At the tender age of 18, Rose McIver can already look back on a career spanning 16 years. She appeared in a commercial when she was two, The Piano when she was three and Hercules when she was four. It might say something about the New Zealand television industry that she has hardly done any theatre work, but in between a normal school life she has performed in everything from Topless Women Talk About Their Lives to the lead role in the TV3 series Maddigan’s Quest. She is now starring as Constance in her first grown-up drama, Rude Awakenings.
What’s your earliest memory of performing? I remember doing Hercules when I was four. That was one of my earliest memories because it was my first experience of getting into a character, it wasn’t a commercial. I was playing the Hydra, the monster, with special effects, so that was pretty exciting. The monster came out of the ground as I went under. I remember that pretty vividly. Actually, The Piano was one of my earliest memories: I was about three and I was an angel in the school production and I desperately needed to go to the toilet and they said, “Keep it, it looks really real”, but I was like full-on hobbling around the stage.
You’ve just been filming a Disney movie here – how do you like putting on an American accent? Not too bad. When I was Hercules’s daughter, my brother was Hercules’s son, so we had to learn an American accent.
Quite a dramatic family. Sort of. My mum’s an artist and my dad’s a photographer.
Sounds like stage-mother syndrome. My mum didn’t even want us to … I wasn’t allowed to take more than a week off school at a time if I ever did it. She made me plan around school, because I had a lot of other interests that I was still thinking about and Mum totally didn’t want me to. My brother decided he wasn’t interested at about 10 and he stopped going to auditions and she was relieved. The past couple of years I’ve done bigger jobs, but I’ve pretty much only done episodic things before then, or short films. We didn’t want to have to do the home-schooling thing, which is why I did short jobs. I loved school.
Do you have a drama teacher or mentor who inspired you? At Avondale we had Ms Nelson, Alison Nelson, she was fantastic. I took drama from fifth form, I think it was. We had our school shows and stuff. I’d never done theatre, I’d done one amateur play and a couple of media films, so she was really good. I learnt a whole lot of craft from her because I’d love to do theatre, but I don’t know anything yet.
It’s amazing that you can go into film and television, bypassing theatre. I went to see a play at the Silo the other night and it just gave me a kick: “I want to do theatre, I want to do theatre!”
So Maddigan’s Quest was your first long-term job? It was four months over the summer and that was so much fun. Learning circus skills, learning tightrope and juggling was incredible. I kept thinking how lucky I was with this recent job, learning surfing and dirtboarding.
Do you sing as well? I’d love to do musicals, so I’m thinking of going back to study dance again this year. I used to do ballet and jazz, so I’m thinking of doing that again.
Now you’re doing Rude Awakenings. That’s quite a leap from children’s drama. I guess because there were so many factors that were different. It wasn’t just an adult drama and as I’m playing a pretty complex character, it definitely felt like a dramatically different thing to work on. Constance is manipulative and there was so much to her that I could sink my teeth into. I’ve been lucky with a few roles, I’ve been able to play somebody different or somebody strong, but especially when you’re 12 or 13, you’re playing somebody’s daughter, you know. It was quite exciting playing Constance, with her own storyline and her own things happening.
There’s been an inevitable comparison between Constance and the Loretta West character in Outrageous Fortune. Were you aware of that? I knew they would be compared. I hope we show a progression. I think she’s entirely different in where her storyline goes, the kind of person she is, the reasons she does things. I don’t think Constance is a bad person, but she can be perceived as something besides the hero or just good. It’s nice to play someone that people are going to dislike or something’s going to happen to them.
We’re still slightly stunned by the hair and glasses for Rude Awakenings. It was cut, it was coloured, it was the real deal. I didn’t wig it, it was a dramatic change. It was cool, something different.
This is the second time you’ve worked with Danielle Cormack? No, about the fourth or fifth time. I did Maiden Voyage, I did Topless Women Talk About Their Lives.
You’ve been in everything! Not really!
Is it funny to see yourself growing up on screen? It’s just a flash or an episode. My dad’s a photographer, so the idea of cameras doesn’t upset me. We’ve always had lots of family photos, lots of albums, lots of images, so I don’t freak out when I see myself on screen. I’ve never felt like I’ve grown up on screen, I’ve never been recognised. Maybe there have been people at school who say, “I saw you on that show”, but I’ve never been stopped or anything.
RUDE AWAKENINGS, Friday, TV1, 8.35pm