Reel Women: Actor Emily Berry

Emily Berry
Emily Berry

Editor’s Note: Five years ago we had an idea. Being a woman-owned publication, it made sense to celebrate women who were making a difference in the industries we cover. So, we started a feature for Women’s History Month called “Reel Women.” Over the last four years, we have gotten to know leaders, mentors and visionaries from a variety of creative industries. This is our 5th Annual REEL WOMEN. For the month of March, let us introduce you to some very special women like actor Emily Berry.

Emily Berry was born in Springfield Massachusetts but grew up in Jacksonville IL. This little midwest town is where she found her love for the theater.  She knew she was destined to entertain but did not know which direction she should follow to do so. She continued community theater into her college years where she dual-majored in French and Theater. Her college years were a fruitful exercise in honing her devotion to performing.  Emily starred in numerous musicals and enjoyed working on experimental black box theatre and period pieces, such as a role in Les Liaisons Dangereuses. After graduating from Millikin University, Berry relocated to Chicago where she worked a variety of jobs while simultaneously trying to book commercials and voiceover work. In following her starving-artist determination and convictions Emily didn’t want anyone else’s permission to perform. Before she broke into film and television, she found success in short films, sketch comedy, and burlesque.

Emily earned her SAG card in 1997, while in Chicago, shooting a commercial with Michael Jordan. Today, she is a face you easily recognize having over 50+ credits in both television and film. Her diverse TV credits include roles on shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, New Girl, NCIS, Young Sheldon, Fresh Off The Boat, and too many national commercials to count. Her film credits include projects such as Logan, Pearl Harbor, No Man of God, and many more. Her work ethic, range, and passion for her craft is evident in her stellar list of credits. She stars as ‘Dana’ opposite acclaimed actor Christoph Waltz in the dark comedy The Consultant which premiered on Amazon Prime February 24.

Let’s meet Emily.

What’s your origin story?

When I was 7, I fell in love with musical theatre when my parents took me to see a community theatre production of the musical Oliver!, in my hometown of Jacksonville IL. Growing up, my mother listened to a lot of musical theatre and strong female singers (Barbara Streisand, Petula Clark, Maria Callas), and I was so inspired by them that I would put on a little song and dance shows around the house to their music. I am an only child, so naturally, my barbies & a cabbage patch doll were my backup singers and sometimes we went “on tour” to other rooms in the house. Antics such as this, plus local theatre opportunities, were my creative outlet until college when I began formal training at Millikin University in Decatur, IL. My appreciation for straight theatre bloomed there as well, studying and performing plays. After graduation, I moved to Chicago with hopes of breaking into on-camera work. 

How did you get into acting for film/tv and commercials? 

In 1997, I earned my SAG card in shooting a commercial in Chicago with the one and only Michael Jordan. I moved to Los Angeles not long after that.

Once in LA, it took a while to connect the dots! The day job/dream job balance was a bumpy ride. Long story short, a few years later things started to fall in line. I had been consistently enrolled in acting classes and doing the work all along, when I finally landed a good agent, got great headshots, and started getting a lot more auditions and callbacks. Something about turning 40 years old helped too. I felt like I could let go of expectations, just be myself, and enjoy the process. The feeling was a combination of self-acceptance, plus surrendering to the fact that there is only so much within your control and being ok with it. 

Lo and behold, not long after that I booked my first network tv co-star role on Grey’s Anatomy and my first network national commercial for Geico in the same week! I’ve been working consistently ever since, and that was almost ten years ago now.

Who were your mentors? 

Of course, there have been many throughout the years, but earlier in my career, it was Bette Midler and Madonna. 

While there will be others, what do you consider your biggest achievement to date?

I would have to say working consistently as an actor. I haven’t had a day job for 10 years and I’m able to pay my bills doing what I love! It’s an amazing feeling.

What drives you to create?

More than anything, I love making people laugh. That is really my biggest motivation. I appreciate performing all genres and storytelling, but I believe my true gift is my comedic flair!

Award you crave, but haven’t won? 

Winning a SAG award would mean a lot to my heart. I mean, it’s an award from your peers, and to me, it says the people who truly understand what goes into the work have appreciated what you brought to it.

What shows/movies/songs are doing the best job of portraying strong women on TV?

Oh my gosh, so many strong women everywhere right now! I feel like network tv and the streaming services are SLAYING IT with women leading shows such as Abbott Elementary, Rookie: Feds, Killing Eve, and 1883 just to name a few. And so many women directing, writing, and executive producing, hello Tina Fey, Shonda Rimes, and Reese Witherspoon! Also in the theatre world, powerhouse women like Sara Bareilles, Alanis Morrisette & Suzan-Lori Parks have and continue to bring us spectacular work.

Is there still a boys club in your industry?

Yes, but mostly at the executive level and it is definitely shifting and evening out! Lately, I feel like I see lots more women being promoted at studios/networks in positions of power when I peruse the trades. It’s exciting to see.

Coffee, Lunch, or Happy Hour. Name a famous woman (living or dead) you would like to attend each function with.

Coffee with Fanny Brice

Lunch with Judy Garland

Happy Hour with Phyllis Diller.

Oh, wait they are ALL no longer with us, aren’t they? Ok, the living peeps would be: Coffee with Kamala Harris, I’ll skip lunch, and have one big Happy hour with everybody from question#7, plus Kathryn Hahn.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled against Roe v Wade. If you oppose the decision, what can women in your industry do to defend a woman’s rights?

I do oppose it. I think our storytelling outlets are our biggest asset with regard to this. The consequences from this ruling in states that have already banned abortion will be important and compelling for the rest of the country to hear. I hope the people affected won’t be afraid to share their experiences.

What keeps you up at night? 

My German shepherd Murphy. His instincts are pretty hard-wired to protect us, so he wakes us up 2-3 times a night to ‘secure the perimeter.’ lol

What’s up with Beyoncé being nominated for 4 Best Albums of the year but never winning?

I don’t know what on earth the voting process is over there at the Grammys, but she is fabulous no matter what!!! She is a Queen. PERIOD. #hotsauceinmybagswag

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You can find Emily on IMDB, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram



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