In a wasteland of scantily clad women, Emmanuelle Chriqui’s Entourage character Sloan McQuewick has had the staying power that Johnny Drama could only dream of. Despite being a relative unknown before being cast, Chriqui has been a grounded breath of fresh air in a show (and a city) not usually known for it, turning a three-episode guest star role into a recurring character who would quickly become the moral compass for the group, without ever being too enamored by boyfriend Eric “E” Murphy (Kevin Connolly), or his glitzy Hollywood life.
On the eve of the premiere of the Entourage movie, Chriqui spoke with Maxim about how she relates to Sloan, her new role as , and how she feels about kissing a certain member of *NSYNC.
You’re getting asked plenty what it’s like being back with the boys from Queens Boulevard, and the answer is always “great!” But what originally drew you to the role of Sloan—especially on a show known for its revolving door of arm candy women?
When I first auditioned, the part was originally supposed to be a three-episode arc. When I got the part, Kevin Connolly had said to me, “Listen, we can really turn this into something.” For his character in particular, they wanted to find him a girlfriend, somebody that was going to stick around. They’d had a difficult time, and it was divine timing and ended up being something different than they had expected. I think the combination of our chemistry, and the combination of the fact that when you think of the typical Hollywood girl whose father is a giant mogul—when I was cast, we thought of the Paris Hiltons of the world. I think just by virtue of casting me, who physically looks so different from all of that, [the show was] already doing something really original.
And it was just one of those things that grew and grew and grew. Doug Ellin, the creator of the show, always loved E and Sloan. He was very protective of my character. He really knew what he was doing, and as much as our show has been called misogynistic, the way that I defend it is [admitting] that maybe that’s true, but the beauty of our show is that it depicts such a slice of Hollywood, and no one can convince me that Hollywood is not misogynistic! And Doug totally does that justice, and it’s why our show did so well. You were getting this hyper real version of what Hollywood is, that people are just fascinated with. And part of that is the arm candy, and the crazy parties, and the bikini clad chicks in a revolving door — that’s a real thing, and not in someone’s head!
We talk about this “cool girl” myth all the time, as well as the backlash once you do fit the trope: the Gone Girl-esque woman shoving hot dogs in her face, who’s chill to death. But Sloan turned that myth on its head—she dumped E when she wasn’t getting the respect she deserved, but she’s very much still one of the guys—years before we were even talking about it. And on a show that epitomized bro culture, no less.
Whether people consciously or unconsciously knew it, one of the reasons people, and I, get so taken with Sloan, is that she exudes so much class and grace in a world where there isn’t any. You can be the guy’s girl, without burping, or farting, or pounding back beer to fit in. You can totally be the guy’s girl, and be in your feminine divine power, and still hang and chill, and have a brain and a conversation and look great and be all of those things. Why do women have to be one or the other?
With Sloan, I think that’s what resonated with people. It was a breath of fresh air from both extremes: the over-sexualized hot girl, and the rude girl. Doug really created that role for me. You watch a show like Entourage and everyone assumes you’re exactly like the character, but there really was a lot of thought put into that [Sloan and E’s] dynamic. We’re not like our characters, but we all share some of the same essences. The thing that I uniquely could bring to the Sloan part was the fact that I wasn’t born and raised in LA. I’m a Canadian, Jewish, Moroccan girl with a pretty strict upbringing. I’ve heard “no” a lot in my life, nothing was handed to me on a platter, and there were a lot of trials and tribulations along the way. That kind of groundedness, being a fighter but not in an aggressive way, was something I could organically bring to the character. If you look at this show, it’s not like I really had that much screen time! Sloan dipped in and dipped out, but every time she came on, it was always that reminder that there was something grounding about her.
And now Sloan and E are tackling parenthood! The movie is only set 8 months after the show ended in 2011, but so much of the story line of co-parenting feels very contemporary. What was it like filming in this time warp, but doing very 2015 story lines?
