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Why Evie From The Invitation Looks So Familiar

If you're fan of 2019's "Ready or Not," decadent vampire movies, folk horror, gothic horror, dinner mystery theater, and films that explore one of the most alternately mystifying and chilling elements of modern society — that is, the super (super) rich — then you'd be remiss not to check out Jessica M. Thompson's upcoming "The Invitation." 

Not to be confused with Karyn Kusama's 2015 film by the same name (per IMDb), Thompson's tale centers around a young woman who, after losing her mother and seeking out a previously unknown cousin, is swept up into a world of wealth, mystery, luxury, and terror. If the trailer is any indication, "The Invitation" promises to return the formerly fearsome and fabulous undead to their former gory, gothic glory, an admirable (if potentially futile) intention in the wake of whatever "The Twilight Saga" did to those same reputations. The film is adorned with palatial estates, extravagant gowns and parties, and crystal goblets filled with freshly drawn blood à la "Interview with the Vampire." 

In addition to all kinds of twisted hedonism, Thompson's film contains more than one familiar face — including that of its initially naive protagonist, Evie.

Hollyoaks launched Nathalie Emmanuel's career

The actor anchoring Thompson's upcoming film, Nathalie Emmanuel, kicked her career off in 2006, with a recurring and high profile role on the long-running British soap opera, "Hollyoaks." The taboo-tackling series debuted in 1995, and as The Guardian reports, was drawing an average high of roughly 4 million viewers per week by 1999, thanks in part to its subject matter. "Hollyoaks" (unlike, say, "90210") didn't candy-coat the real-world issues relevant to its target demographic, and maintains what the outlet calls "an almost pathological desire to confront the darkest sides of our tabloid headlines." 

Emmanuel's character, Sasha Valentine, confronts one of those realities head-on, when she develops an addiction to drugs and suffers a near-fatal heroin overdose at the crux of her evolution from naive ingenue to troubled teen working through a variety of issues. While it's tempting to assume the actor's leap from "Hollyoaks" to Hollywood would make it all too easy to cast her acting roots aside, in an interview with Metro, Emmanuel defended both the genre and her cast mates. "I won't have anyone slag off soap actors," she says, adding, "there's a stigma that [soap] actors aren't very good or they're just hired for their appearance, and that gives you a fire to prove something." The star went on to explain that her time on the series taught her a variety of invaluable industry skills, including how to adjust and adapt — knowledge she'd undoubtedly call upon in her next major project.  

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Nathalie Emmanuel broke out in Game of Thrones

In arguably her most famous role, Nathalie Emmanuel breathed layers of nuance, intelligence, and strength into Missandei of Naath — confidante and translator to one of television's most talked about characters, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), in HBO's "Game of Thrones." As fans will (begrudgingly) recall, Missandei's death and final word are the spark that lights the flame of rage and vengeance in Daenerys, who then slaughters innocent people via literal flame in the firebombing of Dresden-inspired attack on King's Landing (via USA Today). Since viewers don't see the would-be queen and her closest friend interact for several episodes, the former's impulsive actions carry some unfortunate implications about women in power, while the disappointing death of Emmanuel's character came with a controversy — and subsequent conversation about inclusivity and representation — all its own (via Vox).

Missandei's ill-fated finale notwithstanding, the character — whose importance the star discussed with Buzzfeed in 2017 — did more than just put the actor on the map. In 2008, roughly 1.3m viewers were tuning in to watch the actor on "Hollyoaks" (via Broadcast Now). While that's certainly nothing to sneeze at, it pales in comparison to the nearly 5m viewers who witnessed her debut in the Season 3 premiere of "Game of Thrones" (per TV Series Finale), to say nothing of the near 18m fans who mourned Missandei's death in Season 8's "The Last of the Starks" (via TV Insider). But well before she was delivering a departing "dracarys," Emmanuel's break-out on the series was already translating to silver screen success. 

In Furious 7, Nathalie Emmanuel joins the cast as Ramsey

In 2015, the Essex-born Nathalie Emmanuel landed the role of inventor and hacker Megan Ramsey (aka Ramsey) in the "Fast and Furious" franchise, making her debut in James Wan's "Furious 7" and concluding her arc with 2021's "F9: The Fast Saga." The seventh installment of the car racing (chasing, crashing, fighting, flying, and exploding) narrative received favorable reviews from Rolling Stone, Roger Ebert, and Vanity Fair, and though the latter two outlets seemed only too keen to focus Emmanuel's alluring aesthetic, the actor brought something far more important to the self-aware chapter. 

"Furious 7" was inevitably going to be laced with a more somber degree of self-reference than the previous six. After Paul Walker (the film's Brian O'Conner) died in the middle of filming, the writers, VFX team, and Wan worked to ensure the outcome honored both his in-world character and his real-world impact on the franchise. The film does this extraordinarily well, as the reviews note, but though the "Furious 7" plot is somewhat incidental, its tone and tactics needed to be carefully calculated in order to give Brian a send-off that paid tribute to Walker. As Ramsey, an outsider, Emmanuel acts like a proxy for the viewer, at one point defining each of the crew's archetypal position in the group. Without the bridge that is Ramsey, the film's later acknowledgement (of the viewer's acknowledgment) of Walker's death would feel tacked-on and forced; with it, the film is able to engage in a requisite, but not distracting, amount of in-world-out-world juggling. Two years later, the actor returned for "The Fate of the Furious," but not before landing another franchise role. 

