‘Mare of Easttown’ Star Angourie Rice Is Out of Lockdown and Primed to Be Hollywood’s Next Big Thing
Not since Big Little Lies has a series on HBO had us on the edge of our seats and playing whodunnit quite like Mare of Easttown. The critically acclaimed show follows a small-town—emphasis on the small—detective (played by Kate Winslet) investigating a murder in southeast Pennsylvania, a place where, for better or worse, everybody knows your name.
But the name to watch in the series is less familiar. She’s also on the cusp of mega-stardom. Angourie Rice, 20, plays Winslet’s college-bound daughter Siobhan, an aspiring musician who’s struggling to navigate the grief she feels about the death of her brother as well as the complicated relationship she has with her mom. Oh! She also happens to be one of the last people to have seen the murder victim alive. (No spoilers, promise.)
It’s not the first-time the Australian-born Rice has shared the screen with an A-Lister (just peep her performances opposite Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling in The Nice Guys or Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Far from Home), which may be the reason she’s able to take the buzz around her performance in stride. She’s also weirdly coming of age just like her character, navigating her first time away from home for this role (an experience that ended with a global pandemic before she returned to the set this past fall) and figuring out how to strike a balance between her personal and professional life (living across the world from Hollywood definitely helps). Chatting with us from Melbourne—at 5:30 a.m., thanks to the time difference—Rice talks Mare of Easttown, self-improvement and how Kate Winslet helped her channel calm on set.
PureWow: Where were you last March when the world came to a grinding halt?
Angourie Rice: I was actually shooting Mare of Easttown and they made the decision to shut down production, which was for the safety of everyone. I hightailed it out of America as soon as I could and was very fortunate to get home to Australia when I did—right before everything shut down. I was also fortunate to spend lockdown with my parents and sister, which was really nice.
PureWow: You have a podcast, The Community Library, which you describe as a book club for anyone interested in storytelling. I know you started that before lockdown, but were you able to put more time into it during the pandemic?
Rice: Yes! When I was working, the podcast had to take a backseat. Then, when we got into isolation, I was like, OK, I can start doing more in-depth critical analysis episodes that take longer to write because I have more time now. I did more essay-like discussion episodes, which was really fun.
PureWow: What inspired you to start your podcast?
Rice: I had just graduated high school and I knew I wasn’t going to [college] straight away, but I wanted a way to keep reading and talking about books. I also wanted to make it accessible to everyone and not scary. But it did begin as a self-improvement project. Now, I’m really happy that I get to share it with people.
PureWow: Going back to Mare of Easttown and when filming shut down—did that feel like a real-life cliffhanger, not knowing when production would resume?
Rice: It was because we didn’t know what was going to happen next or how long we were going to be shut down for. Two weeks? Two months? It turned out to be eight months. It was hard because I didn’t want to let go of the story or Siobhan as a character. I also didn’t want to let go of the accent and forget it.
PureWow: Of course, there’s a level of immersion. To have that break would have been hard.
Rice: It was a tricky balance to find—trying to hold onto those [parts of the show and character] over that time, but also being kind to myself and not getting too bogged down in this world that doesn’t exist. It was a big relief to get the show finished [production resumed last fall] because it had been a long time coming and we were all so ready to let the characters speak for themselves and be out in the world.
PureWow: Taking on this project meant this was your first time going on location alone without your parents. I heard there was a culinary mishap?
Rice: Yes! I cut my finger the first week I was there making dinner or dessert or something and I didn’t have any Band-Aids. I thought, ‘Well, this is what being an adult is—having a bleeding finger and no Band-Aids.’ And the chemist wasn’t open, so I had this moment of, hmmm, I have to solve this problem.
PureWow: What did you do?
Rice: I got a paper towel and a rubber band and I wrapped the paper towel around my finger and secured it with a rubber band because it cut off pressure. I mean, it wasn’t drastic. It was the tiniest little cut. But it was very dramatic in my life.
PureWow: What was your reaction when you first read the script for Mare? Are you a huge fan of crime dramas?
