Here at Who What Wear, we’re constantly scouring the film, television, music, and fashion talent pools to bring you the next big wave of emerging stars. So it excites us to bring you our new series, Girl on the Rise! Each month we’ll be spotlighting a new fresh face on the verge served with an exclusive interview and a side of great fashion.
This isn't the first time we're talking about Emma Greenwell—we first waxed poetic about the actress at Sundance earlier this year, and then there was the moment she solidified her It-girl status sitting front row at the Miu Miu show last month—and from the looks of her quickly growing IMDB page, we’re confident it won't be the last either.
Greenwell’s big break came in 2012, when she landed a recurring role on the hit Showtime series Shameless playing troubled girl next door Mandy Milkovich, but it’s her most recent project, Hulu’s first hour-long drama, The Path, that has us glued to our televisions and computer screens. Now streaming, the psychological thriller—which also stars Hugh Dancy, Aaron Paul, and Michelle Monaghan, revolves around a family struggling with the powerful effects of religion and faith brought on by an emerging cult-like movement called Meyerist. In it, Greenwell plays the beautiful but damaged Mary Cox, a young woman who has suffered sexual abuse and who finds solace in the Meyerist community after a tornado hits her town. It’s a jaw-dropping performance that is sure to put Greenwell on the map and have fans anxiously awaiting her next project, Love & Friendship, due out in May.
For our latest edition of Girl on the Rise, we matched Greenwell with a trend every bit as cool as the 27-year-old herself: bomber jackets. Featuring head-turning details (prints and embroidery), spring’s outerwear du jour serves as the perfect finishing touch on all of your spring looks. Keep reading to see for yourself!
WHO WHAT WEAR: Let’s start from the beginning. What steered you toward a career in acting?
EMMA GREENWELL: I guess I grew up always being interested in it, but it was never something I thought was a real job. You know, my parents weren’t in [the industry] and weren’t connected in any sort of way. I then went to a school when I was 16 where a lot of people were taking a drama course, and it was something that I decided I wanted to do. So once I got my parents’ permission, I applied to drama school. That’s how kind of how I got into it; I went to Lander School in London.
WWW: When did you realize this could actually be a career?
EG: I’m still waiting for it! No, I’m kidding! I don’t know, I think I always feel worried that I’m never going to work again, but I guess when Shameless made me a regular on the show. I thought, “Wow, okay, this is working, this is happening, and this is now a full-time job. I don’t need to think about getting a secondary job anymore. I can concentrate solely on this.” I guess that’s when I realized I was an actress.
WWW: Why do you think The Path has so much appeal?
EG: I think the idea of faith is something that appeals to everyone whether or not you have a faith or have a certain religion. Faith is something you can’t really deny within humanity, so I think for that reason people will be interested in it, that idea of faith and what that really means and how it’s being abused and used to take in vulnerable people. So I think that’s why it will appeal to a lot of people, and there’s some very handsome and attractive people in it as well. I mean, like Aaron [Paul], Michelle [Monaghan], and Hugh [Dancy].
WWW: Tell us about your character, Mary Cox?
EG: She is a girl who is rescued by the movement, by the Meyerists. They go to her trailer park because it’s been hit really badly by a tornado, and the Meyerist people arrive before FEMA does. And she is, at the time that they find her, she has a bad addiction to drugs, and they sort of help her through that. And she is very taken with the idea of Cal [Hugh Dancy] as the person who can provide security to her and show her love, and this wonderful sort of life that they portray. So she gets sucked into it.
WWW: What drew you to her when reading the script?
EG: I think Jessica [Goldberg] wrote such an incredible script. I read the first, I think three episodes, and it was just great dialogue, really well written, really interesting twists and turns. I think all the characters you wanted to know more about, especially with Mary. I wanted to know more about her. In the writing, I felt like there was this really wonderful child-like quality to her. She was a little lost sheep. And I think so often these damaged characters can be quite stereotypical and very two-dimensional, and I feel just throughout the series you see this three-dimensional character that’s very truthful, and you just see that touches on everything, she’s a real human, just not because of the abuse. That really spoke to me in that way, I suppose.
WWW: Okay, let’s get into fashion. What has been your favorite on-screen outfit thus far?
EG: I usually play really down-and-out characters, so I don’t know if I really love any of their wardrobes that much. I will say that on The Path, I love Lucy [Corrigan], who is head of wardrobe. She always has these amazing vintage pieces. I guess I really liked my wardrobe from a film I did last year called Love & Friendship, which is a period piece, so there were corsets and amazing dresses. I guess that was probably my favorite, more so than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, where it was a little bit earlier in terms of the time it was set, so the dresses were slightly different and the corset was uncomfortable. I could eat at lunch, which was great.
WWW: Growing up, how did fashion play a role in your life?
