Taking the Lead
Emily Somers ’08 had a busy summer. Her recurring part on the HBO show “Westworld” began airing when she started filming a new project: “Into the Valley.”
Based on a novel by Ruth Galm, “Into the Valley” made an impression on Somers from the beginning.
“I saw a book review of Into the Valley, read it and loved it,” Somers said. “I wasn’t getting the kinds of auditions I was excited about at that time. There weren’t a lot of three-dimensional female roles. But [the lead character] is that. That’s what really attracted me.”
She reached out to the author, ultimately optioning the rights to the story with the plan to make it into a movie. She wrote the screenplay for both a full-length feature and a short film. This summer, the cast and crew shot the short version — with Somers in the lead role — with the intention of entering it into film festivals and getting the financial backing to make the full-length film.
A triple threat
Somers’ path to acting started when she was young and included undergraduate years at UC Davis, where she double majored in dramatic art and American studies.
Growing up in the Bay Area, she started in ballet, but developed a love for acting at an early age. She went to theater camp and took acting all over the region, eventually auditioning for school and local plays.
Musical theater, she said, provided a transition point to other kinds of work.
“I think that was the bridge — musicals and then plays,” she said. “I realized I could leave the singing and dancing behind.”
When the time came for college, she began looking at conservatories and liberal arts programs.
“I knew I wanted to be an actress since I was a kid, but I wanted to learn about other things as well,” she said.
She chose UC Davis with the intention of studying dramatic art and taking other classes as well. She graduated with highest honors in American studies.
“I loved American studies. I think it ties into acting, because it’s studying different cultures and people and why we do the things we do.”
Pursuing acting and more
After graduation, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting. Over the years, she has also worked for a film director, and as a story analyst for production companies and agencies.
With experience reading and evaluating scripts, she said she was ready for her own project with “Into the Valley.”
“Into the Valley” centers around “B,” a woman in her thirties, who suffers from anxiety and dissatisfaction with her life in 1967 San Francisco. She takes on a false identity and starts to cash counterfeit checks in the Sacramento Valley. A hitchhiking teenager threatens B’s course.
“She is truly a female antihero,” Somers said. “She doesn’t make good choices; she’s got human flaws. That drew me [to the role] as well.”
Somers and her all-female team raised more than $40,000 for production of “Into the Valley.” They plan to finish the short film next month.
Meantime, Somers appeared in a recurring role on the fourth season of HBO’s “Westworld.” Season five has not yet been greenlit, but Somers said her character could potentially return.
“I know I walked off alive, and I was initially walking off dead,” she said. “I didn’t make it out in the first cut, and then in the final thing that aired, I lived.”
She also filmed a new Apple TV+ show, details of which are still top secret. The limited series based on a novel was produced by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine and filmed in San Francisco.
“It’s a drama, but the character is a lot lighter and more fun to play in a different way,” she hinted.