It’s quick to be threatened by Emmy Raver-Lampman. She’s a Broadway sensation, acting in smash productions including Hair, Jekyll & Hyde, Wicked, and Hamilton, and this week, she steals the scene onscreen in the second season of Netflix’s cult-favorite film, The Umbrella Academy. I have to say, my inner theater nerd was flipping out a little (okay, a lot) before our call. Her Instagram gives off an approachable, welcoming vibe—but even, it’s always tough to know what to expect. Yet my nerves were needless. As Emmy Raver-Lampman called into our Zoom talk, her vibrant grin and inviting enthusiasm was tangible even though the computer screen. She hugged me like we were old friends. As she asked me how I was doing, it seemed like she really cared to know, even if we had only met seconds before. And like that, we pressed.
Emmy Raver-Lampman might play a heroine on Netflix with one-of-a-kind talent (have you heard her sing?), but her IRL character is down-to-earth and 100 percent true. Ahead, we chat about her life in quarantine, her newly-cemented barber abilities, the second season of The Umbrella School, and everything she’s doing to care about herself while our society begins the battle to eradicate structural racism. Keep reading to read our talk.
What are you doing?
Emmy Raver-Lampman: Honestly, I can’t complain. Just seeking to find fun where I can.
I can relate. I think you’re definitely on the move a number. What has it been like for you to be at home and quarantined? What’s a normal day look like for you?
Emmy Raver-Lampman: I move too much for work and fun, but at my heart, I’m totally a homebody. This has been a very wonderful period for my partner and I to be in the same position together—our friendship works on a very high degree of long-distance. A lot of people and a lot of partners have never spent this much time together. We are starting to settle into our version of usual, and really get to make our room feel like home. Also, there’s less pressure. Since we both work independently too frequently, there’s still a little strain on the time we still have together, to make the best of it. But it’s good not to feel it. It’s been good to calm down a little bit. We’re both [usually] going a million miles an hour.
Have you taken up some different hobbies?
Emmy Raver-Lampman: I began a vegetable garden. I’m developing a full vegetable garden with lettuces, onions, zucchinis, peppers, habaneros, and eggplants. It’s amazing. Our house is full of plants, but this is something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the patience to cultivate. We’re almost at the stage that I don’t have to purchase lettuce at the grocery store anymore. That’s certainly been my greatest hobby. Prepared my cup of coffee in the morning, step outside, and chat to my yard.
I saw one of your Instagram articles, and your hair looks so beautiful! I was like, these curls are poppin’, I sound like I’ve been trying to keep my curls hydrated. What have you been doing to keep your curls looking so good?
Emmy Raver-Lampman: My hair journey really began when I went to college. It’s just about product. Everyone’s hair is different, and every texture is going to like those stuff. My boyfriend and I are also bi-racial, and the things his hair likes, my hair hates. We have different shampoos and conditioners, and we practically have the same hair texture. I’ve only gone to barber shops to take control of the sides. At the beginning of this, I went and purchased clippers—no there’s time like the moment to find out how to start cutting my own hair. And I’ve certainly been a barber for myself.
I can get much of it, but he certainly supports me with the back section right here. So, I’ve certainly been shaving my own hair and making a ton of hair masks. I got surprises the other day, I was so excited for a shift—just some sort of change.
I had an opportunity to watch the second season of The Umbrella Academy. Allison is thrown into a moment when she’s not a Hollywood actress, and can’t completely articulate herself since she is a Black woman. It’s fascinating how much the episode resembles what’s going today.
This season we’re seeing a fresh Allison. It’s a really back-to-basics, stripped down, authentic Allison, which I truly enjoyed being plunge into as an actress. When we encounter her [in season one], this is a lady in her 30s who didn’t have a perfect childhood. She was abused for her powers by her father. Competitiveness was welcomed. The quick path out was promoted, and she was only really really taught to exploit her powers for selfish purposes. We’re approaching her at this low point in her life. It couldn’t get lower for Allison, and so she’s plunged into the segregated South.
