By Anna Griffin, Editor in Chief
When the Los Angeles “Safer at Home” Emergency Order took effect in March, life forever changed as Angeleno’s knew it. As businesses shuttered their doors and residents hunkered at home, it was a bleak time cloaked in fear and uncertainty, but actress and activist, Emmanuelle Chriqui, took it all in her stride.
Immediately pivoting to embrace a stark “new normal,” Chriqui turned her attention to raising awareness and funds for those less fortunate. But that’s not a huge surprise as she is as much of a humanitarian as she is a talented actress. Serving as a Board Member for the Environmental Media Association (EMA), Chriqui has long championed initiatives such as greening Hollywood, building organic gardens in urban L.A. schools, and educating the public on making more eco conscious lifestyle choices. In her work for women in the Congo, she has made it a priority to bring awareness to conflict minerals, and the subsequent rape and abuse of girls as young as five years old. In the last few years Chriqui has raised over $50,000 for Lizadeel, a non-profit that helps those who have been abused, via her Cameo platform. Recently dedicating her energy and social media platform to Covid-19 relief, racial equality and the Black Lives Matters movement, our environment, and those fighting cancer, Chriqui has consistently donated her time through the pandemic to help others.
Beyond her philanthropic efforts, Chriqui is also one of the few actresses to land a leading role during quarantine. Beautifully humble and reluctant to take any praise, she insists that the project was on the boiler long before Hollywood was forced to shut down. It is an exciting role as she enters into the world of superheroes to play Lana Lang in DC and the CW’s new show, Superman & Lois, which will grace our screens in January 2021. While the Superhero genre is unfamiliar to her as an actress, it’s an obvious evolution for a woman so fearlessly passionate about a better world.
Tell us about your new show, Superman & Lois.
Superman & Lois are older and they’re parents, so we have a world where they have kids and are dealing with very “now” issues. The kids are struggling with mental health challenges, and we wonder if one of Superman’s kids has inherited his powers (or not). Superman’s mother has passed away, and Superman and Lois relocate to Smallville where they reconnect with Lana Lang, who is my character, and her husband and two kids.
Who is Lana Lang? What drew you to the role?
Lana was Superman’s first love and great friend, and we pick up as adults in this relationship. So the whole world is reimagined, and it feels like a family drama with the backdrop of a Superhero story, as opposed to mostly Superhero. It’s very grounded in reality and it was compelling when I read the script, which drew me to the role. Initially I was a little bit gun shy because the comic book world is not one I am very familiar with, and not one that I am particularly drawn to. When I read the script I was looking at it truly from a character point of view, and the role of Lana Lang is so grounded, layered and nuanced. She’s a parent to two teenage daughters, in a marriage that’s questionable. Superman and Lois come back to town where there’s a loaded history, so there’s a lot on the page and I was really taken with it. The interesting thing about Lana Lang is that it’s an iconic role. Kristin Kreuk played the young Lana Lang on Smallville, but Lana Lang has existed since the beginning of the Superman comic book, so it’s exciting and daunting to take on this role that so many are familiar with, and I am excited about it. I love the cast that is attached and think it’s going to be a really creative, fulfilling experience.
Beyond announcing a lead role on a new show, what have you been doing for the last few months?
During this pandemic and in the beginning when stay-at-home was really intense, I rediscovered my love of cooking. I have also done many puzzles - I consider myself to be a professional at this point (she laughs), and I have read so many novels - wonderful, modern, and classic - so much reading, which has been Heaven sent. I have watched everything there is to watch - so many movies - and I have also been doing a lot of art. I started playing with charcoal and have been doing drawings of nature. I am by no means an artist, but I really enjoy the process of it - it’s been really freeing and lovely. Aside from keeping my days busy and Zoom calls and all of that, I have continued to stay active. I have done a lot of charity initiatives, raising money for Covid 19 and emergency relief funds, the uprising and the BLM movement. I basically spent the entire month of June dedicating my platform to all things BLM, and really took the month to examine and educate myself - to be an activist to the best of my capabilities from home. I was spending hours on social media doing research, posting, signing petitions and trying to be the best that I could, and I continue to do that. I have needed to take breaks in between. Social media is a lot and I try to take the weekends off, generally speaking. I do Pilates at home with my Pilates instructor on Facetime; we do mat Pilates three times a week, which has just kept me sane. I meditate everyday, and I try to stay busy, motivated and inspired. Some days are better than others, but this is a “new normal,” and in a crazy way I am kind of getting used to it.
