‘The Unforgivable’s Emma Nelson Breaks Down That ‘Intense’ Standoff Scene With Sandra Bullock

Emma Nelson plays a pivotal role in the new Netflix film 'The Unforgivable.' Emma spoke EXCLUSIVELY with HL about Emily being the catalyst for that emotional reunion, what she learned from Sandra Bullock, and more.

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The Unforgivable is Netflix’s gripping new drama starring Sandra Bullock as Ruth Slater, a woman who tries to re-enter society after serving time for killing a cop. Ruth seeks out her sister Katie after she’s released, and shocking truths come to light as she tries to reconnect with her sister. Emma Nelson plays Emily Malcolm, Katie’s sister who reaches out to Ruth in hopes of helping Katie.

Emily is mistaken for her older sister by the son of the man who was killed all those years ago. Emily is kidnapped and Ruth goes to great lengths to save Katie’s other sister. At the end of the film, Ruth and Katie finally reunite. HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Emma about whether or not there was ever a scene between Emily and Ruth after Ruth saved Emily’s life.

Sandra Bullock
Sandra Bullock and Emma Nelson in ‘The Unforgivable.’ (Netflix)

“It’s a good question because I know it’s a bit of a pretty intense moment that transitions into the ending of the movie with Ruth and Katie,” Emma said. “But no, there really wasn’t ever any interaction between them. We’ve filmed some more content of me coming out and then getting escorted away by the police officers and the law enforcement that was there. Even in the beginning, there wasn’t anything written there. It’s just more about Ruth and Katie.”

Even if they didn’t get a chance to talk after that nearly disastrous standoff, Emma believes there’s an “unspoken” bond between Ruth and Emily. “I think that as we saw in the scene between Ruth and Emily when Emily was trying to reconnect Katie and Ruth, I think that it is kind of an unspoken thing between Emily and Ruth,” Emma explained. “We have the same connection to Katie as the other, so I think that it’s really right for Katie and Ruth to be able to have that moment, and finally, there’s no communicator in between. I don’t have to serve as the connection between them. I think that it works that there’s no scene that kind of converges Ruth and Emily again because it really is about the connection between Katie and Ruth at the end.”

Emma Nelson
Emma Nelson at ‘The Unforgivable’ premiere. (Matt Baron/Shutterstock)

Emma noted that Emily’s kidnapping was “the most intense scene” she’s ever shot. “It was extremely emotionally taxing,” the actress admitted. “Talking to Will [Pullen] and Sandy afterward, we all agreed that it was very difficult. It was just so emotionally demanding. We all had to be on that day. It’s really difficult to consistently be in that emotional state because it really is like real feelings in a fake scenario. Those were my last two days of filming, and I had been in Vancouver for about a month. I was really ready to go home because we hadn’t been able to travel back and forth between the States and Vancouver. I had just been there in an apartment and I missed my family. I remember by the end of filming that I was at my wit’s end. I was covered in duct tape, and then with my duct tape, I had to put an N95 on in between takes and a face shield. I was just so done. I had to get retaped all the time, and they had to cut the duct tape off and figure out all that stuff. I walked around with tape around my mouth. It was a roller coaster, but I remember when we finished it, it was so rewarding. And I knew that it was so worth it.”

Emma got the opportunity to work closely with Sandra throughout filming. She revealed what she learned from observing the Oscar winner. “I felt the most when I was actively doing scenes with her,” Emma told HollywoodLife. “I kind of felt like when you’re acting with someone and it’s this intangible connection, you kind of just pick up on things. The rehearsal process before a scene was a really great learning experience. I think it’s a really unique experience to be in a room, not only with Sandy as an actor but with her as the producer and then the director to be able to figure out what that process of developing a character looks like. She’s such an incredible creator and actor. I learned a lot about developing a character and what it takes to put a project like this together from the inside out.”

When Ruth and Katie get the chance to see each other again after 20 years, there’s a look exchanged between Ruth and Katie’s parents. After desperately trying to keep Katie from Ruth, they now know that Ruth should be in Katie’s life. “I think that there is a bit of that silent realization in the moment between Ruth and Katherine at the end when they are finally able to see each other, and then we see my parents’ reaction to it. I think that it is an unspoken kind of understanding that this is something that needed to happen for Katie,” Emma said. 

Emma Nelson
Emma Nelson as Emily Malcolm. (Netflix)

The most shocking and heartbreaking twist comes at the end of the film when it’s revealed that Ruth didn’t kill the cop. Katie accidentally shot the cop and Ruth took the fall for her sister. “That moment just makes the entire movie so much more heartbreaking because of what Ruth has to endure for a crime that she didn’t commit,” Emma noted. “I think that it adds this punch in the gut. We realize that all the time people have been treating her so poorly and she has just been taking it because of her love for her sister. It’s gut-wrenching.” The Unforgivable is now streaming on Netflix.

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