It’s jarring and terrifying to be thrown into the world and into the blunt reality of what her skin’s colour entails, and where she’s supposed to be and not to be, and what she’s allowed to do and not do, and who she’s allowed to love and not love. She doesn’t have her abilities or her dad, and has to struggle to fend for herself in a whole new way. It’s amazing to see her coming into her own without all the vices and crutches she’s depended on for 30 years. She is discovering how much strength she does have without her powers, and [that] she doesn’t need her powers to be strong. It’s all a juxtaposition of losing her identity, and it being her strength directly, and slipping into a moment when there was so much voicelessness in the Black experience.
What was it like to film the scenes set in the ’60s?
Emmy Raver-Lampman: Shooting all of those scenes was really, really hard and really, really emotional. The stakes were and are high, on set and in real life. There were actual incidents that we were attempting to replicate, and to be perfectly truthful, these are pretty gentle recreations.
I noticed that.
As far as sit-ins go, this wasn’t that terrible. In our culture, the same incidents have exploded into some of the most horrifying pictures we’ve ever seen. Trying to carry in a little bit of that was so strong and so going. It was crucial to me and all that we handle it with reverence and depicted it properly. We achieved so by doing the analysis, and knowing what it is we are trying to suggest. There are comparisons between what we’re seeing in the season and what’s going on the television right now. It’s the same war. A lot of people want to say, “The civil rights movement, that’s over.” We just lost Congressman [John] Lewis last week, and that was his young adult life. He devoted his life to ending hate, and institutional injustice, and discrimination. I needed to make sure we were doing something by his unbelievable legacy.
“There are parallels between what we’re watching in the season and what’s happening on the news right now. It’s the same fight.”
That just gave me a chill. Those scenes are so effective. I liked seeing all the Black love and encouragement, too. One scene in particular made me think: This display is fantastic. Then Allison fell into the ‘60s, and she’s hiding from the aggressive white men on the highway, then she runs into the beauty salon.
As a Black woman, as an impulse, I definitely might have done the same thing. Beauty salons help us look amazing, but they are still healthy places. What has been your experience with salons?
Emmy Raver-Lampman: I am bi-racial, because I’m adopted, and my parents are caucasian. My mom didn’t know what to do with my hair, and as much as she was learning, it was a lot of trial and error. Bless her spirit. There were a number of bows and ribbons. Quite soon, she was very good at braids, and [my hair] became something she just liked to do. When I was in college, I moved to New York for education, [and] I shaved my entire head. My hair has grown and improved over time. Too much of my lifetime, I’ve travelled, so there is a feeling of community [in] the Black experience that I am envious of getting. I guess I’m beginning to find it now [that] I’ve laid down roots in L.A. for a very long period, and by long time, I mean three years.
That’s a long time in L.A. years.
It’s the longest time I’ve been in a town. Being in the industry, the hair and makeup squad becomes this micro-community. I trust my makeup artist directly, and my girl Kim who does my hair, and I have another awesome guy who does my hair called Neeko—we just chat. For the last two years, I have had the same hair and makeup squad, and we take up right where we left off every time we see each other.
While watching the program, I found that all of the Black women and men still looked their best, whether they were demonstrating or organizing. Someone recently said to me, “That’s a form of Black resistance.”
What has been your form of self-care for everything going on in the world right now?
Emmy Raver-Lampman: Staying on top of, and becoming mindful of, my emotional wellbeing. Therapy is so necessary. Communication is so critical. It is contact with your girlfriend, with your relatives, with your colleagues, and with strangers if that window of communication opens up. There is no guilt in treatment.
We are a species that is fascinated with the future, and we’re living in a moment when we don’t realize what’s coming next month. That’s not all about my job. It’s the global trend that’s happening. Like what would the rest of 2020 be like? The unknown can create too much fear and unrest, and a lot of people are lonely right now and spending more time by themselves than they ever have. I’m making sure I’m checking up on myself.
If I require alone time, I take it. When I need to go outside to place my hands in the soil to bond with mother earth, I do it. If I want to lie on the sofa all day and consume every food in the pantry, I do it. If I want to work out and sweat for three hours, I do it. I’m doing as best as I can to listen to myself and not place pressure on myself through this period.