Why has it been important for you to use this time to make a difference?
Besides having the time, I am naturally inclined to activism. I feel it is so important; that if you have a platform and feel strongly about something, you can really make a difference. For me it’s my advocacy work for women and girls in the Congo, the environment, racial equality in this country, and really jumping on board with voting in November, getting people to vote. We are in the most intense, unprecedented, crazy times, but I think this is a precipice of real change. I think that this uprising was necessary and divine timing that it happened during a pandemic.
You’ve been so busy. Now, beyond Superman & Lois and your recent humanitarian work, what’s next for you?
Hopefully I’ll be shooting Superman & Lois in September, and we’ll film our first 13 episodes. On the philanthropy side, I am working with the Environmental Media Association on two new initiatives: Through the pandemic the use of plastics and take-out containers has been intense, so there’s an initiative to get eco packaging more widespread, and to educate the consumer to be more conscious to lessen what’s going in the dumpsters. Also, we’re really starting to talk about environmental racism; what that is and what that means, and the measures that can be taken to educate and inform ourselves on the things we can do in the future. That’s an ongoing thing.
Are there any updates on Lizadeel and women affected by the conflict mineral crisis in the Congo?
Women and rape are used as weapons of warfare over these conflict minerals, and it continues to be a real epidemic. I am still raising funds for Lizadeel so they can continue to do their wonderful work of bringing the perpetrators to justice, of giving these young, abused girls psychological help and assistance with living situations, as well as teaching them trades so they can get on their feet. It’s an uphill battle, but my heart is always in it.
As the world now shifts into a new paradigm, what are the changes you wish to see in the world and what can we all do to contribute?
That is a loaded question, but I will say this. The entire world is shifting into a new paradigm, and I think that we need to continue to use our voices for the things that we care about: Certainly in America as we tackle racial injustice, mass incarceration, LBGTQ, anti Semitism, and all of it. As we address these things, we must continue to examine, examine, examine, and to learn and teach each other to be kind, gentle and patient. I feel that we are so divided and even this pandemic has become political - over whether to wear or not wear a mask - and we need to get over our differences and really, really respect each other, looking at what is for the highest good for each other and for the planet. That is a constant to exercise every single day. Of course all lives matter - that’s a given, but not all lives are being brutalized by the police on a daily basis, and not all lives are suffering oppression. So my heartfelt wish is that people will continue to not be threatened, and instead of resisting, surrender; for people to learn and not be angry; to want this country to be better.
I struggle with being patient and get impatient when I see hate rhetoric, and an “us against them” mentality. I feel hopeless some days and on others, I feel really, really hopeful. It’s ever changing, but ultimately I wish for America to be back on its feet again, and for massive reform, equality, and love, love, love, love for us all.
As we sit in an era of rebirth, Chriqui is pioneering the landscape as a vibrant force of nature. A graceful powerhouse who is slaying the planet’s issues and her career simultaneously, she is defining her role as a torchbearer for our “new now.” In these challenging times, Chriqui gives us hope that real reform is possible; that out of the darkness will come light; and that with respect, kindness, patience and love, we can all contribute to a better America, and ultimately a better world.
Merriam-Webster dictionary gives the definition of a Superhero as "a fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers; also: An exceptionally skillful or successful person." If that’s the case, maybe Chriqui’s a little more Superhero than she thinks.
Photography by Nick Onken
Assisted by Robb Epifano
Styling by Stacy London, Sarah Griffin Berns & Tanya Gill
Hair by Joseph Chase
Make Up by Shannon Pezetta
Jewelry courtesy of House of Ellure
Photographed in Malibu, with thanks to Carter and Courtney Reum