Emmanuelle Chriqui is the rose among the Hollywood thorns on Entourage. Playing the focused Sloan on the hit HBO comedy turned into a career-maker for the Montreal-born actress, who also starred in the films Snow Day and You Don't Mess with the Zohan. Entourage recently returned for its eighth and final season, but the show's closure will open new acting doors for Chriqui - or at least that's how she has it planned.
Was there a different vibe while filming the final season of Entourage?
It was tough. You always anticipate the end, but when it gets there, it's like, no way. Shooting it was a little surreal, but the show defined my career in so many ways. As much as I've been acting all my life, I'm known as Sloan from Entourage. The challenge for me now is to become someone different.
Was Sloan a necessary voice of female reason among the Entourage lads?
That's really what it was. She was the grounded one in the not-so grounded world of Hollywood. A real person. That's why the chemistry between her and Eric worked so well.
You seem pretty grounded yourself. Where does that come from?
I owe it entirely to my family. As a child I was given the freedom to explore my passion for acting, but I also grew up in a home where there were a lot of rules. I didn't have 'yes' parents. Nothing was easy. My career has been successful, but it's been a grind of hard work.
Describe your first acting gig, please.
When I was seven, I was in a play at a local community theatre. It was James Reaney's Listen to the Wind, and it was the most exhilarating thing I could have ever dreamed about. It was the combination of being on stage and having this second family you create. At a very young age, I just knew this was for me.
Were your schoolmates envious when you starred in a McDonald's commercial?
Oh yeah, are you kidding? Definitely. When you're starting out, every line in a show or a commercial is like a huge success.
In the nineties, you guested on Forever Knight, Traders and nearly every other TV show filmed in Toronto. Was that your finishing school?
It was good schooling in the film-and-TV realm. I started working right after high school to build up my resume, which then took me to Vancouver where I built it up more. Then I went to L.A., where I really went for it.
Was playing the Palestinian love interest of Adam Sandler's Israeli spy in You Don't Mess with the Zohan a turning point in your career?
As truly silly as it was, that movie was incredibly fulfilling. It was my chance to work with Adam and to tackle a character with an accent who was so different from who I am. That's what an actor wants: to be challenged.
Beyond the cash and kudos, is acting a thankless profession?
Sometimes it beats you down. Sometimes the politics and the business of it can be really frustrating. It's hard to understand why someone won't consider you for a role, or it's the 'name game.' Acting is not glamorous. It's not. Anybody who wants to get into acting for the glamour is in for a hard time.
What hurdles have you had to overcome?
Fitting into the 'every girl' role has been a difficult thing for me. People want to put you in a box and pigeon-hole you. With Sloan, I was really fortunate they cast me, but most times the role would have gone to who you would expect it to be. It's tough when you have real goals and ambitions and you go in and nail an audition, and then it comes down to: 'Well, she's just not what we had in mind.' Aka: 'She's a little too exotic for us.'
What's next for you?
I have a film called 5 Days of War coming out next month. It's a political drama directed by Renny Harlin about when Russia invaded Georgia a few years back. It was shot on location in Georgia, which was an incredible experience. It's a departure for me to do something so serious.
How did you survive eight testosterone-fuelled seasons on Entourage?
I don't know why, but in my career and in my life, I often find myself in situations where I am the only girl amongst boys. I really do. But the Entourage guys have been my protectors and my family. They're like my brothers.
This interview has been condensed and edited.