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The Age: Angourie Rice is far from Hollywood in MTC play about a family at war
Posted by Veronique on Sep 11, 2023

After 14 years in film and TV, the in-demand actor chose My Sister Jill for her main-stage theatre debut.

Melbourne is in the final throes of winter when I meet Angourie Rice on a rain-soaked footpath outside the MTC’s headquarters in Southbank. We’ve both arrived 10 minutes early, and I have already read enough about this hardworking and ambitious young veteran of film and TV to know that her punctuality is not entirely surprising.

At 22, Rice has been acting for 14 years, podcasting for four and is about to add published author to her CV. There is, it seems, no time to waste. When I ask her later why she’s so driven, she laughs and suggests that her star sign is to blame: Google the list of Capricorn traits and you’ll see where she’s coming from.

We’re here to talk about her upcoming appearance in the MTC premiere of My Sister Jill, the latest project from playwright Patricia Cornelius and director Susie Dee. There’s also a novel co-written with her mother, Kate, and The Community Library podcast to discuss, but any mention of her film and TV projects – either previous or upcoming – is off-limits in the midst of the SAG strike. Suffice to say that there’s a long roll-call of reasons why Rice made Variety’s list of actors to watch in 2021.

There’s no Hollywood-style hubris, though, as we await instructions on where our interview will take place; Rice shows me a photo of her whippet/kelpie cross and chats about how much she’s loving being back in Melbourne, after years (barring lockdowns) of travelling between LA and home. It was just one of the reasons she signed on for the part of Christine in My Sister Jill.

“I wanted to do more theatre work, and so I began receiving more theatre scripts to read,” she says. “This one really stood out because it’s exceptionally well written. I loved the family dynamics in it, I loved that it was a true ensemble piece; each person gets their own story line, their own arc. Practically, for me, it felt safer and easier to start doing theatre again with something that felt very much like a group.”

The play, based on Cornelius’ semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, takes place over several years, in a family caught between the shadow of World War II and the looming threat of the Vietnam draft. Father Jack, an ex-POW suffering PTSD, is haunted by his experiences and ill-equipped for family life. Christine, the youngest of his five children, clings doggedly to her belief that Jack is a war hero, not the alcoholic bully that her siblings fear and loathe.

At the start of the play, in her role as narrator, she tells the audience: “Look at him, would you? Would you look? He’s huge, he’s mighty, he’s magnificent. He’s about eight-foot tall, he can crush stone with his bare hands, he can lift a car off the ground, he can pull a tree out by the roots. He can. I know, it’s hard to believe but that’s the truth. And he’s brave. Incredibly brave. He’s a survivor, mum says, a survivor. He lasted. He did. He came out the other side. He’s a remarkable man. Look at him. What a man my dad is. What a man.”

Cornelius’ father, Leo, spent three and a half years as a prisoner of war and was on a Japanese ship transporting POWs to Japan when it was torpedoed by a US submarine. He spent six days drifting on a liferaft, watching his comrades die, and came home from the war a damaged man.

“The impact on my family was enormous, as I think it was on any family,” Cornelius says. “Someone has gone to war a young, fresh man and returned a totally different man, a very damaged one … that’s definitely my father.”

One of the central themes of the play is the yearning for parental love, expressed most poignantly in the thwarted endeavours of oldest boy Johnnie, who is rebuffed by Jack at every turn.

“We all yearned, and yearn still, some of us, for the love of our parents,” Cornelius says. “As corny as that sounds on some level, there is something that hits you in the guts about that and it’s so simple and so universally recognised: this yearning to just be loved.”

For Rice’s Christine, the yearning manifests as a desire to be just like Jack. Her imaginary play evokes the derring-do of the battlefield: she has lives to save, messages to pass on, dangerous journeys to make.

“She wants to be like him when she grows up, she wants to be a hero, she wants to fight in battles,” says Rice. “She doesn’t want to realise the real battle that’s happening around her.”

On this domestic battlefront, Jack’s main combatant is his oldest child, the smart and steely Jill, who steers her siblings – Johnnie, Christine and twins Mouse and Door – away from his line of fire.

A month out from opening, the family dynamics are playing out inside a large rehearsal room scattered with props: beds are lined up at the rear, makeshift walls conjure a working-class home, and costume drawings decorate a corner of the room. Dee, whose long-running creative partnership with Cornelius has delivered some of Australian theatre’s most powerful moments, joins her seven actors – the children are all played by adults – in a circle, as they limber up with physical and vocal exercises, tossing an imaginary ball to one another and reciting, with increasing speed, a passage that is filled with tongue-tripping words: “Trinidad”, “Mississippi”, “Lake Titicaca”.

