EK: Definitely. Though I will say that my songs are pretty true to whatever it is that I’m going through at the moment I write them.
SW: Has your background in theater helped you to prepare for the process of making a television series?
EK: I feel like that is really good training. You have to have discipline, and you have to do your best and put yourself out there in a certain way. On “Conviction” we are working everyday, sometimes late into the middle of the night, but you always have to be on top of your game. On “Walking Dead,” I had a lot of time to watch the other actors around me too. I feel like I learned so much from being on “Walking Dead;” it definitely prepared me to take on more of a leadership role in this particular cast. I feel like the things I learned on set there have stuck with me.
SW: And a final question before you go back to set, do you have any advice for up and coming talent?
EK: I have two things. One: if there’s something you love doing I think it’s really important to do it everyday—even if it’s in a small way. Even if you don’t live in New York or LA, you can find a theater company in your hometown and make it a part of your life and practice. That means you always get to do it, so it doesn’t matter if you win a big award or get a big role. It’s a part of your life. You win by getting to do what you love everyday. Second: it’s important to be inspired by the people around you but not compare yourself. When it comes to making art, everyone is so different, and you’re never going to be able to follow someone’s exact same path and get to the same outcome. Be inspired, but don’t compare.
Hair / Mahfud @ Exclusive Artists
Makeup / Natasha Smee @ Exclusive Artists
Featuring / Emily Kinney @ Sunshine Sachs PR