It was so nice to come back and do the movie in such a marked difference from the series. I’m not just coming back as Sloan, I’m coming back as Sloan pregnant for most of the movie. It’s not just her old playful energy, she’s now having this baby come hell or high water. “You want to be in? Cool. You don’t? Cool.” That was really fun to play.
I love working with Kevin in particular, because I love handling our conflict. There’s no better day than when our scenes are a good fight between us, and of course the question was “What’s our conflict going to be?” It was a really nice moment to come back to, and it’s impactful with a lot of heart, and mainly, it’s so now. The whole notion of women saying “I want a baby, I’m not waiting for a man, this is the right time for me,” and that’s really empowering. For me, that was the most exciting part of even coming back to do this.
And a week after Entourage premieres, you premiere in the second season of the TNT anthology drama Murder in the First. With Entourage you’re playing this universally beloved, very recognizable character but with Murder in the First, you’re coming in new to a show where the entire cast is returning, albeit to brand new roles. What were the challenges of being on a show where everything has changed, but is also very familiar?
This was honestly the biggest challenge I’ve ever had to face. That’s actually what captivated me to the role in the first place. What’s interesting about Raffi [Veracruz] is that she is my alter ego. She’s the person I wish I was when I was younger—full badass, full tomboy, nothing to prove, walking around in her baggy jeans, Timberlands, and North Face vest. She takes her job very seriously. It was so fun to play, but that was just the surface. Going deeper than that, I was dealing with this super tortured soul that’s seen a lot. She’s half Jewish, half Mexican, she’s served in the Israeli army but works for SFPD in the gang unit, which is a community she’s very comfortable in. It took me a minute to find it. And suddenly, half the season in, I finally felt like I found the character. Of course, I wished I could go back in time and fix the first half of the season, but it was such a cool journey to go on.
I’d watched the first season, and I was such a fan of the show, and when I joined the cast for their second season—even though everyone was in a brand new role and storyline—I’d known Taye [Diggs] for years, and it was really interesting to work in a situation where the existing cast is all so familiar, but we’re all jumping into something new.
Acting aside, you’ve been heavily involved in working with the Enough Project and their Hope for Congo initiative, which doesn’t get much press —which makes it seem all the more real, and not a PR grab. You mentioned you’d been going through a hard time when it came into your life. What’s your involvement with the cause now?
It’s such a giant part of my life now, but it came up when I was doing Entourage. I was in the third or fourth season, and legitimately life was really, really good. I was happy and working and I’d already done You Don’t Mess With the Zohan. I started to fall into a slight depression and I was deeply unsatisfied, and I took a moment to look at it, and I had to ask myself, “This is everything I’ve wanted since I was a kid. Now that I have it, why am I not fulfilled?”
At the same time, I got invited to watch [the Enough Project founder] John Prendergast speak, at an intimate gathering in Hollywood. He brought a guest to speak from the Sudan who was talking and sharing stories and at the end, I was beside myself, bawling, and I couldn’t contain it. And John had opened up the circle to ask if anyone had questions, and without even thinking, I shot my hand up and I said “I’m moved in the most unexpected way, and I can’t believe the work you do. If there’s anything I can do to help you on your mission, I’d love nothing more.”
Over the next year, we stayed in touch and he’d send me materials to read, and he really educated me. The clincher was a documentary called The Greatest Silence and it’s about the women and girls of the Congo, and how rape is used as a weapon of warfare. At the end, there’s a Congolese woman who looks into the camera and says “I forgive the soldiers that have done this to us, they don’t know better. The only thing we’re asking for is our voices to be heard.” I heard that and I was in. It was this feeling deep inside that all I wanted to do was help these voices be heard.
I went and sat with John and he was heavily dealing with stuff at the time in the Sudan, and I thought that’s what we were going to talk about, and instead he presented me with this idea about how he wanted to start Raise Hope for Congo, and he said if it spoke to me, that’s the thing he wanted to do. So that’s what we did, and it’s grown tremendously ever since.
I read somewhere that you were nominated for a Teen Choice Award in 2002 for choice liplock with Lance Bass. What was it like kissing a member of *NSYNC?
Pretty good! Not as good as Taye Diggs...but still pretty good!