In a run-through of the opening scene, Ian Bliss, as Jack, is playful but menacing, holding a bucket of water, and calling, “Come out, come out, wherever you are!” as the children scatter. His wife, Martha, played by Maude Davey, is described in the script notes as “mid to late 40s. Worn out. Full of sighs.” Dealing with a traumatised, abusive husband and the impact on her children has hollowed her out. When her boisterous youngest child climbs into her lap, begging to be held, she snaps: “Christine, you’re too old for this … give me a break.”

When we chat later, Dee agrees that even at this early stage, there’s a sense that something special is unfolding inside the rehearsal room.

“I think all the actors in the room feel that this is a special new work,” she says. “It’s close to a writer’s heart and head … She’s so lean, Patricia, because she knows the world so well. It could have been a much longer play, but she cuts to the quick, takes no prisoners … There’s a vitality in the work, which is so great for actors and for a director. I feel really blessed.”

For Rice, her mainstage debut has brought its surprises, from the courage of her fellow cast members – “everyone just jumped into it with no fear or inhibitions” – to the sheer physicality required.

“I knew that I would have to work on my breathing and my voice,” she says. “I didn’t fully think that I would be sore after the first day of rehearsals. Christine is a really physical character, she’s constantly moving, running, jumping, rolling around – she’s really active and I want to embody that fully. I feel very connected to the character and the story when you feel it in every part of your body.

The stage, for Rice, represents something of a homecoming; both her parents are involved in the theatre, Jeremy as a director and Kate as a writer.

“I was constantly in theatres as a kid,” she recalls. “My dad worked at a theatre company right next to my primary school, so I would go there after school and I would sit in on rehearsals … my sister and I would just sit in the corner and colour in or draw. And because my dad mainly works in theatre for young people, we were often the test audiences, so we would sit there and give suggestions, or say no, we didn’t like that, it wasn’t funny, or yes, that was funny, keep that in.”

This connection to family is a recurring theme in Rice’s screen work, particularly the relationship between mothers and daughters. While her characters often chafe against the maternal bond, her own relationship with her mother is such that, even during the process of writing a novel together, not a single door was slammed.

The result, Stuck Up & Stupid, updates one of Rice’s favourite books, Pride and Prejudice. After re-reading the Jane Austen classic during COVID lockdowns, she asked her mother to write a modern retelling of the story. Kate, who’d had the same idea years earlier, suggested they write it together.

“She dug up her old idea from, I think, 2008, and came up with a whole table and chart of the chapters in the original book and how we were going to write it, character comparisons, and all that kind of stuff,” Rice recalls. “In the summer of 2020-21, we wrote the first draft by hand over a month or six weeks … what was really fun is that we had something to talk about that was shared … something that we did together.

“There was never any fighting … We disagreed on some things but we’re both willing to a) listen to what the other person says and b) back up our ideas. If we disagreed it was never a hard fight.”

The publisher’s notes refer to the novel as a modern tale that “captures the spirit and energy of Austen’s original satire of manners”. Set in a coastal town in NSW, it recasts Mr Darcy and his uppity cronies as Hollywood stars and influencers. Very modern indeed.

Rice’s foray into fiction seems like a logical move for the self-described “big book nerd” and host of The Community Library – “a podcast about stories and how and why we tell them”. Rice writes and delivers fortnightly episodes promoting the joy of reading in a way that is as playful as it is informative (in one episode, her sister, Kalliope, rates, in a less than scientific manner, the opening lines of a series of novels). Her listeners, mostly aged between 18 and 25, are part of a growing community of readers who swap recommendations on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram.

“I feel really happy that I’m part of the book community online,” Rice says. “Before TikTok blew up, I had been watching YouTube videos about people talking about books for a long time and also Instagram and blogs … I think the internet has been so wonderful for so many communities … people who might not have a reading community in real life find it online and it is how I find out about half of the books I read.”

As podcast host, Rice revisits her childhood favourites, including Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series, The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner, and L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. She talks about wanting to be more like those fearless girls who were always heading off on thrilling adventures. The feistiness of Montgomery’s heroine was something to aspire to but, in truth, Rice was more like Anne’s friend, Diana: bookish, sensible, and, frankly, “a bit meek”.

So has acting allowed her to explore these longed-for traits?

“I think it is always interesting to me to choose roles that have character traits that I want and not necessarily that I have because it’s great to explore that in a safe, contained setting,” Rice says. “When I was a kid I sort of wanted to be everything and acting gave me the opportunity to do that – I could be everything I wanted to be.”

For now, inside a Southbank rehearsal room, she’s a young Melbourne girl trying hard not to see the pain that surrounds her, but she could be any daughter, in any family, anywhere in the world, doing her best to love the imperfect people with whom she shares her life. Look at them, would you? They’re trying to survive, yearning for love and dreaming of better days to come. Look at them. They’re a lot like you and me.

