EXCLUSIVE: Elsa Pataky’s subtle rallying cry for sexual abuse survivors

"We wanted it to feel real."
Loading the player...

Elsa Pataky always wanted to star in an action film but never anticipated it would see her tackle issues like sexual abuse and insidious rape culture in the military.  

WATCH BELOW: Elsa Pataky opens up on portraying a survivor of sexual harassment in Interceptor.

“She starts the movie at probably the lowest point of her life,” Elsa tells Who of her character in Netflix’s military thriller Interceptor, Captain JJ Collins.

Though audiences see the character face off against terrorist forces on an isolated military base in the middle of the ocean, JJ’s internal conflict is far more confronting and all too real.

After being sexually harassed by a fictional senior general in the US Army, JJ speaks up only for the harassment to be covered up by the senior brass.

Meanwhile the perpetrator continues to hold a position of power, with JJ even being sent back into work with him for a time, subjecting her to more abuse.

Elsa’s character JJ is sexually harassed by a fictional senior general in the US Army. (Credit: Netflix)

The situation is harrowing but not uncommon, both in the US and international military structures, and in a world Elsa is more familiar with; Hollywood.

The #MeToo movement saw women in the film industry and beyond share their own stories of surviving sexual abuse, and it was these stories that informed Elsa’s portrayal of JJ.

RELATED: Elsa Pataky’s secret past revealed – read the story here.

“We were talking a lot with Matt [Matthew Riley], the director, and he sent me a lot of stories… it was so sad, but we wanted it to feel real,” she explains of her character’s trauma.

“That was interesting about the role too. It was a strong, independent, fierce woman, but it was a character that has a life experience that made her be who she is.”

“It was a strong, independent, fierce woman, but it was a character that has a life experience that made her be who she is.” (Credit: Netflix)

JJ’s status as a survivor of sexual violence is part of what fuels her narrative, but it also made Elsa deeply protective of the character, especially in scenes after JJ reports her abuse.

Rather than being protected by her military colleagues, JJ is ostracised and branded a “w—re” and “traitor” for speaking out against a decorated general.

RELATED: How Chris Hemsworth helped transform Elsa Pataky’s body – read the story here.

Subjected to fresh harassment from her brothers in arms, the stoic captain eventually reaches her breaking point in a heartbreaking scene from the film.

“Even if she was right with what she was saying, she spoke up … and she lost all the respect of all the people who work with her,” Elsa says, musing that real-world survivors often face the same backlash.

WATCH: Elsa Pataky stars in Netflix’s Interceptor.

Loading the player...

“It can just take you [to a dark place] as somebody that just has nothing, nothing to fight for anymore … not having any more strength to fight for the things that you think are the right thing.”

The 45-year-old mother tapped into “very vulnerable feelings” to portray JJ’s story in an authentic way, one that champions the voices and experiences of survivors.

“I hope it’s an inspiration for all those people that have been through something like that,” she adds of her character’s eventual comeback in the film.

Elsa wants JJ to be a figure that will give others the strength to “never stop fighting” and never feel that they have to hide or be ashamed.

Interceptor is streaming on Netflix from June 3. Sign up for a free trial here.

If you or someone you know has been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, help is always available. Call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit their website.

Related stories