Emma Ishta and Kyle Harris star as Kirsten Clark and Cameron Goodkin on the new ABC Family show Stitchers, premiering at 9/8c on Tuesday, June 2. You might recognize Kyle from his guest roles on The Carrie Diaries and Beauty and the Beast, or from his work in theater. If Emma looks familiar, you may have caught her appearances on Black Box and Manhattan Love Story or seen some of her modeling work. We chatted with Emma and Kyle about booking their first lead roles and what to expect from Stitchers.
Pop City Life: What can we expect to see from your characters over the course of the season?
Emma Ishta: Kirsten is a computer science grad student and she gets recruited by this covert government agency to hack into the brains of deceased people. She has this condition called temporal dysplasia that affects her in two different ways. The first way is it affects her ability to comprehend the passage of time, so every moment to her feels as if it’s always been there, like she’s constantly experiencing déjà vu. And it also affects her ability to emotionally connect with herself with her own emotions and also with the emotions of other people. So throughout the season you see her become a part of this crazy program and how that affects her as a human being throughout the course of all the adventures they go on.
Kyle Harris: Cameron is the head of this Stitchers program that Kirsten is the subject in and you start to see his process. As soon as he meets Kirsten, his world is flipped upside down because now he’s got this beautiful girl inside of his lab that he has to navigate his emotions for, but at the same time feel responsible entirely for because, as you learn throughout the season, there are some things that went wrong in the past in this Stitchers programming and he vows to never have it happen again. So he’s just contemplating his emotions with Kirsten: Are they romantic feelings or are they actually just overbearing parental feelings in a way because he’s got such a responsibility to protect her at all costs? You start to see him grow as more of a hero and a guy as she pulls him out to the street and basically takes the crime fighting into their own hands and that’s sort of different.
Emma Ishta: They really challenge each other and change each other and draw things out of each other that weren’t there before they met, and interestingly give each other little parts of their own personality.
Pop City Life: What are your favorite and least favorite things about your characters?
Kyle: I feel like my least favorite thing about Cameron is that he’s a control freak and I catch myself doing the scenes thinking “I’m so annoying, just calm down.” I personally am very chill and relaxed and go with the flow and whatever happens happens, and that is not his motto at all. He’s like “No, no, everything does not happen for a reason. It happens because I planned it that way and that’s why it happened.” So there’s lots of times when I think, “Oh, man, I don’t know if I’d be friends with this guy.” [laughs] I apologize to my cast mates for being so anal retentive sometimes – that’s Cameron. But my favorite thing is playing opposite Emma. … She’s a great person and she makes it easy to come to work with. I think it’s been a really cool journey and I can’t wait to see what happens.
Emma: Absolutely ditto. Least favorite is hard to say because I think when you’re playing your character, you have to embrace and love everything about them, even the negative things. There are definitely things about Kirsten that are abrasive. I think something that I dislike about her as a human being or maybe what I wouldn’t want in my life … is she can be a little condescending, a little demeaning sometimes. I don’t know if I would necessarily choose her to be friends with. I give Cameron a lot of credit for choosing to duke it out with her. I also think that’s part of what makes her, and makes her unique. My favorite thing about her is how smart she is, how unashamed she is to be herself. I really love that.
Also revealed on the conference call…
What was it that attracted you to your part and made you want to do it?
Kyle: I think [for] me personally it was just that you’ve got the super smart guy who’s been sheltered in a lab or a science textbook his whole life, but whenever he’s got his banter with Kirsten there’s an attraction and there’s a charm. And yet there’s a one-up battle that happens throughout the entire season between the two of them and the comedy mixed in with this whole procedural science sci-fi jargon that I was most drawn to.
Emma: The main thing for me is this strong female character; I’m a huge advocate for representations of intelligent and charmed women in TV as I think we all should be. And to that, the opportunity to play Kirsten: This incredibly complex but strong, intelligent female character was really appealing to me and I also love sci-fi. I love fantasy. I love Star Wars; I love Lord of the Rings; anything that has that element in the procedural format, which I think is great for TV. It was definitely appealing.
What is the most unusual thing that you each had to do on the show?
Emma: I thought of a good one, but I’m not at liberty to say [laughs].
Kyle: The everyday technical jargon that we have to spit out and believe as truth because the technology doesn’t actually exist, so you flip through the script and you’re wondering “What crazy word are we going to come up with this week?”
Emma: Something that’s been unusual for me throughout this entire process is CGI, especially the stitch stuff that I do. We’ve done a lot of green screen work and we’ve done a lot of imagining … stuff that’s happening when it’s special effects. So that’s been interesting because you’re basically in your own world and you don’t have a lot to react off of – you’re creating or pretending that all of this stuff is going on around you, all of this crazy stuff, having things fly at your head and it’s not really happening. So that’s been really unusual and interesting and I think it’s a really cool part of the show. Also the tank. Let me just throw that out there. I do spend a lot of time in the tank.
Kyle: Yes, like a six-hour day in the water.
Emma: A number of hours at a time. It’s kind of unusual. You get pruney like you’ve never seen a prune before, but it’s good. They take good care of me in there [laughs].
Is the technical jargon challenging for you guys to remember?
Kyle: Yes. You look at it and you’re thinking, “Oh, this is the procedural aspect of the show” when you’re just sitting there spitting out information that it’s just all plot and all back story about what happened in the crime and what happens in the lab and where do we go from here. And that’s the hard part of the job. I’m on a procedural show and we’ve got to give information, where the audience might just want to get to the chase.
