Élodie Yung in The Cleaning Lady
Growing up in Manila, Marie Jamora watched Family Ties, Three's Company and other American shows with her family, thanks to an uncle who lived in Detroit. "He would tape shows on Betamax tapes and ship them back to the Philippines," she says, "and that's how we all learned English."
Jamora also watched a lot of movies at home because her parents, both doctors, are cinephiles. She ultimately chose filmmaking as her vocation, earning an MFA in film at New York's Columbia University in the early aughts.
After graduating, she returned to Manila and made a name for herself directing music videos and Project Runway Philippines. Her debut feature film, 2012's Ang Nawawala (What Isn't There), was the first Filipino feature to be screened at the Slamdance Film Festival.
While attending Slamdance in Park City, Utah, Jamora met stop-motion animator Jason McLagan, who would become her husband. She immigrated to the U.S. in 2013.
Now based in Los Angeles, she works steadily in television and has recently directed episodes of shows including OWN's Queen Sugar, CBS's Good Sam and the upcoming Paramount+ prequel Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies.
But directing episode six of the first season of Fox's The Cleaning Lady was particularly meaningful, Jamora says, because the two leads, Thony and Fiona (Élodie Yung and Martha Millan), are of Southeast Asian descent.
Jamora's episode marks a fraught moment in Thony and Fiona's relationship; Fiona feels angry and betrayed because Thony didn't open up to her about working for the FBI. "I loved digging into that," says the director, who used a handheld camera to capture a tense, layered interaction between the women.
The Cleaning Lady doesn't often employ handheld cameras, but Jamora felt it made sense for the scene. In making her episode, "I never felt restricted in any sort of way," she says, noting that she enjoys working on first-season shows. "Even if the pilot has established the look, the tone and the pace, you still have that entire season to determine the visual grammar of the show."
Fox has renewed The Cleaning Lady for a second season. Will Jamora direct more episodes? Her reply: "I would love to be asked back."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine issue #6, 2022, under the title, "Language Lessons."