Belfast Telegraph

Game of Thrones work earns third Emmy for Lurgan woman Emma O'Loughlin

Emma O’Loughlin with her fiance Ross McMahon at the Emmys last year
Emma O’Loughlin with her fiance Ross McMahon at the Emmys last year
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

When Emma O'Loughlin decided on a career in costume design as a teenager her parents weren't convinced. But now the 32-year-old Lurgan woman has picked up her third Emmy award in as many years.

And she chose her mum Jacqueline to travel to Los Angeles for the red carpet ceremony earlier this month, where her work on fantasy epic Game of Thrones was honoured for a second time.

Having already won for her contribution to the first season of royal drama The Crown, the determined assistant costumer designer, who works alongside multi-award winning designer Michele Clapton on some of the biggest productions in the world, turned on the style with her mother at the Microsoft Theatre in LA for the 2019 Creative Arts Emmys, traditionally held a week before the Primetime Emmys.

"I've always seen costume design as what I wanted to do. There was never anything else," Emma told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I got so, so lucky when Game of Thrones arrived."

Emma attended Our Lady's Grammar School in Newry and went on to graduate from Edinburgh Arts College, with a career in costume design her only ambition.

"I remember at college being asked who I looked up to as a designer and I answered, Michele Clapton. She wasn't too well known back then, but her work on some of the top shows in the world have got her right at the top of the tree. To actually be working with her is fantastic, a wonderful experience.

"I managed to get to work with her on The Crown, which became incredibly popular and got the team the first Emmy in 2017, and when Michele went on to work on Game of Thrones it was such a fantastic opportunity for me.

"It was right on my doorstep and has helped launch so many careers in the film industry. It's been wonderful to see the development of local talent."

Emma worked on six of the eight seasons of the fantasy epic, and in the last two years the awards have been flowing.

"When you count the work on the Crown, I've got my hands on three Emmy awards in the past three years," said the 32-year-old. "It's been a wonderful experience.

"Working on historical productions like these are so much fun and such a wonderful challenge to get everything just right. But people shouldn't think it's all glamorous. Nights out at Emmy awards don't come along too often. I've been to so many great locations to work, places I never thought I'd be and working with stars I never thought I'd work with, but there have been an awful lot of long nights, months away from family and it can be hard and high pressure work.

"But Michele seems to have the magic touch at the minute and it's been such a pleasure to work with her and learn from her."

Having worked as assistant to Michele for several years, Emma is now striking out on her own and her next project is close to home, working on a local production here in Northern Ireland.

"I can't say a lot about it, but this is my chance to have a go by myself and I'm thrilled to be in this position.

"Game of Thrones, and Michele in particular, gave me my chance.

Emma with designer Michele Clapton
Emma with designer Michele Clapton

"As the lead costume designer, Michele gets to name the other nominees and for the past couple of years I've been delighted to attend with her for the wins.

"My fiance Ross McMahon went last year, but this year I thought it would be nice to bring my mum. My parents have been so supportive of what I wanted to achieve.

"I'm only getting started in my career and to have achieved so much in such a short space of time is all a little hard to believe, particularly when I know my parents were a little fearful that I was never going to get a job going down this path.

"But I've managed to be in the right place at the right time and learn from the best in the business."

Mum Jacqueline admitted she was a little stunned by her LA experience.

"I have to say I was totally out of my comfort zone," she said.

"We went to an HBO (television company) drinks party on the Saturday night ahead of the awards on Sunday and I spent the whole time asking Emma who everyone was. I sort of recognised the faces but when you see people from television for real they don't look, well, real.

"A lot of the cast of Game of Thrones were there and to see all the glamour and the glitz was absolutely fabulous.

"And to think we wondered how she was ever going to get a career out of costume designing.

"Emma's award was one of the last to be presented and the tension was building right through the ceremony. Game of Thrones had already won so many that we thought they'd surely give it to someone else, especially as they'd won it the year before. Emma was up against top shows like The Handmaid's Tale and American Horror Story.

"But when they called her name I have to admit I burst into tears.

"Since she was 13 Emma has been so determined that costume designing was going to be her career.

"I suppose it follows from all the Disney films that caught her attention when she was a little girl.

"It's really the only thing she ever wanted, her dream in life, and to see what she has achieved makes us very proud parents."

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