Emma:We have a lot of banter and a lot of back and forth and the dialog is very fast, so it’s sort of difficult learning the jargon that we have. But once you find a way to make it all make sense to you, as long as you understand what you’re saying, then it becomes a lot easier.
Kyle: We’ve got to come across as confident in what we’re saying like this is our everyday lives, and meanwhile in our heads we’re wondering what this even means. I don’t know, but I’m going to say it with conviction.
What’s the most challenging part about playing your character so far?
Emma: I think for me it’s tracking Kirsten’s emotional evolution as she goes through the season. Every time she’s stitched into somebody else’s memories, she feels what they felt and it reconnects pathways in her brain so that she’s able to reconnect with her own emotions, and that affects a person. Imagine spending 23 years of your life or since she was eight years old not really feeling anything, not really connecting. Now all of a sudden you have these really strong emotions pouring at you. So I think the hardest thing for me has been tracking her journey as she evolves into an emotional being.
Kyle: Cameron’s relationship with Kirsten and knowing that ultimately she is slowly learning about herself and feelings and what it means to have sympathy and whatnot, but yet he’s still enamored by her and finding himself falling in love with her. But he knows at the end of the day there’s no hope because she doesn’t really know herself yet, so why is he contemplating his feelings for this person that doesn’t really even really know the idea or the emotion of love? So it’s a constant battle of “Why do I even waste my time with this … yet I need to because it’s my life’s work at this point,” so juggling that.
Is there anything else you guys found to be a challenge?
Kyle: The schedule. You have these long days and you come home and you’ve got to memorize information for the next episode. It’s an amazing job, and it’s a great job. You definitely have to put the work in because it’s not easy dialog to memorize with it being a sci-fi procedural aspect of a show.
Emma: You really have to have your head in the game. We spend a lot of time learning lines together between scenes, learning lines for the next day or running lines.
Kyle: Trying to find the tone of the show, just like any show, it’s just finding your legs and if they’re jokes and they’re serious moments and it’s “How do we play this? How do we want to play it?” No one really knew because we hadn’t had an audience reaction, but we were just trusting our instincts and going off of our showrunner and whatever ends up.
Emma: It’s just one of those shows that has a bit of everything. It has humor and it has drama, so definitely finding its voice and finding what all of the characters’ voices are together and what Stitchers is going to be to people. It takes a while for it to get into sync; that was interesting as well.
If you could stitch back in your life, which memory would you go to?
Emma: I’ve been asked this question before and I’m going to say the same answer I said then. I’m going to say my wedding day. It was full of joy and laughter and love and there was rain. And people were dancing barefoot in the rain and mud everywhere and it was so unifying and wonderful and if I could experience that again, I would in a heartbeat.
Kyle: I think for me it’s probably getting the phone call that I got this job because there’s that actor who didn’t really think this would necessarily be a possibility, but he was going to try anyways. So many times you come home from a long, hectic day on set or whatever and you want to complain about it … but you’re like “A million people would kill to have your hectic day, so remember that this is a blessing that we get to do what we get to do.” I’m very thankful for that. But to go back and look at that excitement and that enthusiasm of me getting that phone call to keep driving forward as hopefully the show progresses and continues for seasons to come. I haven’t had a wedding, so I really couldn’t say much [laughs].
Was there anyone or another character from something else that you were inspired by for your characters in this show, or did you just take everything straight from the script?
Emma: I definitely pulled from a lot of different resources and thought a lot about different people who have similar character traits to Kirsten in trying to pull and create her character. There are a couple of examples. I would say Gillian Anderson in The Fall, which is a BBC show and it’s available on Netflix. She did such a fantastic job with this woman who is incredibly complex, has this incredibly complex inner life, but doesn’t give too much all of the time and I definitely was inspired by her performance. I think she’s incredible in that show, and obviously she starred on X-Files, sci-fi, it’s great. I also really love Robin Wright in House of Cards and even though I don’t know that the characters are super similar in terms of the choices she makes and how deliberate her character is, I definitely was inspired by that as well.
Kyle: I’d say this in a nutshell – Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch. I just sit and watch Sherlock and Watson’s traits that they both have that are both Cameron in a way. Sherlock is this headstrong guy; he knows what’s going on, and he’s got this passion. He knows what’s happening. And then you have Watson, who’s the side of Cameron that when he leaves the lab and he’s following Kirsten in this way and they’re wondering “What are we doing? We shouldn’t be here” – the crazy neurotic side. I watch that show and take both of their traits as characters and wrap it into one as Cameron and that was helpful for me to watch and say “OK, I like the way these guys think.” That’s the intelligent level that Cameron and the rest of the Stitchers crew is at – being prodigy geniuses that are always one step ahead of everyone else.
What’s it like to be a part of the ABC Family big family?
Emma: Our first experience meeting everyone was at the ABC Family upfront, which was about a month ago now, and everyone else in all of the casts were so welcoming and so friendly. They saw us standing awkwardly there like the newbies and they really came over and were very kind. Everyone who works at ABC Family has also been very kind and really supportive and very communicative and it’s just been a wonderful experience.
Kyle: I think its great! It’s definitely a cool group of people that regardless of the network we work on, I would choose to be friends with them outside. It’s cool that we’re all in this family, if you will, together and I think we’re all standing for a good thing.
Tune in to ABC Family for the Stitchers series premiere at 9/8c on Tuesday, June 2.