Emma Laird is not a horse girl. Yes, she rode horses growing up in Chesterfield—“It’s the Pittsburgh of England”—and adventured in the Peak District National Park near her father’s home. “But I didn’t own a horse,” she says. Riding and camping were distractions from the everyday rigors of education, until a model scout discovered the 17-year-old at a music festival, taking her to London and away from all that. She is not interested in talking about the modeling thing, which dominated her life for eight years.
She wants to talk about acting, which she studied in New York before being cast as Iris—a hypnotic, silver-tongued sex worker on Paramount+’s Mayor of Kingstown—in 2021. Today, she steps onto the big screen alongside Kenneth Branagh, Tina Fey, and Michelle Yeoh with the release of A Haunting in Venice, Branagh’s version of the Agatha Christie classic, Hallowe’en Party.
Laird was never married to a single dramaturgical method, and is instead utterly dedicated to her acting coach, James Monarski. “He’s the reason why I’m still acting, or why I have a job in the first place. I send him a scene, and he spots something that gives me a completely different lens. He’s almost like my therapist. I call him up and we cry together.”
She has mentors on her side of the camera, too: actors like Sarah Paulson and Elizabeth Reaser, to whom Laird confessed her fears about her “late” arrival in an industry famously obsessed with youth. “They gave me the biggest pep talk,” she says. They told her that her fears were rational, but that her skills would see her through. “I am talented and also keen to keep learning and get better. That will keep me employed more than how I look.”
Where would she like that talent to take her next? “Honestly, I want to play a bad guy,” says Laird. She points to performances like Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds. She wants something challenging, something riskier, something, for lack of a better word, mature. “I feel like I’ve grown out of playing an 18-year-old girl, despite how I look on screen. I’ve evolved as an actor,” she says. “You have to put yourself out there and physically transform—I want something that tests me, where I have to make bold choices. I want to do really fucking weird stuff.”
Creative Direction by Studio&
Produced by Iza El Nems
Makeup by Mical Klip
Hair by Kiyonori Sudo
Fashion Assistance by Tallula Bell Madden and Sheneque Clarke