We may not like to call it a “breakout role,” but that’s exactly what Ana Phoenix is for the delightful Emma Milani.
She’s an actress who just so happens to sing, but boy, does she sing well, and she’s giving the Roman family on Monarch a run for its money.
We had the pleasure of catching up with Emma Milani to discuss working with Country legends, the kissing cousins scandal, and much more. Check it out below!
What attracted you to this role? What was the auditioning process like for you?
The auditioning process was essentially sending in a self-tape. It was an open call, and I just sent in a tape, and I got an email that they wanted to meet with me over Zoom. I never met Melissa, Michael, or anybody in person before moving to Georgia, but I got on Zoom with them, and then I got the call, which was pretty awesome.
People always ask me, what drew me to the project, and I always say nothing drew me to the project, what wouldn’t draw me to it. I was just really grateful to be a part of it.
Have you always been into both acting and singing? How did you get into both?
Yeah! I decided that I wanted to be an actress around the age of nine.
My parents aren’t involved in the industry at all, so they just started from ground zero and brought me to random acting classes, anything they could find online. I grew up in Rhodono Beach, so my mom would pick me up from school and drive me about an hour during traffic over to acting classes in Hollywood and go from there.
In what ways do you feel like you relate to Ana?
I was just saying this. I relate to her in every single way. Our stories are almost identical.
My parents aren’t involved in it at all. So I started with no idea what to do and where to start. And that’s exactly how she is. She’s from Albuquerque, and she’s got a single mom, and she’s like, “hey, mom, I want to be a country singer. Let’s do this.”
And from there on out, her mom is totally devoted to making this dream happen for her and bringing her everywhere she needs to be and wants to be to do that and pushing her when she’s feeling well and feeling like she can’t, feeling rejected and feeling unsure of her future, I get that.
That’s me. That’s what I live. So being part of this project was a huge shift in my life. It changed everything, and it assured me that I could do this. So it’s totally the same story. It was effortless for me to draw from those feelings.
That’s amazing. I was going to ask you a little bit about that. I hate the term “breakout role” because you’ve been doing other stuff, but this is the most familiar one to people. What would that have been like for you? The response? How has that been for you?
Yeah, no, I totally know what you mean about hating the word breakout role, but it is that. It’s the first big thing I’ve been a part of, and it’s been nuts.
I remember when I got the call that I booked it, and I was at a cafe in Frog Town shooting a short series with a director friend of mine, Jonathan. And I got the call and go into freak out mode, bursting into tears. My parents got on the phone with my manager and were like, “What do you mean you’re moving to Atlanta in two weeks?”
It’s been a whirlwind, for sure. I couldn’t focus the rest of the day, and I was supposed to be shooting something. My friend was like, just focus, get it together. I’m really happy for you, but this is what’s happening right now, so keep your head in the game. But it’s been amazing. It’s just every day I’m like, oh, wow; this really happened.
Monarch Season 1 Episode 9 was a pretty big one for you. So can you talk about Ana’s reaction to the news that she’s a Roman, and will she ever forgive her mother for keeping that from her?
Yeah, it was a huge episode for me, and I think she will forgive Catt for that, not leave everything out in the open and end it there. But you see towards the end of the episode that Ace brings Ana home, and she’s happy to see her, and she’s glad to be back home with Catt.
Catt raised her alone, and that’s all she’s ever had. So, of course, she’s going to forgive her and understand that although it was very strange conduct, of course, she’s going to think that’s my mother and I’m here and at least now I know and this isn’t insane, and you betrayed me, and I’m pissed, but let’s figure this out. What does this mean? If we get a season two, we’ll see more of that.
Now, will we see her embrace the Roman name moving forward? Because she still felt a little more hesitant.
That one’s a tough one because of her romance with Ace. I don’t know if we’ll see Ana embrace the Roman name so easily because of Ana’s feelings and the family wanting to keep things covered up.
And let’s talk about Ana and Ace. It’s a sweet little romance, of course, but technically, you guys are cousins, so how does that relationship evolve moving forward? What was your reaction to that twist?
That was a big twist. I thought it was absolutely hilarious.
We had dinner on one of the first nights we got to Atlanta. Melissa and Michael Rouch and everybody brought us all together, and we all had a big dinner, and Melissa was like, “do you guys want to know everything?” And we were like, “of course, we do. Tell us everything.”
So she told us, and Inigo and I sat next to each other at dinner, just like, oh, great.
But in terms of the character Ana, I don’t think she cares because that’s what it’s like when you’re a teenager and in love. You don’t care about any of the crazy circumstances you’re in or anything that can stop you from being together. She wants to be with him, and I think he might be a little more aware of that. More hesitant.
Yeah, I picked up on that.
Yeah, totally. Just because he knows how his family rolls, I think he’s more aware that this is going to be complicated.
You’ve spent a lot of time with Catt and Ace. But that Ana and Albie duet was such a treat. What was it like singing with a country legend like Trace Atkins?
I was saying that was definitely my favorite song performance that I did on the show.
Trace is just this cool rock and roll country legend, and singing with him was awesome. He brings a little bit of a sprinkle of gold to everything he does. That was the most authentic country song I did on the show, and I thought it was awesome. And I liked the way it turned out. It was great. It was one of my favorite performances of yours.
Thank you. Yeah. I hope I get to do more stuff like that, the Country stuff, of course.
In following up on that, what would be your ideal storyline for Ana moving forward? Who would you like to share more screen time with?
No, I don’t want to say anything that contradicts anything they are writing for me because I’ll create a dream story and it’ll be the exact opposite.
But part of Ana’s whole journey is the push and pull between who Ana is and who the Romans want her to be. And so I would like to see her become a country singer and not be pushed in the direction of Pop Country kind of thing. But there’s always a little bit of that, which will be the struggle for her, figuring out who she is in that world.
I know you can’t say much, but what can you tease us about the upcoming episodes?
Shoot, I don’t know.
I know you guys filmed this ages ago, too.
Yeah, we did. That’s the thing, too. I don’t want to be horrible, but I don’t always remember, which is great because when they come out, I can watch them and be like, no way. It’s like a surprise all over again.
As we said, this is your breakout role, but what do you aspire to do in your career moving forward, especially after this and following that momentum? Are you interested in going into music, or are there movies or series you’d love to tackle? Who would you like to work with? How does Emma take the world by storm?
For now, my thing is acting. I get that question a lot. Do I want to be a singer? Is that my main thing? And I want to say that for sure, acting is my main thing. My manager says to everybody; she’s an actor who can sing, not a singer who can act. That’s the thing.
But I was saying I want to do something definitely a little raw and gritty and a little gnarlier than this because I love playing a sweet 16-year-old girl, and I relate to it on so many levels. But it would be really great to be able to show people that I can do both.
Yes, you would do well in a darker role.
Okay, well, final question, and since this is TV fanatic, what are your favorite series or things you like to watch or binge or recommendations you have for people?
It’s tough. I always have this lineup of stuff I love, and I’ve been watching, and then I get asked that question, and it all goes off the window, but what am I watching right now? I’m definitely a movie girl. But you know what? This hasn’t come out yet, so it’s not a recommendation. But I cannot wait to see Babylon.
And there’s this great show that just came out that I’ve been watching called SAS: Rogue Heroes on Epix. It probably wouldn’t expect me to say that, but it’s about this English troop during World War II, and it’s like these people who wouldn’t really be deemed good people, but they find their hero status in that army group. It’s really cool.
Over to you, Monarch Fanatics.
There are only two episodes left of the season. Monarch returns tonight at 9/8c on FOX.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.