Emma Approved's pairing of Joanna Sotomura and Brent Bailey has sent us down a few different roads. We reminisced upon their first scenes together. We did our fair share of teasing over the semantics of Brent Bailey-ism "Fake it until you become it" vs. the accepted "fake it until you make it" (among other things). We entertained quite a few tangents on every subject from a mutual appreciation of Clueless to vlogging alien babies. We talked about the delicate balance between fact and fiction, between private lives and fan culture. But mostly we talked about the terrific joys of adapting Jane Austen so well. So, Austen/Pemberley Digital fans, read on for some lovely character insights from Emma Approved stars Joanna Sotomura and Brent Bailey themselves:
Favorite memory from filming?
Joanna Sotomura: One was when [Brent] didn't realize the scene ended. It was like this awkward scene and it's supposed to end with both of us sitting on the bench when Harriet comes in with her ukulele. but he didn't know if he was supposed to sit or stand, so he awkwardly stands up and goes to leave and just picks Dayeanne up and walks out of the room! [To Brent:] Did I steal one of yours?
Brent Bailey: No, I think I would go with the hand explosion one. You know, when we do the shake, and it's not official 'til you shake on it? And I was like, "Now blow it up…" We slowly figured out how to do it in a way that was fun for us that wasn't 10 minutes long.
JS: Well, that and the hand over your mouth thing, too. Because at first it was me just pushing you, but then we realized the chair didn't roll!
BB: We have a lot of favorite moments, I guess.
Is there any scene in particular you're really looking forward to shooting?
JS: I'm really looking forward to when Knightley tells Emma that famous line…
BB: "If I loved you less—"
JS: "—I might be able to talk about it more." I just want to play that scene so badly. Emma, who's so heartbroken and jealous, doesn't care, but does care, and just wants Knightley for herself, to take care of him forever. I can't wait to play that part of her, because she's slowly opening up and warming up and showing all these new facets. And that's the one I'm really looking forward to. The one where she's just a mess.
BB: I'm excited for the kiss. Yeah. Especially because there's the Tumblr that's literally counting the days. That obviously comes right after that line — depending on how Bernie [Su, executive producer] does it — so, just that whole moment where they both finally let down their guards and become vulnerable to each other.
What are your favorite Jane Austen characters?
JS: Emma. Does that sound too biased? I love the idea she's a character Jane Austen created like, "No one's going to like her except me." I think it's a bold move for any author to make, to create this kind of unlikable character. Because then you have to hope your readers stay with her, and watch her growth. I just like all her faults and her stubbornness.
BB: Martin. Because I like that whole story. He's just the underdog that everyone really, really wants to finally get with Harriet. And he tries so hard, and he's just a really genuine guy. And the way [James Brent] Isaacs plays him is just so awesome.
And if you were a Jane Austen character who would you be?
BB: I would stick with Knightley.
JS: Oh my God, he's exactly Knightley.
BB: I got my masters in business, I was a computer guy... obviously, Knightley's not a computer guy, but you know. I'm definitely more of the romantic type.
JS: That's funny, because Emma's the furthest from me. When we first started the series, I was constantly apologizing, and super nervous, and very unsure of what to do, and not assertive at all. So I almost feel like I would have been the Harriet character in the beginning. When you're all wide-eyed, and someone tells you to do something, and you're like, "Okay! Sure! I totally trust you. I think you're awesome. Let's go!"
What advice would you give your characters?
BB: To stop being so stubborn and just tell Emma how you feel. Because I think by this point, and part of that's just my interpretation, he has a pretty good idea that he's interested in Emma.
JS: I think a month ago, I would have told Emma to lighten up and share a little more. To share responsibilities, to share with Alex what's going on. But right now, where she's at, and where she's growing, I think the advice I would give her is, "Don't be afraid to love." There's such a harsh thing she says: "I've never been in love, and I don't think I ever will." That's just kind of a sad way to live your life. So I would tell her to not be afraid to love.
Speaking of which, any way in particular your on-screen relationship influenced your off-screen one?
JS: [To Brent:] I mean there was a genuine moment in the first round of shooting when you kind of threw me off a little bit, because you made something really sincere. It's weird, because I know we were acting, but in that moment I was like, "Wow. Whoa. I think I might be forming a bit of a crush." It's near the end of one of the first set of episodes, and he says "Seriously. Nice job," and I was just kind of stunned. And that's actually what's on tape now: my genuine surprise: "Okay. I now have a nice-sized crush on you."
BB: We didn't jump straight into a relationship. We became really close friends, and eventually I was like, "You're one of my best friends." And we kind of took it from there, taking it slow and understanding that it could be really awkward for the show. And it's never the best idea to date someone you're working with. But for me, the risks didn't outweigh the benefit of how happy it made me to be with her.
The picture above? That's it: that's the whole series. And darned if it doesn't look like the perfect Emma/Mr. Knightley dynamic – am I right, or am I right? The verbal sparring between Emma Woodhouse (Joanna Sotomura) and Alex Knightley (Brent Bailey) is reason enough to give this series a click.
Emma Approved is a new webseries currently airing on YouTube, created and produced by Pemberley Digital (helmed by Hank Green and Bernie Su – the team behind the Emmy-award winning The Lizzie Bennet Diaries). Like its predecessors, Emma Approved is endlessly innovative when it comes to modernizing Jane Austen's novel of (almost the same) name.
This present-day characterization of Emma is pitch-perfect – she somehow manages to straddle the line between insufferable and adorable with aplomb; just as she should. Her self-centeredness is tempered wonderfully with genuine regard for assistant Harriet Smith; her persistent over-confidence is forgiven when we realize just how much she cares. About everything.
Oh, and don't worry, it's not the second coming of Clueless (let's not mess with perfection!) – it brings something entirely different to the table. This version of Emma Woodhouse runs a matchmaking/lifestyle business with her level-headed sparring partner, Alex Knightley. Harriet is her naïve assistant/protégé, the farmer Mr. Martin is a lowly IT geek, Mr. Elton is a (slimy) politician-on-the-rise, and we haven't met other major players Frank Churchill or Jane Fairfax yet – but we're looking forward to it.
It's on hiatus until February (alas), but if you haven't seen it yet, it's well-worth a watch!