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Performer of The Month - Staff Choice Most Outstanding Performer of April - Jessica Camacho

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This article was written by Beth Whitley, Ellys Cartin, Folie-lex, Jessica VanWinkle, and Luana Arturi. The article was edited by Donna Cromeans (DJRiter). The open and close to the article written by Ellys Cartin. Prepared for publishing by Aimee Hicks.

Any show that is focused on crime or the law runs the risk of being all too familiar, returning to the same types of characters and artists to walk paths that a thousand similar people have walked before. All Rise does not get enough credit for defying this trend, but here we get to recognize a stellar example of what (and who) sets the show apart. Jessica Camacho's performance as Emily Lopez, a public defender, was one of the show's greatest strengths in its freshman season. High-caliber actors can often slightly overdo their performances; their character is just a bit too comfortable in their skin to engage the audience's investment. Profession becomes a substitute for personality, and we see the same types of characters repeatedly. Much to our delight, Camacho pulled off the golden goose of acting feats by gifting us a gripping protagonist in Emily Lopez, finding nuance and authenticity in a wonderfully complex character. For her performance in In the Fights (1x19), SpoilerTV's Staff voted Jessica Camacho April's Most Outstanding Performer.

Continue reading below to find out our thoughts regarding her performance. After reading, please leave your thoughts in the comments.

TV viewers will recognize Jessica Camacho for her roles in everything from The Flash to Watchmen. What places her performance of Emily Lopez among her best work? And what have been some of your favorite scenes from her outside the episode she won for Performer of the Month?

Beth: To be honest, I never paid any mind to her character on The Flash and I 100% attribute that to the writing, not Camacho's performance. When I was introduced to Camacho on All Rise as Emily Lopez, I knew the character would be one of my favorites. Emily cares about her clients and Camacho makes you believe that in spades. One of my favorite scenes outside of this performance we are recognizing is when Emily and Luke (J. Alex Brinson) discuss why saying “I love you” is hard for her because of her past. Camacho masterfully shows how being vulnerable after a relationship like she has had is hard, that one really stuck out for me.

Ellys: To use a metaphor, Camacho has often been the bridesmaid in TV shows but never the bride. I have seen her take on numerous supporting roles, often as someone a little rebellious and a whole lot cooler, but All Rise is the first show I've seen truly recognize that Camacho is a leading lady. She always plays a figure in someone else's stories. It's been consistently awesome to see Emily Lopez having stories of her own. This episode, In the Fights, is a companion of sorts to the Valentine's Day episode Prelude To A Fish (1x15). In that episode, Camacho gives another memorable performance, as Emily deals with a situation that also hits too close to home for her. Before that challenge appears, she must handle the experience of a loving flash mob from her boyfriend, Luke, and receive the gift of a fish. It's an unforgettable scene, bittersweet to its core, and played with perfect unease by Camacho.

Folie-lex: I'm sad to say that except for her small role in HBO's Watchmen I haven't really followed her career. Looking at her resume I have seen her in various little parts before but nothing that made an impression. She has however been the standout for me on All Rise and has been putting in stellar work since the show's pilot. While it was this episode was the highlight of her work as Emily Lopez, if I were to mention another great scene for her would be at the end of Prelude To A Fish when she's opening up to her abused client about her own experience of surviving an abusive marriage.

Jessica: Emily Lopez is one of my favorite new characters this season. She's very complex, and I love watching Emily's passion for helping clients and her friends. Camacho has proved she can portray a wide range of emotions, and she works well with her co-stars, especially J. Alex Brinson who plays her love interest, Luke. Because of Camacho, I can see how much pain Emily's past has caused her and how that still affects her life. I loved the most recent episode of All Rise, Dancing At Los Angeles (1x21). Some actors may have struggled with an episode that was virtually filmed but not Camacho. Emily was her usual self: dedicated to helping her client and getting him out of jail. Some of my other favorite scenes were in Fool for Liv where we learned more about her failed marriage, and her relationship with Luke moved forward. Camacho also shined in My Fair Lockdown (1x16) as Emily was held hostage. The Joy From Oz (1x11) was another favorite since the case of the week was different than usual, and Camacho once again proved she is a versatile actress.

Luana: I have to say I hadn't seen her in anything else before but I started liking her character in All Rise right away, though it was when they started digging deeper into this character's abuse storyline I knew she was something special, and she's been my choice for either POTM or SOTM ever since. From the first time she tells her story to a survivor, to every time she manages to open up to the people she loves or finally asks for help, she's managed to make each moment stand out. Especially the scene where she had to explain to the man she loves that the words "I love you" have been hollowed out for her. It was simply heartbreaking and a master class in acting as you see her trying to process it out loud maybe for the first time.

Which of her scenes from In the Fights was the most unforgettable? What about it stood out the most to you?

