Five Days At Memorial's Julie Ann Emery On The Significance Of Her Character's Pregnancy — Exclusive

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the medical staff at Memorial Hospital did their best to keep their patients safe. However, the following days only brought more hardship, and the doctors and nurses found themselves undertaking the incredibly difficult task of evacuating their patients. Unfortunately, according to the Apple TV+'s docudrama "Five Days at Memorial," which is based on the book of the same name by Sheri Fink, the workers at Memorial barely considered the particularly difficult circumstances of the patients at LifeCare, an independent healthcare facility within the hospital that treated patients who were especially sick and injured.

This made the situation all the more harrowing for those stranded at the so-called "hospital within a hospital." However, there was one woman, LifeCare administrator Diane Robichaux, who fought for her patients as long as she could. In the series, Diane is played by Julie Ann Emery, and the actor expresses nothing but awe and admiration for her character, especially because Diane was pregnant at the time of the hurricane. "She's seven months pregnant, and she chose to show up to the hospital and take care of her patients and try to get her staff safely through the storm during what was forecast and turned out to be the hurricane of the century. That takes such an extraordinary person," Emery noted. In an exclusive interview with The List, Julie Ann Emery discussed how Diane's pregnancy impacted her performance in "Five Days at Memorial."

Emery's character's pregnancy increased the stakes

Emery revealed that the knowledge that her character was pregnant influenced her performance "in every way" and putting on the prosthetic pregnancy belly particularly helped her get into the character's mindset. "There was something about the prosthetic belly, which was 12, 13 pounds and had weight and hung. Our costume designer, Deborah Hansen, did a beautiful job making that feel real for me," Emery observed. "Once you put yourself in that circumstance, suddenly all the stakes are, I'd say, doubled is a massive understatement. Every decision you make, you suddenly realize, 'Oh, there's two of us here.'"

Emery also noted she researched how the lack of power and water combined with the extreme heat at the hospital would physically affect a pregnant person so she could account for that in her performance. "I have a cousin who's an ob-gyn, and I talked to her a lot about the physical circumstances and what that means for a pregnant person," Emery shared. "A pregnant person needs about twice the amount of water as a non-pregnant person. I didn't know that. So severe dehydration would set in much sooner. That has physical ramifications that I really tried to incorporate into the performance.

"She had to be mightily struggling physically, and to see her still try to put on a brave face or a happy face or a good face for her staff and a compassionate and empathetic face and attitude for her patients, I find it extraordinary," Emery added. "Also, every time she made a trip down those stairs to the Memorial staff to fight for her patients for evacuation, that really cost her something physically. So [at] every level of understanding Diane, I have such overwhelming respect for the character. She's just extraordinary."

New episodes of "Five Days at Memorial" premiere on Apple TV+ on Fridays.