Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story franchise has once again taken TV by storm with Impeachment: American Crime Story. The FX series is a scripted adaptation of the Monica Lewinsky scandal that once again offers insight into how a national scandal affected everyone involved—and some people who weren’t. One of the latter was Allison Tripp, Linda Tripp’s daughter, portrayed by Emma Malouff.
In this interview Emma and I discuss her first recurring role on a television series, the experience of working alongside award-winning star Sarah Paulson, and more from behind the scenes of Impeachment. Get to know her as the season continues Tuesdays on FX, and if you’ve missed any episode so far you can catch up either on demand or on Hulu.
Brittany Frederick: American Crime Story is your first opportunity to play a character over multiple TV episodes. Did you approach the role of Allison any specific way because of that?
Emma Malouff: It was really fun because this was my first time playing a character over several episodes, and the role began to morph. I only was supposed to be in two to three episodes, and then slowly, gradually we began to stay with Allison more and they wrote me into more episodes. And so I had to make sure that I wasn’t getting in my head because with more material, sometimes as actors, we tend to freak out and think, “Oh, my gosh, okay, I have to give more.”
But sometimes there’s so much beauty in just simply letting the lines work for you and be present and feel what I would have thought Allison would have felt in that moment. I did a lot of journaling. I did a lot of research and prep and really just tried to step into the life, and I loved it. Getting to play this character for a longer period of time was just so much fun. Just such a great experience.
BF: You’re in an interesting position because many teenage characters on TV are underwritten or just annoying. How does your portrayal of Allison Tripp avoid those expectations?
EM: In the beginning, you meet Allison and she is just your typical teenager. She’s just trying to live life. She’s irritated with her mom. She wants the car on Sunday, that kind of thing. And then when everything happened and everything blew up, her life changed completely. The Tripp family, their lives changed. So you begin to see the shift in Allison to all of a sudden realizing how human her mom is and how human she herself is as well, and how this scenario is going to change her life. You begin to see her become very concerned with her mom and concerned with her mom’s mental health and well-being as well as her own and her brothers. She takes on this concern, as anyone would, for her family.
BF: Her mother is played by Sarah Paulson, who’s worked with Ryan Murphy on a majority of his shows. How much did working with her help you as a newcomer to his franchise?
EM: She’s brilliant. Every time I got to work with her, it was just a master class. The way that she handles herself on set—she is on top of everything. She is a powerhouse when it comes to this. She knew everything about every detail of the scene. The day that I got to work with both her and Ryan, they were both on top of everything.
I have aspirations of producing, and when it comes to that and directing, you have to be on top of everything in the scene. Not just your character and feeling exactly what you need to be feeling in the moment, but does it make sense with the story? Does this emotion make sense with the story? Does this article of clothing makes sense with where we were three scenes ago? The attention to detail that both [Sarah] and Ryan brought to every moment of every scene was really amazing for me witness.
BF: Ryan Murphy is on the cutting edge of TV with how many shows he’s working on. How valuable was collaborating with him at this nascent stage of your career?
EM: I also got to work with several other amazing directors on the project, but it was very cool to watch Ryan navigate his set. He is who he is, and he’s amazing. He’s just amazing, and just to watch him and work with him was so cool. I mentioned the other day to someone that when he came to set, he started playing Allison and playing Linda. He said, “I like to play my characters. When I’m working on a scene and figuring out their motivation and figuring out how I want to set it up, I like to play them.” It was very cool to watch him take over my character and walk in and play Allison.
BF: Was there another day or a scene from your American Crime Story: Impeachment experience that resonated with you? What would you consider the highlights of filming?
EM: What was really fun for me as the actress playing Allison were the days when we had all of these amazing extras come in and we set the scene up, and you’re just in this slice of life. That was the most fun for me, being able to interact with other people. I got to work one day with the amazing Beanie Feldstein. She just absolutely nailed it. She’s amazing. So sweet, so kind. And also Ryan Nassif, he’s playing Ryan Tripp in this. It just was so fun to be able to work with everyone, and being on a big set with extras, that was my favorite part.
BF: Outside of acting, you also have some charitable work that you’re passionate about. What is it that drives you?
EM: I am very passionate about bringing awareness to human trafficking. I’ve worked closely with The A21 Campaign. They are an amazing campaign that raises money to go rescue young girls and bring them into rehabilitation homes to teach them and to help them grow and learn. It’s really an incredible company that does this.
It’s so important that young women, young children, everyone is educated on the pitfalls of human trafficking because it is such a horrific part, unfortunately, of our society that attention needs to be brought to. If we can begin to educate people on how to recognize it and how to catch it before it happens, it’s very important. And also, bringing attention to these amazing foundations that are actively going out and rescuing young women, children, men from human trafficking. I would love for people to go check out, to donate, to find out how they can get involved and educate themselves and educate others.
Impeachment: American Crime Story airs Tuesdays at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on FX.
Article content is (c)2020-2021 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.