Beth: It goes without saying that the scene when Emily gets home and finally breaks down was masterfully executed by Camacho. The scenes that preceded that are what make that moment the culmination of her beautiful performance throughout the episode. The viewer could feel the edge of the cliff Emily was teetering on as she tried to maintain composure defending a man who obviously reminded her of her ex-husband. Those scenes came across so perfectly because of Camacho, it is why we are here.

Ellys: The first scene I must call out is that moment in the courtroom where Judge Benner (Marg Helgenberger) declares a mistrial, and Emily can't look away from the judge. Camacho lets the life drain out of her form just slowly enough to allow us to feel how utterly empty Emily becomes. She is holding herself up by pushing her palms into the table. Throughout the episode, we've seen her pressing her hands flat there to control the shaking. Now she's trying to do the same thing for her whole body. Camacho shows us Emily in a terrible vacuum. At the end of the episode, we see Emily in the calm that comes after the storm. She's sitting with Luke and Sara (Lindsay Mendez) eating pancakes, and she takes her time eating the first bite, indulging in a happy grin. In that ending scene, Camacho still plays it as if Emily is drained. She's huddled inside a comfortable sweatshirt, she's avoiding prolonged eye contact with her friends, but she is safe. Camacho conveys that wordlessly, with a couple quick smiles as Emily savors a quiet breakfast. Throughout the episode, it often feels like Emily is fighting herself, something that Camacho establishes with the multiple tiny cues that indicate how Emily is being affected. The quick flip of the page to hide Molly (Reina Hardesty)'s hospital photos. Taking the coffee cup to fill her shaking hands. The self-focused anger when she snaps at Mark, "I'm no victim. Good luck finding Molly." How she has Emily barely able to catch her breath when she launches on Molly during cross-examination. And the only thing perhaps more anguished than the tortured scream Camacho pulls from her soul in the penultimate scene is the apologetic, grateful sobs she pours out when Emily is surprised by Sara. The force of her pain and fury in that emotional scene reminds us she was a victim, but she isn't anymore, although she will carry that scars with her forever.

Folie-lex: Definitely her final breakdown. The fa├žade she had decided to put on was crumbling throughout the whole episode, but it was gut-wrenching to see its full collapse by the hour's end.

Jessica: To me the most unforgettable scene is when Emily questions Molly after listening to the tape of her calling for help. She trips as she gets up, and she raises her voice at Molly. She then collapses as she walks away. Camacho's acting here was unbelievable and showed how bothered Emily was after listening to Molly after she was hurt by her husband. Emily's usually very composed, and this scene proved she's still broken and hurt by her abuse even though she desperately wants to believe she's okay.

Luana: The entire episode was a testament to how it all affects her as she's trying to separate her personal feelings from her work. I'm sure most, if not all of us, will agree that the scene that stood out the most, was when she finally came home after one hell of a day and fully broke down letting all that pain and pent up anger out.

It's not uncommon for artists to be recognized for shining the light on real-life issues with their characters' stories. What sets Camacho's work apart from other performances in the same vein?

Beth: Throughout the first season when Emily was asked to talk about her marriage it was as if a switch was flipped. Camacho beautifully showcased the immediate shut down of Emily when someone like Luke or Sara would try to get her to talk about it, and that is realistic. Eventually, those things cannot be ignored, and the person will break, which is what happened with Emily. Camacho took this storyline and treated it with the utmost care it deserved.

Ellys: We've all seen it when a show does a "special topic" episode and ties the aforementioned topic onto an existing character either to set that character on a new course afterward or just to fulfill the special topic quota and never be spoken of again. All Rise is not that kind of show, having included Emily's struggle against domestic violence from the pilot, which has allowed Camacho to craft this sensitive, moving journey for her character. When we see the case with Aidan Matthews (Robert Adamson) start to eat away at Emily, Camacho depicts this not as an extraordinary, dramatic explosion waiting in the wings but an inevitable, difficult part of Emily's reality as a survivor. The overriding feeling that I had watching this was wondering what it would take for Emily to endure it and who would be waiting to catch her on the other side. Camacho's performance makes that immersion possible.

Folie-lex: I think it's mostly the subtlety of her overall performance, which is very much supported by the writers' persistence in underlining that Emily being a victim of abuse isn't what defines her as a character. Camacho certainly brings that strength forward in every scene she's in.

Jessica: In some shows we see women that have been in an abusive relationship but rarely do viewers get to see characters after the trauma has occurred. I think Camacho's portrayal of Emily is very realistic. While Emily did get out of the abusive relationship, she didn't just "get over" the abuse. Recovery is an extremely long process, and I love that All Rise is letting us see Emily's journey. In In the Fights we see that Emily still struggles with what happened to her. I hope Camacho's portrayal of Emily Lopez can help women who have been in an abusive relationship in real life.

