Emer Kenny On Playing The Woman Who (Almost) Called The Shots
And why The Curse’s Natasha – a behind-the-scenes puppet master in a high-stakes robbery – was her “dream role.”
Actor and writer Emer Kenny was scrolling through her timeline in early December last year when a tweet from @evilbag caught her eye. “As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be the only woman in an all-male heist crew” the movie meme account wrote. Kenny smiled. Just a few weeks earlier she had wrapped on The Curse, a Channel 4 caper comedy where she plays Natasha – the only woman in an all-male heist crew.
Well, “heist crew” may be a bit of a stretch. While a few of the men in Natasha’s life definitely fancy themselves as big-time gangsters, she’s the only one with enough brainpower and ruthlessness to actually pull off the gold robbery they found themselves in the middle of. Her husband Albert (played by People Just Do Nothing star Allan Mustafa, who also co-wrote the show) is well-meaning but weedy and his friends – Big Mick (Tom Davis), Sidney (Steve Stamp) and Phil 'The Captain' Pocket (Hugo Chegwin) – are equally useless.
“It was a dream role to get,” Kenny tells me. “Natasha’s just cool. And gangster. And badass. She’s the real mastermind behind the whole operation, she has all those boys wrapped around her little finger. The only thing that’s holding her back [from leading the robbery herself] is the fact that she’s a woman.” (The Curse is set in London’s East End in 1982, a time when female empowerment was sadly yet to penetrate the realms of organised crime.)
Cool and gangster and badass appear to be a prerequisite for all of Kenny’s on-screen roles, including Bunty Windermere in Father Brown, who, despite the 1950s setting, is known for being outspoken and flirty. Then there’s Zsa Zsa Carter, who every Eastenders fan will remember as Albert Square’s answer to Avril Lavigne.
But these decisions were totally intentional, Kenny explains. The Coming Down The Mountain star says she’s always on the look out for roles that portray women in all their complexity. The same goes for her writing. After spending years auditioning for one-dimensional, bikini-clad characters, Kenny began penning the women she wanted to see. Since then, she’s worked on BBC Two’s Harlots (a show famously written from “the whore’s eye view”) and right now she’s putting the finishing touches on her own female detective show. Karen Pirie (an adaptation of Val McDermid’s The Distant Echo) is already creating buzz and is set for release on ITV in the next few months.
Learn more about Kenny ahead of The Curse’s February 6 premiere in her Bustle Booth below.
In the Bustle Booth
What's your coffee order?
My coffee order is completely erratic. Some days it’s an oat flat white, some days it’s an enormous latte, some days it’s so much black coffee I have heart palpitations and can hear myself blink.
What are the saved weather locations on your phone?
London, LA and Miami. I like to dream.
What’s your sign?
Libra, duh. I can’t decide on my coffee order and am extremely elegant.
Favourite overused movie quote?
I’d love to say something from Chinatown or Casablanca but truthfully it’s got to be “Get in loser, we’re going shopping” or “Boo, you whore.”
What was your favourite cartoon as a kid?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I fancied Donatello.
What’s one movie or TV show you're currently obsessed with?
Just one? Dopesick. And American Crime Story: Impeachment. Sorry, I’m a Libra.
Who is your celeb idol?
So many. Greta Gerwig. Issa Rae. Sarah Paulson. Beyoncé.
If you had to be on a reality TV show, what would it be?
I’d like to be eating salad from a box in Kris Jenner’s kitchen with my big-butted sisters.
Go-to karaoke song?
“That Don’t Impress Me Much” by Shania Twain. Or anything by Dolly Parton. Someone told me in an audition once that I have a country and western voice, so I’m staying in my lane.
What’s something that’s inspiring you lately?
The amount of great actresses that are writing, directing and producing their own stuff – Margot Robbie, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michaela Coel. They make me very excited to make work.
What is something you would want people to say about you?
I googled the word “powerhouse” the other day and it said “a source of original ideas and solutions.” I’d like to be a powerhouse please.
The Curse begins on Feb. 6, 2022, at 10 p.m. on Channel 4.