Thirty-seven-year-old Emma Caulfield seems like such a SoCal blond. Hailing from San Diego, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, and got her start in television playing Susan Keats, a love interest on the series Beverly Hills, 90210. That led her to Buffy The Vampire Slayer and her key role as ex-demon Anya. But she's admittedly something of a fan geek, a real devotee of sci-fi movies and TV series.
So taking on the lead role of Oona in the near-future set TiMER, not only made sense to her, it was a role that stirred her fan juices as well. Based on the premise that a device can be made to biologically find the unique link between soul mates, it's meant to take the guesswork out of romance and dating.
But the device is not without its critics. There are still people in the world who haven't had one attached or fight the urge to accept what is seen as the inevitable. Oona's sister Steph (Michelle Borth) figures that until her true love is found why not play around? Others like Mikey (John Patrick Amedori), wear a fake so as not to be hassled.
With the film now available theatrically as well as through video-on-demand, it's ironic, given the subject matter, that Caufield is also in the gossip press for her separation from husband Cornelius Grobbelaar.
But she has other interests besides the film's release to take her mind off such things; she has also released her webcomic, Contropussy -- created with collaborators Camilla Rantsen, Christian Meesey, and Thomas Mauer -- as the first issue of a print comic book. In this exclusive interview, the lovely Caulfield discusses the implications of the movie, the device and whether she'd wear one herself.
Q: As a science fiction fan, I wondered about the possibilities of having a timer -- beyond thinking about the concept as a metaphor. Did you see it as a metaphor or get into the science fiction of it?
EC: I'm a huge science fiction fan, so that was part of the appeal for me in the script. Now that I've thought about it, I just accepted it, actually. That's the best answer I can give you. I don't think I thought of it as a metaphor for anything else; I was just like, "Oh, that's the world that this script exists in."
Q: I'm trying to decide: would I use a "timer?" Probably not; I'm too much of a rebel -- if everybody else is running around doing it then I wouldn't. What would you do?
EC: Exactly. I wouldn't. Where's the fun in that? That's what I fall back to. If you have the answers to things like that, then where's the adventure? It would be like knowing when you're going to die.
Q: I agree. The premise is that we are chemically matched and a device could track it is a little far-fetched but still I ran scenarios on how it would or wouldn't work. How far could it go? Wouldn't it be illegal? So did you play with the ideas beyond the movie's own setting?
EC: I would love to say that we did it just to prove that we're really deep thinkers or something, but to be honest, no. We discussed amongst ourselves whether we would want access to that knowledge, and I think we all pretty much agreed, no.
Like I said, "there's no adventure in knowing the outcome of who you're supposed to be with."
If everybody did follow this device, and it was supposed to work, then I guess there would be no divorce, no children coming from broken homes and a lot fewer people in therapy. So ultimately society would be functioning at a much higher level. There would be advances. Right?
Q: The idea makes for, as the saying goes, "the zipless fuck." As the movie suggests, if you're not worrying about whether or not you're going to fall in love with a person since your true love is inevitable, go ahead and screw around. Would that be possible, would people really do that?
EC: Yeah, they have an excuse to mess around with however many people they want because they already know it's going to end, so just go out and have a good time.
Q: Those were interesting implications; but it's a whole other movie.
EC: That's actually a good point. To be honest, as society exists now, people have all kinds of justifications and excuses for doing what they do with other people and in my mind, this would just be another one. It's a philosophical question that, to be honest, I hadn't really given a whole lot of thought to. I hadn't really thought past the point of I wouldn't want to know that.
If society had the ability to do what they do in the film, ultimately, it would be a sadder existence. Though people would be happier, I think, to deny those kinds of experiences, to deny heartbreak, to deny all the wrong choices, ultimately would leave you less wise. We're far more defined by our mistakes than the things that we succeed at.
Q: Obviously you're willing to take the risk of not having one, but has your love life been more successful than your characters?
EC: I think talking about one's love life is always... It's a Pandora's box, best kept in journals.
Q: Were you worried about people asking you about it after seeing a movie like this? Did you get jokes from people?
EC: I try to circumvent those questions and just steer it away; just deflect it.
Q: I debated, "Do I need this device?"
