Emma Ishta is the fresh-faced star of Stitchers, the first ever procedural to air on ABC Family. Emma plays Kirsten, a brilliant, yet detached college student who gets recruited into a covert government agency that uses the memories of the recently deceased to help solve crimes. We sat down with the Aussie beauty in our NYC office to discuss her breakout role and what #BUILTBYGIRLS means to her.
C: Who are the "Stitchers?" What's the show about?
EI: "So basically, the Stitchers are a covert government agency and they have this new technology where they can hack into the brains of people who have passed away to insert a living consciousness into that brain and read their memories or the memories that are most clear or most persistent after they've died."
C: Sounds pretty badass! Is that what made you want to play this character?
EI: "Yeah, I mean I love SciFi stuff, I love fantasy stuff, I'm a HUGE Star Wars fan. I can't wait for the new film...But, mainly it's really that Kirsten is such a strong female character and I think there's a lot more opportunity for women to play those roles in TV and film these days. I'm a huge advocate for representations of highly intelligent women in TV and film, so that was really the huge draw."
C: Kirsten is extremely inquisitive, can you relate to that at all?
EI: "I think we're more different than we are alike...I'm definitely a lot more sensitive and highly emotional than she is. She has this condition, temporal dysplasia, which means she doesn't connect with her emotions at all. So I think, in those regards, we're more dissimilar. But I'm definitely ambitious, I think she's ambitious as well. And, I don't think that's a bad thing for girls. I can be a little bossy...again I don't think that's always a bad thing! You know? Be yourself! So, yeah, I think I am inquisitive, I am curious, I'm probably a little more intuitive than calculating. Kirsten is very calculating, and that's where her inquisitiveness comes from, this sort of like, figuring out the puzzle all the time in her brain as opposed to how I tend to run off of my emotions."
C: Your character is also very crafty with a computer. Cambio has a partnership with an organization called Girls Who Code that's based upon encouraging girls to become the future of the tech industry, has playing the character sparked any interest for you in computer science or coding?
EI: "I really don't know enough about it and I am very interested in leaning more...Diversity is so important. I feel like at the moment it's very much a white male-dominated field, and there needs to be more ethnicities and women. I would love to take a coding course so that I have more knowledge about what it is that I'm actually portraying!"
C: So would you say you're more of a creative type than a math geek?
EI: "I would say so, yeah. I'm more of a creative type. I was good at math, though. I was a musician and I think math and music are often linked. Usually people who are good at music are good at math."
C: What kind of music did you do?
EI: "I played violin for 15 years and I played piano and I sang, I actually studied for a little while at the Queensland Conservatorium in Jazz Voice. So, I did music my whole life!"
C: Wow, that's amazing! So do you think you would want to pursue music professionally at some point?
EI: "You know, I've just gotten into acting, so I'm really happy where I am. But, at the same time, music has always been a huge passion of mine, so I would never close the door. Ever. But, the music industry has changed a lot and the only way for musicians to have a career is to tour. When I met my husband and my step-daughter, I realized that's not the life I want. I don't want to be around that type of party scene. But, I love music so if I were ever able to do it, I would leap at the opportunity!"C: Cambio is a site that is for girls and built by girls. #BUILTBYGIRLS is a movement that empowers young women to believe they can be anything they want to be and build anything they want to build. How does that resonate with you on a more personal level? Have you ever felt discriminated against in your career for being a woman?
EI: "There's not a lot of equality for women in the entertainment industry. You know, if you look at how many female directors there are versus men, I think that that really speaks to the level of opportunity. There's only so much you can say is based on skill, when really there's just not enough women given the opportunity to do what men do...I was told from a very young age that I could do whatever I wanted if I put my mind to it and worked hard enough. That has lived inside of me because I was told that repeatedly, from when I was young enough to be able to hear it. And I think that there's a lot of people who haven't been told that their whole lives...I really want to be able to give that self-belief to the next generation of girls, because you can do whatever you want, you're smart enough to do whatever you want if you work hard enough, there's nothing to stop you. It's all about how many times you get up after you fail, you know?"
C: To close, What advice would you give to your step-daughter, or any young girl out there who is trying to make something of herself?
EI: "Every day I tell her, you are smart enough and you can do anything that you put your mind to as long as you work hard at it! Whatever you want to do, you can do, but you have to work at it. Practice, keep going, keep failing, keep trying!"
Girl Crush: Charlize Theron
Favorite Song of the Moment: "From Eden" by Hozier
Favorite Reality Show: Hoarders...if that counts.
Favorite ice cream Flavor: Coconut!
Nicknames: Em, Emmy
Stitchers also stars Kyle Harris and premieres Tuesday, June 2nd at 9 PM EST on ABC Family.