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E'myri Crutchfield Discusses Her Role In Fargo, Working With Chris Rock, And More - Exclusive Interview

With the season 4 premiere of Fargo, E'myri Crutchfield crash-landed on the Hollywood star map playing precocious 16-year-old Ethelrida Pearl Smutny, who serves as a series narrator of sorts. While it certainly isn't her first role, it's definitely her most memorable so far.

The 20-year-old Crutchfield began her acting career when she was just 12, landing her first speaking role in the 2015 reboot of Vacation. Since then she has starred on the short-lived Amazon original teen comedy The Kicks and on the 2016 remake of the TV miniseries Roots, and had one-off parts on True Detective and Amazing Stories.

But Crutchfield's Fargo role has really upped the ante, as she stars alongside such veteran actors as Chris Rock, Jason Schwartzman, and Timothy Olyphant in an epic tale of rival crime bosses in 1950s Kansas City, Missouri, that's loosely based on the 1996 movie of the same name.

In an exclusive interview with Looper, Crutchfield discussed why Ethelrida is such an important character to both her and the series, what it was really like working with such a high-profile cast, and where she hopes her career goes from here.

E'myri Crutchfield enjoyed stepping back in time to film Fargo

Your Fargo character is kind of the glue that holds season 4 together. What drew you to the role of Ethelrida?

What really drew me to her was how complex her role was. You know, I'm young, I'm 20, and so I get a lot of younger roles more than older roles. So a lot of the younger roles are comedy or lighthearted, nothing too serious, simple things. So just coming across a young role that was as complex as Ethelrida and as challenging as her, I was like, "Oh my gosh, this is me. This is what I live for. These are the type of auditions I pray for." So I was really ready to just get as creative as I can with her.

Did you do much research on the times, the 1950s?

I didn't go too much. When I initially auditioned for Fargo, I just watched a few clips on YouTube to get the tone of the show. I didn't go into deep research then. It was once I got the call back that I really did as much as I could to make sure I represent the character as she should be represented.

What was it like to step back in time like that? The set, the costumes, was that fun?

It was. For some reason, I'm on a roll with these period pieces, so it wasn't new for me. It brought me back to my Roots days. But, yeah, it was definitely fun. Just the bras, how the clothes flowed, it was nice.

Being a role model is important to E'myri Crutchfield

This season's storyline includes a lot about the Black experience and seems really timely in light of what's going on across the country in the past few months and years. Why is telling that story through Ethelrida's eyes important to you?

Telling that story through Ethelrida's eyes is very important to me because I'm a young Black woman. I haven't had to endure as much as Ethelrida has, but there are still a lot of similarities. And I have Black younger siblings, so to be able to tell a story like Ethelrida while in a way still living it, it means a lot to be put on a platform where I can be vocal about something as serious as those issues and to be heard and to be seen by people who look like me and people who can relate and see that there are no obstacles too hard to get what you need to get done.

Is it important to have people look up to you? To be a role model for other people that look like you?

Yes, definitely. I have so many younger and older siblings. I have so many cousins. I have a humongous family, and I think it is my duty to be that representation for my younger brothers, my younger sisters, my younger cousins, and everyone who falls under that. My nieces, my nephews, I don't want to do wrong by them at all.

Speaking of looking up to someone... is there someone in Hollywood you really look up to? Someone whose career trajectory you want to emulate?

Oh my god, yes — and I've been in the same room with her, actually: Viola Davis. It was a little scary. I didn't go up to her. I don't like to bother people. I didn't want to be this little... I don't know, I just didn't want to bother her. And even if I weren't bothering her, I'd feel like I was bothering her. So I didn't go up to her. But I was across the room from her, and I was staring at her the whole time. I was giving her hearts across the room with kisses.

Why do you look up to her?

Her acting is outstanding. Like on How to Get Away with Murder, when she took off her wig and wiped off all of her makeup and you just saw the real her — that meant a lot to me. It meant so much to see outside of the makeup and outside of the wig. You see her, her roots, and her beautiful skin. That would be something hard for me to go onscreen and do. So for her to do that, it meant a lot. It gave me a lot of confidence.

E'myri Crutchfield had to remind herself that Chris Rock is just a regular guy

What was it like working with such a big name cast in Fargo: Chris Rock, Jason Schwartzman, and Timothy Olyphant?

Amazing. I can say good things about everyone. They were all delightful to work with. But, I mean, I have to remind myself that they're all just people, just like me. And they did remind me of that when we were on set, because they act like regular people. I mean, you think, like, "What is a celebrity supposed to act like?" And then you get around them, and they're just as normal as you.

I learned a lot of things from just being around the set. Just observing them and how they get into character, how they work, and even watching them when they're not working. Everyone really put everything on the table and did such an awesome and amazing job of collaborating with each other and feeding off of each other and making the most out of this season of Fargo.

Did any of them give you any advice or anything that you took away with you that will help you in your career?

I wouldn't say any direct advice. But just being around set you hear people's conversations, even if you're not trying to. But the biggest thing I took away was from talking to Jessie Buckley [who plays nutty nurse Oraetta Mayflower]. She told me to just travel, live my life, experience the world — which does affect your acting, because you need to have experiences to play these different characters. You can't live in a bubble and then expect to tap into all these different characters.

It's kind of a different role for Chris Rock, more serious than what we're used to. Did he keep things light behind the scenes or was he always kind of in character?

For the most part, everyone would turn it on and off, but when we weren't filming, yeah, he's funny. He's just an all-around funny person. He definitely knows how to make you bust out laughing, even if you didn't want to. He's very nice and sweet. He was really nice to hang around.

E'myri Crutchfield aspires to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame one day

Are you ready for how your life might change with such a high-profile role?

Honestly, I'm still in disbelief. It hasn't hit me yet. I can't believe everything that's going on. Even though I filmed for, I would say, eight months all together, it's still so shocking — I'm excited, I'm anxious, I'm everything. Every word you can think of, I am that.

When this season of the series first premiered, did you have a little premiere party with your family or anything like that?

Of course. I have such a huge family, and they're so supportive. It really took a village to get me where I'm at in my career. I've been doing this professionally since I was 12. And my entire family has a huge part in me acting. People helping me, us, or when my mom needed someone to watch my little brother if my mom's working and I need to fly somewhere to act.

In 2015, you got your start in Hollywood in the remake of Vacation. What have you learned about acting or Hollywood since then?

I've learned to stay true to myself. Of course, as a person you want to evolve and grow. That's the whole point of life. But even with me evolving and growing as a person, I'm still the same as I was when I started. And I'm going to be the same person throughout this journey, just more mature version of myself. But I think the biggest thing is just to stay true to myself, and my big, humongous family is going to keep me humble. They're going to keep reminding me of who I am and where I come from.

You've moved very quickly up the ranks of Hollywood in just five years. Where do you hope to be in another five years?

I hope to just I can keep making big strides in my career. Of course, I would love to have a star [on the Hollywood Walk of Fame], whenever that comes. But I would just like to keep doing quality work that people can relate to and people can enjoy.