My Sister Jill is at Southbank Theatre from September 23; Stuck Up & Stupid, by Angourie and Kate Rice, will be published by Walker Books on November 1.


Articles & Interviews Gallery My Sister Jill Photoshoots Theatre
Death Of A Salesman Opening Night
Posted by Veronique on Sep 7, 2023

Angourie attended the Death Of A Salesman Opening Night today. Click on the gallery link below to see all new photos.

Events & Premieres Gallery
My Sister Jill (Melbourne Theatre Company)
Posted by Veronique on Sep 6, 2023

The My Sister Jill team have been hard at work in rehearsals preparing to bring this new Australian drama to the stage. ⁠

Set against the backdrop of 1950s to 70s suburban Melbourne, My Sister Jill is a powerful coming-of-age story from one of the country’s most dynamic theatre collaborations, Patricia Cornelius and Susie Dee.⁠

🎟️ My Sister Jill begins at Southbank Theatre 23 September – book discounted tickets for preview performances (23–27 Sep) at the link in our bio.⁠

Source: @melbtheatreco

Behind the Scenes / On Set Gallery My Sister Jill Promotional Photos Theatre
New photoshoot outtakes
Posted by Veronique on Aug 14, 2023

Click on the gallery link below to see all new photos!

Gallery Photoshoots
2:22 – A Ghost Story Opening Night
Posted by Veronique on Jul 29, 2023

Events & Premieres Gallery
Flaunt Magazine
Posted by Veronique on Jun 17, 2023

Angourie Rice | There’s Immediacy, And Then There’s What Comes After
Written by Eloisa de Farias – Photographed by Bryan Carr – Styled by Britton Litow

When asked if breakout actor Angourie Rice has any hobbies other than stealing our hearts in whatever role she plays on screen, she tells me her big two are knitting and baking. She chuckles, comparing herself to an old lady, “When I’m not working, I like to make things that are tangible because I spend so much time making something where I don’t even know what it’s going to look like. When I bake, though, I make it and I can hold it and touch it, and then I get the instant reward of getting to eat it.” Lucky for us, we can click play on nearly every major streamer and watch Rice conquer a character with conviction and intention. This is our version of instant gratification, no flour or eggs needed.

Rice’s résumé would most definitely need stapling. The twenty-two-year-old actor’s first leading role was in the Paramount+ original movie Honor Society in which she played the lead role of Honor. Later that year, she would take on the role of the high school-age version of Rebel Wilson’s character Stephanie in the Netflix comedy Senior Year. Perhaps her most popular role is that of rebellious yet clever Siobhan in the HBO limited series Mare of Easttown alongside Kate Winslet. The series follows detective Mare Sheehan (Winslet) as she investigates a murder and confronts her personal life trials and tribulations. Rice also starred alongside Zendaya and Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man: Far From Home, and Spider-Man: No Way Home as Betty Brant.

Currently, you can see Rice on Apple TV+ and Hello Sunshine’s miniseries The Last Thing He Told Me alongside Jennifer Garner, who plays Hannah. The series follows a thrilling mystery based on Laura Dave’s New York Times bestseller of the same title. Rice plays Bailey, Hannah’s sixteen-year-old stepdaughter who is helping her uncover the mysterious disappearance of her husband Owen (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), all while forming an unforeseen relationship.

While Rice is able to effortlessly breathe life into characters and personalities so different from her own, playing the part of Bailey has been a special and personal process for the actor. “I think something I really admire about Bailey is how headstrong she is. Bailey is so sure of who she knows, how she knows people, and what she wants, and I really admire that.” Rice reflects, “That’s something I want to bring into my own life because she’s so determined, and she won’t let anything shake her.” Though The Last Thing He Told Me is emotionally evocative and suspenseful, filming the miniseries has had some bright moments. Rice recalls the rain machine they brought in for filming Episode Two, how cheerful she felt under the man-made raindrops showering her from above. Maybe the secret to Rice’s outstanding performance is her ability to bring a bit of carefree joy to every set.

A miniseries may be short, but they require jampacking incredible storytelling, character development, and entertainment into the little time we do have with the actors. Rice uses her time with us perfectly, leaving the viewer wanting season after season. She tackles Bailey’s desperation with a sense of honesty and rawness. “I think one of my favorite things about playing Bailey was how immediate her character is, you know, she is so thrown into the moment. And she has no time to breathe and sort of get time to herself. She’s constantly in crisis mode.”

