Interview with Angourie Rice from Mare of Easttown: “ When you’re a kid, you sometimes feel like you’re bored ”
Ngourie Rice was fine until she opened her finger. The young star of The nice guys and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man franchise arrived in Philadelphia to play Kate Winslet’s daughter in the grisly HBO / Sky Atlantic series Easttown mare, and was working without a parent or guardian present for the very first time. She was 18, had survived a transatlantic flight from her native Australia and was temporarily living in her own apartment. Everything was dandy until she made dinner for herself. There was a blade, some vigorous chopping, then blood gushed out on his kitchen counter.
“I realized I didn’t have any bandages, and it was 8:30 am. [in the evening] and the corner store had closed, ”she recalls, re-enacting the panic of the moment from the sofa in her family’s living room in Melbourne. “I was like, what am I going to do?” It was the very first moment I realized, “Oh my God, I’m in charge now, I’m going to have to fix this. So I wrapped a paper towel around my finger and secured it with a rubber band, then the next day I managed to buy some bandages. She radiates pride. “I had suddenly become an adult.”
The 20-year-old actor’s on-screen journey to adulthood has been smoother. Named after the beach in New South Wales where her grandmother lives – Angourie is pronounced “ann-gow-ree” – Rice seems drawn to the closed or the haunted: a shy Sofia Coppola schoolgirl Seduces him, Peter Parker’s classmate, Betty Brant in the Spider-Man movies, the lonely pop music fangirl in the Miley Cyrus episode of Black mirror. The brave Nancy Drewing she demonstrated in The nice guys, where she stole the show as the precocious daughter of Ryan Gosling, remains a bit of an outlier.
In Easttown mare, she is a teenage girl overwhelmed with grief with the weight of the world on her shoulders. She plays Siobhan Sheehan, an aspiring musician and filmmaker with girlfriend troubles and a deceased brother whom she never got to praise properly. Siobhan is also one of the last people to see a murdered girl alive, just to get home that things aren’t going so well.
Yes Easttown mare is a convincing exercise in the constant angst of small towns, off-camera was another story. Yes, Winslet crawled into the trunk of a car as Rice filmed a kissing scene with another actor in the front seat, but only to make sure she was safe and as comfortable as possible. “Kate has a daughter my age, so she was really looking out for me,” Rice recalls. “I felt so well taken care of.” She was also able to live out her rockstar fantasies, at least to some extent.
“We had good rehearsals before the shoot!” she said of her fictional group. “We were trained by Michelle Zauner [aka the indie rock artist Japanese Breakfast], which was so cool, and I sing covers of a band called Mannequin Pussy. In the original script, she was supposed to sing in two concert scenes, but then Covid struck. “It was going to be a bunch of people in a small room and they were obviously like, no, we can’t do that anymore. But we filmed a song for episode seven, which I hope they kept it in.
The show’s US broadcaster, HBO, has yet to let her watch the finale. In fact, she was only allowed to watch until episode five, which ends on a violent cliffhanger. She also doesn’t think she can use her acting privilege to send him the last two hours. “They’re really mean about it,” she jokes.
Rice has a natural sun going to her – or maybe it’s just the jet lag speaking. Living on the other side of the world, she promoted widely Easttown mare early in the evening when those questioning him had barely woken up. As a result, she’s a sort of human defibrillator, both bubbling and unguarded, even though she’s still navigating how to exist as a public figure. When I reread an old quote from his own podcast – a lively, diaristic book club series called The community library – she holds her hands to her ears, like I’m about to press play on an embarrassing recording from years ago. “Oh my God, what did I say ?!” She’s much less panicked later when I refer to something her mom once said about her. “She is much smarter than me!” Rice laughs. “She’s amazing, quote her!“
Rice’s mother is an actress and playwright, while her father is the director of a theater company. This meant that Rice was spending her early years literally on the fringes of Melbourne’s creative scene. When she absent-mindedly started quoting a play her mother was in, her parents realized they had produced an actor. The play in question was about a woman in distress who cut her legs. It wasn’t exactly the most suitable material.
“This thing happened a lot,” Rice admits. “I was two or three years old, and they were just training me in rehearsals. They said, oh, she doesn’t understand a thing, set her in a corner, she’ll be fine. Later they would take me home and I would just start reciting the lines to them. They were like, maybe we shouldn’t get him to these really dark rooms… ”
Soon after, she began performing in commercials, short films, and local theater herself. She still lives in Melbourne and continues to seek roles in the Australian film industry, but admits that Seduces him, which she shot in New Orleans, remains her favorite on-camera experience. Starring alongside a tight cast of just seven other actors, including Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Colin Farrell, she said the film has helped change the way she sees herself on set.
“When you act as a young child, you sometimes feel like a burden or a bother,” she says. “Children have special working hours, and when I was younger I took some of that guilt. Like, ‘Oh, I want to work longer, I want to stay, but I’m sorry I can’t.’ Coppola inadvertently convinced her to stop apologizing. “We had four girls under 18 on this set, and she was so cool about it. She would just say, ‘It’s okay, we’re losing the girls in an hour. It’s okay, we’ll do our best and we’ll get there. It was one of the quietest sets I have ever seen.
Today, Rice is neither a total stranger nor an international fame, rather somewhere in between. She says she always walks lightly. “When I was in school, the whole industrial aspect of my life was not real,” she recalls. “Everything that happens on the internet, these articles or photoshoots, it’s actually not real and doesn’t really influence who I am, or at least I don’t want it to influence who I am. There’s a weird element to being recognized, though, and a feeling like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know anyone could be watching me all this time.’ ‘
Sometimes, she adds, she briefly finds herself feeling the need to “take another version of myself.” She remembers being “silly and ridiculous” at a friend’s party a few years ago, when someone approached her and asked her for a photo. “Suddenly I was like, ‘Oh my god, I just did some stupid bullshit with my friends for half an hour,’ she said. “What if they saw this?” What do they think of me?
She creaks at the memory, but explains that while her career continues to soar, she never wants to take that kind of attention for granted. “If I get to a point where I expect it, I have big problems,” she says. “If I ever expected people to know who I am, I would be very worried about myself.”
For now, she stays in Melbourne, auditions on tape from her agent’s office, and pursues roles that inspire her. Presumably while being more careful with cooking utensils.
Mare of Easttown airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on Sky Atlantic