Luana: I think it has to do with the fact that the character has to keep up a poker face for a living, so every time Camacho has to portray her opening up you can almost see the walls coming down in her expressions. You feel like she's digging into herself for answers to help others, answers she never allowed herself to ask before. She just wanted to move on with her life and ignore the trauma, but the thing with trauma is, that it eventually catches up to you, one way or another, and this is something Camacho portrays to perfection.

How would you describe All Rise to someone who hasn't watched the show? How would you describe Camacho's Emily Lopez? What is it about Camacho's performances that make Emily Lopez stand out from her equally talented co-stars?

Beth: All Rise is a show that feels comforting and real because of its characters. They aren't cookie-cutter television lawyers that we have seen so many times in the past. The cases work to show that week in and week out. Emily Lopez is messy in the best possible way; she is a fighter and a survivor, but she also doesn't let that define her every step. Camacho just grabs you quickly and you anticipate her scenes a little more because Emily is so intriguing. She isn't afraid to go toe-to-toe with anyone when she knows she is right, and it never comes across as overbearing or arrogant thanks to the balance that Camacho infuses into every scene she is in.

Ellys: All Rise gets overlooked by most entertainment journalists. It doesn't have the traditional edge of a crime procedural or the glamour of a cable/streaming show. It is TV comfort food in its purest form. That comfort often means the show gives its characters' arcs that allow them to feel the full weight of their realities as survivors, children, friends, people battling their way through the justice system and just barely holding their heads above water. The show often chooses triumph, chooses to apply the balm, and gives us escapism from a world where true justice is in far shorter supply, but through the personalities and development of its characters, it let us still see ourselves and our reality reflected. The friendship, the camaraderie, the teamwork, the alliances…. these are the partnerships that enable the Courthouse Crew to show up for work each morning. And who cannot relate to that or to a longing to have that?

Folie-lex: All Rise is maybe THE best courtroom drama of the last few years. A must watch for any fan of the genre. Beyond that, it's a topical intelligent show, filled with wonderful, interesting characters. Among an extraordinary and extremely talented cast, that will all keep you engaged week in week out, you will also find the amazing Camacho, who plays Emily Lopez the designated public defender of the show, a passionate idealistic lawyer who suffers her own demons but doesn't allow them to define her.

Jessica: All Rise was my favorite new show from this season. It's different from other law shows I've watched because the friendships and relationships between the characters are the focus. I feel like I can relate to Emily because she's not perfect. Because of Camacho's performance, I can see how deeply Emily cares and fights for her clients and her friends as well. I also love her relationship with Luke, and I can't wait to see this develop more over time.

Luana: In this case, I'd have to say the material she's been given is a big part of it. Most of her co-stars are great and they shine when they must, but I think she's the one who's been given more personal scenes with one of the more heartbreaking storylines. I also think there's a difference between charisma and acting chops, some have more of one than the other, but Camacho clearly has both in abundance.

What are your final thoughts on her winning this recognition?

Beth: This is well-deserved and I am glad that Camacho won this honor for this episode because I was still thinking about her performance days later. It is also good for the show because All Rise is awesome and I hope more people discover it over this long hiatus we are about to endure.

Ellys: All Rise concluded its first season with a finale that rose above the limitations of this pandemic that has altered our lives. Shortly afterward, the show was renewed for its second season. Whenever court is back in session, I can't wait to find out what's next for Emily Lopez. This is a show worth waiting for. These are characters with countless more stories to be told. And I feel a little better about the future knowing this show is waiting there for us.

Folie-lex: I will shamelessly admit, I came into the show primarily because Wilson Bethel was cast. Now, due to Camacho's performance, it is Emily scenes I look forward to the most. And in an array of such an overall talented cast, I can easily say I don't think there is anybody more deserving for this credit throughout the show's first run… especially after a showcase episode like In The Fights was. Can't wait for more Emily Lopez and Camacho in S2!!

Jessica: Camacho deserves this award, and I'm so happy I had the chance to write about her. In one season I've become completely invested in Emily Lopez, and I can't wait to see what happens to her in season 2 of All Rise.

Luana: I think there's something noteworthy every time you're watching a weekly procedural lightly and you have to stop and put your whole attention into it because whatever's going on seems just too important, and that's what happens to me every time Camacho's personal scenes come on. I'm not sure I can put my finger exactly on what makes her so special, but I can't deny it either. She's been amazing from the beginning and I'm glad she's being recognized for her work.

Jessica Camacho's Emily Lopez has joined the ranks of unforgettable TV characters, and we are thrilled to mark Camacho's performance by celebrating her as our SpoilerTV Staff Choice Performer of April.

Please use the comments to discuss all your favorite parts of Jessica Camacho's performance in In the Fights.

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