EG: I wasn’t really into fashion, but I was always really into clothing. I was a tomboy and actually looked like a boy, dressed like a boy, and people thought I was a boy. But I’ve always been really interested in clothing. I love flea markets and going to vintage stores, and that’s kind of my thing. Now as I grow up and have a job, I start to like certain brands. I don’t know if it’s really fashion, just more so finding clothes that make me feel happy and comfortable. Like right now, I’m actually wearing like an old nightdress to the airport, as you do.
WWW: Well, the whole sleepwear-as-daywear look is having a moment!
EG: Definitely hitting the boudoir thing with a leather jacket, and I’m really digging it. But I think that the nightgown is a little more transparent than I had anticipated, but you know what, I’m just going to go with it.
WWW: Who are some of the women you look to for style inspiration?
EG: I look more to my friends and what they’re wearing. But some days I’ll look to magazines, and I’ll see really beautiful shoots, but I like more when I can touch it and see it. I take inspiration more inspiration my friends and what I’m seeing on actual people. I think Cate Blanchett always looks great and very chic, but I’m nowhere near as put together as that, but I guess that’s aspiration that maybe one day I can strive for that. And Chloë Sevigny, obviously, always looks so cool.
WWW: So you grew up in London but are now living in the U.S. Do you notice a difference between the way English women approach fashion versus Americans?
EG: You know what’s weird? I think there’s more of a difference between East Coast and West Coast. I think that American women always look more put together. I remember wondering before I moved here, like, What kind of shampoo do you guys use? because everyone’s hair was so immaculate; it was like, What are you doing? And also you guys get all the cool beauty products before us, and there are so many more brands. So I guess American women probably look a little more put together, whereas London girls are a little more haphazard and there’s a breeziness to them. I just moved to New York, and I was like, “Oh, my god, I need a whole new wardrobe; everyone is going to think I’m naked!” I’m walking around like I was wearing barely any clothing.
WWW: So you’re definitely noticing a difference between L.A. style versus New York. Have you noticed your own personal style changing a bit?
EG: Yeah. You know what I loved about L.A. was that I didn’t feel like I had to think about what I was wearing in the morning. And in New York, just because of the weather, I feel like you have to prepare and look chic and put together. I definitely take more time getting dressed in New York than I did living in Los Angeles, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, to be honest. Because living in London, I used to love putting together outfits, and in L.A. I kind of got lazy, because I would I would just throw on a dress and be done. I like the idea of layering and putting outfits together. It’s quite nice really.
WWW: What would you say are the hero pieces of your wardrobe?
EG: I just cleared out my closet to ship more things to New York, and I actually have a dress that I wore so much it’s in rags. It’s like a little vintage slip dress that I actually had to throw away. I have a really great black Acne leather motorcycle jacket that I wear with everything. And the best thing about New York is the tailors—they’re everywhere, and I went a got a pair of Levi’s 501s tailored to perfection, so those are probably my staple.
WWW: What was your last big splurge?
EG: Oh, it’s so sad, I just bought a pair of boots and sunglasses and I lost them yesterday, so that was probably my last big splurge. I’m usually pretty reserved. I’ve only ever bought like one expensive handbag, and like my Acne jacket, and otherwise I’m pretty scared. Actually that’s not true, I wore a really nice Isabel Marant dress a few weeks ago. I clearly have a bit of a shopping problem. I’m lying to myself and to you about it.
WWW: So the trend we focused on was the silk bomber jacket, which is having a big resurgence for spring. How would you style this piece in real life?
EG: I think I would wear something pretty, feminine, and delicate underneath that sort of goes against the oversize, slouchy vibe that the silky bomber has, and that’s probably my favorite look. And also, with the shirt and the shorts, that was also really cute. I dress in that vein, although I don’t really wear shorts.
WWW: You’ve been wearing a lot of Miu Miu lately, and you sat front row at the show. What is it about the brand aligns that with your style?
EG: I think why Miu Miu is so great is that it’s so interesting and different, and every piece has something unexpected. Even if you’re the only person who knows that, you feel it. And it’s just a really fresh brand. Everything is so beautifully cut, and I love the way that it fits on me. And I also love all the people that work there; they’re just amazing, and I’ve been so fortunate and so incredibly lucky to be doing that. It was a dream trip, and they’ve been so generous.
WWW: Okay, now for some rapid-fire questions! First, a really great bag or really great pair of shoes?
EG: Oh, shoes!
WWW: Skinny jeans or boyfriend jeans?
EG: Boyfriend jeans.
WWW: Shorts or skirt?
WWW: Flats or heels?
EG: I’m really short, so I would say heels, but like small heels.
WWW: A spring dress or a winter coat?
EG: Spring dress.
WWW: Bold colors or prints?
WWW: Vintage or new?
Photographer: Kat Borchart; Hair: Luke Chamberlain; Makeup: Natasha Severino; Styling: Sarah Schussheim.
Love the bomber jacket for spring? Tell us how you’re wearing this piece now.