EC: It inevitably forces one to look at their own life, and that's either a good thing or a bad thing depending on what the person has going on or what they've experienced. The search for love and heartbreak is a fairly university condition and everybody will take away from it something different.
Q: The director, Jac Schaeffer, had a pretty sure-handed control of things. how did you meet or did you know each other?
EC: I had never met her before. I went in, auditioned, and she hired me. Much like everybody else in the film, I felt I had known her for a really long time. We all clicked immediately. We had this second-hand way of communicating with each other from the get-go, which does not happen. I don't think it's ever happened for me [before].
It was a unique experience from start to finish and I can't say enough good things about her. It was her first film and you would never have known. She mastered it like a great captain of any ship, made us all feel incredibly comfortable and confident in her hands, which is huge.
Q: I wasn't sure if that was you wearing a wig or what because I thought you and Michelle [Borth] really looked alike, like sisters. Do you have a genetic link? Did you think you looked like sisters?
EC: No, but I'm flattered if you think I look like her because I think she's flippin' gorgeous. So if I'm remotely similar to her that's really good news for me.
Q: A lot of times I don't think they cast people as effectively to be siblings. What did you do to make you feel like siblings?
EC: Honestly nothing. We just really got along. That's what I mean; from the minute we all were put in the room together we clicked with a natural chemistry. It was just effortless, my relationship with Michelle. It just was instantaneous, like, "Oh you, I know you."
[We had] a relatability that was unplanned and not forced and sold the relationship of siblings effortlessly. We actually don't we look anything alike so just our connection on camera must have made it very believable.
Q: Did the two of you complain about your past relationships? Was there commiserating in any way? Did you find yourselves bonding on that front?
EC: We did. We all met at Jac's house before filming and talked a lot about the script and about love [in terms of] this concept in general. Like what is love, what are soul mates? Just the broader concepts and then it quickly got personal.
Like all the stuff that people go through, you find that everybody has had pain, has had happiness, and everybody is just searching for that perfect complement to their life. That's why the story is so relatable to so many people who have seen it, because it's universal for men and women. Though I think men will be like, "There is this romantic comedy aspect, how am I going to relate to that -- this is a chick flick."
Conversely, women don't necessarily like sci-fi. I, of course, love it, I watch any kind of science fiction, but they might feel like, "Oh it's science fiction and I'm not going to like it."
Somehow it's the perfect marriage, which is poetic given what the film is about. It actually does unite both sexes and they both can get something out of the film. It is not geared towards men, it's not geared towards women, it really is geared towards people, and everybody can walk away from seeing the film asking some questions about their life. It does everything; it's bitter-sweet, sad, and funny. It's all of it.
Q: What did it feel like being the lead, the one who's got to carry the movie? You've done a number of shows where you've been a crucial member of the team, like in Buffy the Vampire Slayer but the whole thing is on your shoulders here. Were you glad to have that opportunity?
EC: I've done it before and there is a little bit of pressure. You have to dig deep and get out of your ego and insecurities, and just do your job. Luckily I was supported by amazing people who made my job much easier.
The fact that people are lovely the film just makes me happy, like good I did my job. Really, at the end of the day, that's all I really want to do, is just sell what I'm doing.
Q: You're the older woman with a younger man here; have you ever found yourself in that circumstance and what do you think of that kind of relationship?
EC: I have been in that circumstance. I think actually I once had the exact age difference in the film. Is that the reason it ended? No. It makes things more difficult, you know what I mean?
There's only a certain amount of relatability that can occur with a certain age difference. Although there are plenty of people out there who make it work, quite famous people actually, who have huge age differences and whatever it is connects them transcends age. It's just not my experience.
Q: After playing a dentist in this movie, did it make you worry about your teeth? Did you think about having your teeth checked? Did you call your dentist to do research?
EC: In all seriousness, it actually did. I avoid dentists but I just went to the dentist and I think it had been four years.
Q: And you've got good teeth.
EC: I'm lucky; I'm genetically blessed with good teeth. Still, they said I have a cavity, and that's what I get for not going to the dentist for four years. Which is sad because the longer you wait then of course, the worse your experience will be each time you go to the dentist and yet I just continue to avoid it. It will probably be another four years before I go again.