Think it might be tough playing opposite Brad Pitt in a movie? How about playing his role in an adaption of one of his best ones. That’s what Emily Hampshire faces in the TV version of 12 Monkeys.
Hampshire, who also appears on the recently released CBC sitcom Schitt’s Creek, plays Jennifer Goines in series inspired by Terry Gilliam’s ’90s sci-fi classic. Jennifer is technically a female version of the character Pitt played to much critical acclaim, a young woman who seems addled by mental issues, but may actually have some important information to share about a virus that James Cole (Aaron Stanford in the series, Bruce Willis in the film) was sent back in time to investigate. However, as far as Hampshire knew before she took the role, which may very well be one of the most-talked about ones in genre TV after the show debuts on Syfy and Canada’s Showcase on Friday, Jennifer was just a character in this great new series based on a film she’d only just heard of.
“I hadn’t seen the film when I auditioned,” Hampshire revealed to Cinefilles during a set visit to 12 Monkeys earlier this year. “So my first impression of Jennifer going into this was their script and this girl on the page. So, I got to make up my own kind of idea of how this woman is.”
Hampshire had supposedly hoped to watch the original 12 Monkeys before attempting to get a job on this one, but “there was a time factor,” which prevented her from doing so. She actually did eventually get around to seeing it after landing the role of Jennifer, but she’s extremely glad her first plan didn’t go through. She explains, “I think that was really, really good for me because I think if I had seen the movie first, I would have been too overwhelmed and under the weight of his fantastic performance to have any of my own creativity.”
That said, Hampshire doesn’t completely ignore the existence of Jeffrey Goines entirely when she plays Jennifer. In fact, she considers him a part of, but separate from her. “What I found with that was then I could watch the movie like … ‘Oh, this is kind of a relative of Jennifer Goines.’ He’s a Goines. She’s a Goines,” she says. “It’s not me trying to do that part. It comes from the same DNA.”
The decision to turn Jeffrey into Jennifer was one a long time coming, seeing 12 Monkeys‘ producers apparently sought out an actress for the role from the start, with Hampshire being the lucky lady to get a chance to make their vision a reality.
“I remember we were sitting in our office one day and saying ‘No one’s gonna want to play the Brad Pitt character.’ We racked our brains and said, what if we gave it to a woman? What if a woman could bring her own brand of eccentricities? And the idea got more and more exciting,” executive producer Terry Matalas tells Cinefilles, before adding with a laugh, “And we actually found someone who was as eccentric and crazy. We don’t even have to write [for her]!”
“People don’t call it ‘The Bruce Willis role.’ They say ‘The Brad Pitt character,'” Matalas’ producing partner Travis Fickett notes. “Hopefully once you guys see it, [you’ll] call it ‘The Emily Hampshire character.'”
12 Monkeys premieres Friday, January 16 at 9 p.m. on Syfy and 10 p.m. ET/PT on Showcase.