Soap Opera Digest: We’ve got six years to catch up on! Where did life take you after Y&R?
Emily O’Brien: After I left the show, I felt this real sense of freedom and decided it was time to figure myself out. So, I packed my bags and went back to my roots, which are in London. I enrolled in the Guildhall School of Drama to study Shakespeare. After that, I traveled to Africa and all over Europe and I fell into writing. I wrote a short film, Beatrice, which won Best Short Film in 2012 at the Big Island Film Festival. Writing started out as a cathartic thing for me and it turned into something more. Now, I’m partnering up with Taryn Nagle, who is a producer at Big Picture Company and I’m going to start writing 10-minute short episodes that are pitched to platforms like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon.
Digest: Are you still acting?
O’Brien: Oh, yes. I went to Thailand to do a movie called Pernicious, then I went to New York and shot a movie called The Cloud, which was quite literally done in the middle of Hurricane Sandy. That was a tumultuous but amazing experience. And now, I’m really focused on voice-over work. That’s an avenue that opened up for me and it’s crazy.
Digest: How did that happen?
O’Brien: I had done something in 2007 called The Emily Project when I was still on Y&R. It was a revolutionary process [for creating a digital character who approximates a human]. Now they have equipment for it that they ended up using for video games and movies like Avatar and [The Curious Case of] Benjamin Button, and I was the first actor they ever used it on. This [was for] a company called Image Metrics and it went on to really expand. So, I continued to work with them, which opened up an enormous trajectory of video games and voice-overs. That’s how that all started and now it’s been my main source of work.
Digest: Have you voiced any characters our readers might know?
O’Brien: I’ve got a contract with Marvel and I’m the voice for Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy and they’ve hired me again to play a new character in a Telltale’s Batman game. Once you do one, you kind of find your niche.
Digest: What do you enjoy about voice-over work?
O’Brien: It’s just you in a room with the engineer and the microphone and the director Skypes in. I don’t even collaborate with the other actors. But you can go in there and look however you wish. I’m not saying I go in looking horrendous but you do have that liberty! It’s a new way to showcase yourself as an actor because you’re completely reliant on your voice. It’s great. I love it.
Digest: What is your current relationship status?
O’Brien: I do have someone important in my life. His name is Ken and he’s an amazing portrait artist.
Digest: Are you thinking about marriage
O’Brien: I’m not quite ready. There’s still a long list of things I want to do, so that’s something that’s on hold for me.
Digest: Are you in contact with any of
your former Y&R co-stars?
O’Brien: I’m in touch with Tracey Bregman [Lauren]. We recently met for coffee and I had a great time catching up with her. She’s as beautiful and lovely as always. I heard Greg [Rikaart, Kevin] got married and has a son. I’m so happy for him and Rob [Sudduth, his husband].
Digest: Do you ever get recognized as Jana?
O’Brien: It’s funny that you ask that because I haven’t been recognized for a very long time, and when I was in New York last week, two people recognized me as Jana! It really surprised me.
Digest: Have you missed being on soaps?
O’Brien: I have. I was asked to audition for another soap not too long ago. I’m half-Persian and I speak Farsi, and a role popped up on GENERAL HOSPITAL, but they really wanted someone with blue eyes. The girl who got it [Ivy Natalia, ex-Samira] has beautiful blue eyes and she’s gorgeous. They did say they really liked me and want to bring me back for another role, so we’ll see if that happens.
Digest: Would you consider a return to Y&R?
O’Brien: I’d love to come back and play Jana! She was one of my favorites and I miss her. I ran into [former Head Writer/Executive Producer] Maria Bell after I left, and she wanted to either bring me back as Jana’s sister Hanna or that Jana was never dead but at the time, I thought it was a closed door and I didn’t want to look back. I had already made my plans to travel to England but I sometimes wonder what would’ve happened if I had stayed. I think now it would be really interesting, but I made the right decision. I was only 20 when I started on that show and I was on for five years. Going away allowed me to become who I am today, so I have no regrets.