During Rice’s seasoned acting career there have been both refreshing moments and challenging ones. She recalls filming a breakdown scene in Episode Five of Mare of Easttown when Siobhan confronts her mother about what she should have done differently. The vulnerable and heartwrenching scene struck home for both Rice and many viewers. “Getting into that headspace feels uncomfortable,” Rice recalls. “Because it’s not really a space that you want to live in for very long. Even the character doesn’t want to live in that space. It’s unbearable.” We have all been that restless teenager or had a difficult confrontation with a parental figure–it’s an organic yet sensitive experience. Rice personifies that agonizing moment with ease, of course at the cost of her own comfort while filming the scene. “It really made an impact on me because I connected with that scene, and it felt like a truly vulnerable moment of a child telling a parental figure that they should have been there when they weren’t.”

Our dreams are often conventional. Some want luxury, others love or happiness. What do these have in common? Comfort. We desire pleasantries and contentment. Rice couldn’t disagree more. She craves a challenge, the very opposite of comfort. She likes to test her limits and find new ways to better herself. Her dreams include everything but the ordinary. It translates all the way to her hopes for her acting career, “I would really love to do something that is more dance-heavy, or something that’s very physical that requires training. I think the preparation aspect of film and TV is what I really love, anything that requires me to learn a lot about something that I’ve never discovered before.”

Rice has already accomplished what many hope to in a decades-long career. Yet, she is humble and grateful, her demeanor is sweet and intentional, and there is not a hint of selfishness in the way she presents herself. Being in an industry that can often make you feel like a fish in a fishbowl can be strenuous for someone merely in their 20s, but Rice makes the absolute most of it all while inspiring those who religiously follow her. “The more I work with young people, the more I build up a community of working actors my age. We’re kind of united in that we have this experience of being a person in their 20s, trying to figure out where to live, and what projects to take. I think the more community I create, the more comfortable I feel moving in these spaces.” Rice’s influence as a young actor extends beyond her on-screen performance. She has taken it upon herself to create a tangible way for her fans to explore the media universe by creating a podcast called The Community Library, where Rice delves into her love of literature and takes her listeners along with her. “I wanted to create a space that made analyzing stories and talking about stories very accessible, not this highbrow literary thing you need to go to university for, because I didn’t go to university,” says Rice. “The way that I talk about and analyze stories is from reading and learning, both from other people online and with books.”

Rice will soon be able to add author to her list of many qualifications. She is writing a retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in present-day Sydney and Hollywood with her mother Kathryn Rice, which is set to release in November. “Writing with someone else is easier because you have someone to hold you accountable. I found that writing is problem-solving and it’s really good to have someone else there to help you with that.”

A new book isn’t the only exciting new project around the corner. Although much of it remains hush-hush, Rice is elated about her upcoming role as Cady in Mean Girls from Paramount Pictures, a film adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name. The movie is still in production but is already receiving abuzz about Rice’s highly anticipated performance alongside co-stars Reneé Rapp, Auli’i Cravalho, and Jaquel Spivey. “There was no moment of like, ‘oh this isn’t what I thought it was gonna be.’ It was exactly what I wanted it to be,” she beams. “It was being in a movie musical. It was the best experience.

From writing, to acting, to singing, Rice’s days are more like thrilling itineraries. Most importantly Rice knows how and when to push herself. This year, she ponders not only what it means to be a star, but also what it means to experience simply being human. “I’ve been thinking a lot about boundaries and about burnout, and understanding when I’m too tired and understanding when to take a break. If I can only give 75% on any given day, that’s still technically 100% because that is the most I could do.” Perhaps we could all use a little break and a pause to fully evolve as people. We can thank Rice for the advice.


Articles & Interviews Gallery Photoshoots
FYC Emmy screening and Q&A of the Apple TV+ limited-series The Last Thing He Told Me
Posted by Veronique on Jun 11, 2023

Angourie attended the FYC Emmy screening and Q&A of the Apple TV+ limited-series The Last Thing He Told Me last week. Click on the gallery link below to see all new photos.

Events & Premieres Gallery
The Last Thing He Told Me episode 7 screencaps
Posted by Veronique on May 22, 2023

I added screencaps to the gallery of Angourie in the 7th episode of “The Last Thing He Told Me”. Click on the gallery links below to see all caps.

Gallery Screencaps The Last Thing He Told Me

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Official Angourie Rice Links
Current Projects
The Last Thing He Told Me

Angourie Rice as Bailey

A woman who forms an unexpected relationship with her 16-year-old stepdaughter while searching for the truth about why her husband has mysteriously disappeared.

Mean Girls

Angourie Rice as Cady Heron

An adaptation of Tina Fey, Jeff Richmond, and Nell Benjamin's Broadway musical based on the popular 2004 film comedy.