Nathalie Emmanuel starred in two consecutive franchises

In 2015 and 2018, Nathalie Emmanuel starred as Harriet in Wes Ball's "Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials" and "Maze Runner: The Death Cure," the second and third installments in the director's adaptation of author James Dashner's YA sci-fi series by the same name (via Goodreads). 

Despite having nearly twice the budget, the follow-ups to the 2014's "The Maze Runner" didn't fare as well as the original from a critical standpoint (via Rotten Tomatoes), nor did they pull-in more money in their respective opening weekends — "The Scorch Trials" and "The Death Cure" made just over 30 million and just over 24 million, while the original pocketed over 32.5 million (via Box Office Mojo). The lukewarm reception of Ball's latter two films had little impact, it seems, on Emmanuel's career. After appearing alongside her "Game of Thrones" co-star Aiden Gillen in the action-packed YA trilogy, she quickly moved on to another sci-fi feature — and another streaming service.  

In the spring of 2018, roughly a year before audiences would bid a bitter farewell to Emmanuel's character on "Game of Thrones," the actor starred alongside Sam Worthington ("Avatar") and Taylor Schilling ("Orange is the New Black") in another sci-fi adaptation.

In The Titan, Emmanuel was subjected to tired sci-fi tropes

Directed by Lennart Ruff, Netflix's "The Titan" more or less takes its cue from Frederik Pohl's 1976 novel, "Man Plus." Though the specifics differ, the basic premise is the same: mankind has made Earth uninhabitable, but instead of altering or installing technology on a new planet to fit our human needs, we decide to alter and experiment on our own human bodies in order to fit the new planet's current composition. (Think: making humans that can breathe underwater, rather than inventing dive gear and oxygen tanks). 

In the film, Nathalie Emmanuel plays Warrant Officer Tally Rutherford, one of two test subjects (San Worthington's Lt. Rick is the other) who survive the strenuous training and experimentation and ultimately transform into the film's archetypal Frankenstein's monsters. Though the film was largely panned by critics (per Rotten Tomatoes) it had more to do with a perceived squandering of premise and over-reliance on tired tropes than anything Emmanuel could have saved. 

In Four Weddings and a Funeral and Holly Slept Over, Emmanuel defied tired romcom tropes

In a 2015 interview with Collider, Nathalie Emmanuel revealed that she'd love to star in a comedy someday. Four years later, she finally got her wish. In Hulu's "Four Weddings and a Funeral" — Mindy Kaling and Matt Warburton's series adaptation of Mike Newell's 1994 Oscar-nominated film by the same name — the actor takes on the lead role of speechwriter Maya (in some ways, the series' version of Hugh Grant's character from the film). 

Speaking with The Guardian's Hannah J Davies prior to the Hulu series' 2019 premiere, the actor shared her excitement over the concept: "[Romantic comedies] have never been particularly welcoming of diversity. So the fact that we had [Nikesh Patel's] Kash and Maya – a British Pakistani Muslim man and an African American woman – at the center of the story is very rare. The fact that it was even on the table was a breath of fresh air." 

The following year, Emmanuel starred in another mold-breaking romcom, Joshua Friedlander's "Holly Slept Over." The actor plays the vivacious (and titular) Holly, the former college roommate and current one-night house guest of Audra (Britt Lower) and her husband Noel (Josh Lawson). Rather than pit the two friends against each other, Friedlander's narrative sees Audra grapple with her own feelings for Holly, with whom she once had a brief relationship. By 2020, Emmanuel had firmly established herself as an actor capable of managing everything from explosive stunts to pitch-perfect punchlines, and in her next two projects, she did both.  

Nathalie Emmanuel starred in consecutive action-comedies

In 2021, Nathalie Emmanuel took home her first Primetime Emmy nomination (per IMDb), for a series that almost died along with its original platform. When The Roku Channel bought Kevin Hart's "Die Hart" from the defunct streamer Quibi, it introduced its massive, built-in fanbase to Hart's previously little-known short form comedy show (via Los Angeles Times). The rescued series stars Hart as a fictionalized version of himself, and it chronicles his efforts to become an action star alongside Emmanuel's Jordan King, a fellow actor-in-action-training at Ron Wilcox's Action Star School — a facility owned, run, and operated by Ron Wilcox, aka John Travolta. 

In keeping with her pattern of "genre- series followed by a genre movie" pattern, Emmanuel then starred in "Army of Thieves" — a self-aware, "Ocean's 11"-esque prequel to Zack Snyder's "Army of the Dead" — directed by Matthias Schweighöfer, who portrays Sebastian Schlencht-Wöhnert in the films. Emmanuel plays Gwendoline Starr, the heist gang's de facto leader and Sebastian's criminal crush.

Emmanuel first burst onto the scene in soaps, struck gold with a major role in arguably the most popular fantasy of all-time, then tried her hand at action, sci-fi, romantic comedy, and comedic action. With "The Invitation," the now decorated star will finally venture into the genre that has both made and broken a litany of careers: horror.