What drew you to this project?
The Wilds is one of the best pilots I’ve ever read. I had the same feeling as when I read the script for Six Feet Under for the first time. It was utterly compelling, deeply original and moving.
When I was growing up, the representations of young women on television were on Gidget and The Brady Brunch. I used to watch MASH because Hawkeye [Alan Alda] was the only character I identified with. I’m so thrilled that young women today can watch a show with eight diverse young women, and that the painful passage of adolescence is being portrayed in such a rich way.
How would you describe the show? Because it’s about people stranded on a deserted island, would it be fair to say it combines Lost with Lord of the Flies?
Lord of the Flies [a 1954 novel by William Golding, which became a film] is a starting point. But The Wilds is much more hopeful when it comes to the resilience and resourcefulness of young people. My So-Called Life was perhaps more of an inspiration because of the depth of its ambition to explore female adolescence.
What drew you to playing Gretchen?
I’m taking inspiration from Nicole Kidman, who I read chooses roles that she’s afraid of. I didn’t know how to pull off this character. She doesn’t behave according to ethical and moral norms. Obviously, we’re in a world where that is increasingly happening.
How do you go about creating a character like her?
I often look to real world examples and being a student of history, I looked at people who have done quite terrible things while passionately believing in the righteousness of their cause. I also read about some of the radical feminists from the ’70s.
You’ll be working with a cast of new young talents. Have you given them any advice along the way and if so, what was it?
They inspired me by being brave and raw. One thing I told them was that TV is like running a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how the character might read on the page, never limit yourself in the role. Use every colour in the box.
You’ve portrayed a very diverse array of characters over the course of your career. Do you have any particular favourites or stand-outs, and is there a type of role or work that you’d like to do one day?
It often surprises me what roles I end up loving. I said no to [2001 movie] Blow, like, 10 times and [director] Ted Demme kept asking me to do it. I didn’t want to play her because she was so nasty but in the end, she was so fun and liberating. Playing the prime minister in [ABC TV series] Total Control alongside Deborah Mailman was a career highlight because I actually had skin in the game in terms of co-creating that show.
Do your kids get what you do, and have you been able to show them any of your previous works?
They recently watched Muriel’s Wedding and couldn’t believe how skinny I was. I didn’t know where to go with that feedback. Because my children have always been on sets with me, they have always understood that my business is pretending. A lot of
my work has not been kid appropriate.
I’m so thrilled to make a show that is totally for them, particularly my 14-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son. I guess, weirdly, this is a year that has the tone of a survivalist drama – so a TV show about resilience and resourcefulness, as well as about defining who you are away from social media, should make it a real hit with that age group especially.
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