Mayday & Nine Perfect Strangers Star Grace Van Patten: Interview
While the overall cast of the Hulu series Nine Perfect Strangers boasts of Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy, it was Grace Van Patten’s work as damaged teenager Zoe that stood out the most. Van Patten, from New York, has been playing since the age of eight, scoring his first role in The Sopranos. The actress, who also works regularly on stage, has since had small roles, notably in Noah Baumbach’s film. Meyerowitz’s stories and that of David Robert Mitchell Under the silver lake. But with Nine Perfect Strangers and lead in Help, from writer / director Karen Cinorre, 2021 turns out to be the year of Van Patten.
In Help, released on October 1, Van Patten plays Ana, a traumatized hotel worker who is transported to a dreamlike world where women are at war. She joins a group of girls, led by Mia Goth’s Marsha, who lures soldiers to their deaths using radio transmission – a reference to mermaids from Greek mythology – but Ana quickly discovers that she is not so ruthless. . It’s a strange and surreal film, filled with evocative imagery, and it gives Van Patten a solid showcase for his talent. Fans of the up-and-coming star will surely notice that Ana, who is learning to cope with her broken self, also has a strange resonance with Zoe, the character of the actress on Nine Perfect Strangers, further unifying its year of escape.
Van Patten spoke to Observer about what drew her to filmmaking and what it meant for her to work with a mostly female cast and crew. She also discussed Nine Perfect Strangers, which recently aired its dramatic finale, and what we can expect next.
Observer: You have a good time with Nine Perfect Strangers and Help outside at once.
Van Patten: It’s fun! I’m so happy that the world can finally see them both. Is hot Help in 2019. It was quite a journey.
When you first read the script for Help, did this sound like something unusual?
Yes, I feel like I was transported just reading the script. And I had never felt that reading anything. I put it down and took it right away and wanted to read it a second time. I wanted to try to understand everything. And I realized that the beauty of this script was the unknown and the endless amount of meanings that could be drawn from it and how interpretable it was. Within all the fantastic elements and magic of it, it was truly the story of a young woman finding her inner strength and power. I thought it was told in such a unique, original way that I had never seen before. And the idea of working with all women was so exciting to me. I hope I can do it more often! I hope there will be more opportunities for this.
Is it a rare enough offer to work mainly with women?
Oh my God, yes. I had never had this opportunity before. I was like, “I have to do this. It sounds like the most amazing experience ever. And Karen is a visionary. Watching his short films you knew that Help was going to be epic in how she looked and felt and the world she was going to build.
Where did you shoot?
We shot in Croatia. It is so beautiful. It is really different from all the places I have been. And all this – the
Was there any research you could do prior to a project like this?
Karen told us a lot about her influences and a lot of it about Greek mythology and women in mythology. What I found so wonderful and really didn’t know much about it. It was a great inspiration for her. But in terms of research, I really looked more into Ana’s state of mind. I have read a lot about grief and trauma. I certainly learned more about it. [We shot] for almost three months and we were so lucky to have that time. We were able to go there a week or two before we started filming and just talk about it, rehearse and practice weapons and get to know each other.
It’s really interesting to watch women in war. It is not an image that we see very often.
Not at all. It was so different that way. I loved how the costume played a part in that because they were, in a way, kind of a uniform. But they were all equally individualized and personal to each character, which I liked. They were all similar, but had their own personalities.
Did you come out of it having learned something about yourself as an actor?
Absoutely. I feel like I learn something new from each job and it’s different, like the process of each role and the approach and the relationship with the actors and the director. It’s always so different and there’s no way to prepare for the next one or know what it’s going to be like. It was a challenge that way. And I had never made a movie where I was in every scene, so there was no choice but to give it my all. And sometimes it’s really scary. But Karen created such a safe and comfortable environment and I think it was like that because they were all women. We all felt safe to be vulnerable with each other.
Once you have worked in such a situation, does it have an impact on what you want to do in the future?
I would like to work with as many women as possible. We have to stick together. I think it’s amazing what Karen and a lot of other women are doing right now – writing and directing and creating more opportunities for young women to follow in their footsteps. I would love to keep doing that and playing complex female characters. I was lucky with that.
I feel, especially with Zoe on Nine Perfect Strangers and with Ana, they were both similar in the way they’re so broken and they have such tragic stories, but you see their progress in that. They can take a trip, which so many characters don’t. It separates and cuts itself. You can really see their travels unfold.
It also seems important that female characters are allowed to be broken.
Exactly. That these aren’t just surface-level stereotypical women. They are real humans and they go through human things. The roles are deep and layered and beyond the words on the page.
Did you shoot Help before being thrown Nine Perfect Strangers?
Yes. I think I actually auditioned for the first time when I got back from Help. But we didn’t shoot until much later. We shot in Australia [during the pandemic]. It has been a crazy, crazy year for all of us.
When you finally got to the set of Nine Perfect Strangers, Was it intimidating to be surrounded by this cast?
It was like, so many emotions. I was so excited. I’m a huge fan of everyone I’ve worked with, which is crazy. And they were all such amazing human beings. I think because we were all shipped to Australia to a place we all weren’t familiar with, it forced us to connect on a different level. Similar to Help, we were all at this place all together. It was a great experience.
Have you had any real experience with psychedelics to use as inspiration?
My mother is listening! But no, I’ve never hallucinated before. I am very curious and want to, but I am nervous. This is apparently the key now. People swear by it.
The show makes it both amazing and horrible.
Exactly. It’s not about glorifying drugs, which is good! But I’m definitely curious. Not in the intense way that I did it Nine Perfect Strangers, but a balance.
When you first started acting, were those the types of roles you aspired to?
My only hope is to play complex characters. That’s literally all I’m looking for: that when I read a script, I feel so drawn to the character and who he is. I think Zoe, from Nine Perfect Strangers, and Ana have such a similarity between them, but it was not intentional. These are just the deep roles that I encountered and really wanted to be a part of.
Does working with someone like Karen encourage you to consider writing or directing?
Yes. I admire him so much. And all those who do this, especially women who give opportunities to other women. I can’t imagine writing a script. It’s just crazy to me. And writing a good script is mind-blowing. I am very inspired by that and by her.
Have you filmed anything since Nine Perfect Strangers?
No. Nothing since. I stayed in Australia for a few months after the shoot and didn’t want to leave. It was so beautiful. And it’s a true wellness retreat when not used as a set. It is a real seaside resort. I didn’t feel rested there though – I needed a post-shoot wellness retreat [the show]! I had to register right away. It was such an amazing experience, but it was really hard to be in that state of mind for five months. Zoe is making progress, but she’s very, very broken and been through a lot. It definitely took me a few months to get rid of these emotions.
Will there be a second season of the series?
I didn’t hear that. Who knows. It could go on, or it could be an entirely different group of nine guests. Make it an anthology!
What’s the next step for you?
I’m really excited for what I’m going to do next. This is another show on Hulu, called Tell me lies. She’s another very complex female character who goes through a lot. It focuses on this very toxic relationship with a guy she meets in college and the addicting tangle of love at times. It goes through everything, every emotion. And this is a TV show, a full TV show, that I’ve never done before, so I’m so excited to be able to stream it and really take some time with this trip.
So you go from a really intense role to a really intense role.
I know. I really need a comedy! Soon I hope.