Rice: I really like old mysteries and whodunnits like Agatha Christie. Literary mysteries that satisfy you very quickly because they’re two hundred pages. Mare of Easttown was different because it’s long form and I had never done a long, committed series before. But it was a good sign when I sat down to read the first 20 pages of the script to help with the audition and ended up reading the whole thing. It drew me in with the mystery—and I think everyone is drawn to that. But I kept coming back to the characters. I really started to sympathize with them, not just Siobhan and her family, but everyone in the show. It builds such a great community so that you’re invested in everyone’s story and everyone’s problems. That’s what makes it so unique.
PureWow: With Siobhan, you’re playing a high school student and the daughter of Mare, played by Kate Winslet. Did you draw anything from your own high school experience for the role? What about your mother-daughter relationship?
Rice: It’s funny because my mom is also named Kate. That was a weird parallel. But as you mentioned before, I was living by myself for the first time. It was a formative time in my life. Then, with the pandemic hitting and suddenly having the responsibility to get home and not having a parent or chaperone throughout, I was very much learning to become an adult and leave the nest, essentially. And that’s what Siobhan is going through. She’s in the more contemplative stage of growing up and leaving her family. She’s thinking: What am I going to do if I go to college? What’s going to happen to my family? Are they going to fall apart without me? She’s been placed with a lot of responsibilities from a young age and she’s figuring out how to deal with that moving forward. I felt like we were both on the edge of becoming adults and taking responsibility for our lives at the same time.
PureWow: When did you first meet or read with Kate Winslet?
Rice: I met her on the first day of rehearsals. We did pre-production rehearsals where we got everyone in a room together to just talk about the characters. It was lovely to meet her. She had seen my audition tape and I was just excited to be there and we all chatted about the characters and what their relationships and life would have been like for them growing up. It was such a rewarding experience and really great because it’s rare to get that time before you start filming with the actors and the director and the writer to sit down and talk about the backstory.
PureWow: Did Kate give you any advice?
Rice: I remember what might have been our first or second day or pre-production and the writer just wanted to hear us. It was me, Kate and Jean Smart [who plays Winslet’s mom] and the writer wanted us to read a scene out loud. I was sweating. I was like, OMG, I have worked on the accent for this, but I don’t know if it’s ready, and Kate just made me feel so much better. She was like, ‘I still get nervous. I’m still nervous about the accent. Don’t worry.’ She said that she still gets first-day jitters. That was just really comforting to know. She does so much and really cares and puts so much dedication into her work. She made me feel at ease and way less intimidated. It was really nice.
PureWow: I also heard she helped with a romantic scene?
Rice: Yes! She jumped in the boot of the car when me and Kiah [McKirnan, who plays Angourie’s love interest, Anne] had to do an intimate kissing scene. So, it was me, Kiah, two cameramen in the back and Kate in the trunk delivering direction via the director. It was great and made everyone laugh.
PureWow: You’ve acted with Ryan Gosling, Nicole Kidman, Zendaya, Tom Holland and now Kate Winslet. Was there a project or person who has had a pretty big impact on your career thus far?
Rice: I feel very fortunate in that every job has posed its own challenges, but it’s also taught me something new. I worked on The Beguiled, which is a film directed by Sofia Coppola, and that came at a very pivotal time in my life. I was 16. And you know what it’s like to be 16. It was such a unique experience to be that age and get to watch Sofia work. I had always admired her and was a huge fan of her films. Then, we had this really unique production because we only had nine cast members and two locations. It felt more like a play. We did etiquette training and accent training and so much research and I think, as a result, we were really all in this experience together and created this big family that was really dedicated to the story. It was special in the way that it was so insular, but also came at a pivotal point in my life so it was very impactful. I made friends on that production who I’m still friends with today.
PureWow: Are there advantages to being based in Australia while bridging that Hollywood gap? Do you feel distance being in Melbourne?
Rice: I really like living here. It’s really nice to separate my family and home life from my work life. That was really important for me in high school, too—to separate high school and family from work. Now that I’m out of high school, I still think that’s important to me. This is where my family is and I really love living here. It was hard in lockdown because Melbourne went through a very, very strict lockdown. But we’re fortunate that we’ve come out on the other side of it, so I feel really lucky to be able to live here and work in the United States.
PureWow: Do you feel like you have a blueprint for how you want your career to go? Or projects you’re aspiring to do next?
Rice: I try not to think about it because if I think about it too much or set specific goals, then I might just be disappointed. I just try to take it one day at a time, find stories that interest me, find characters that interest me and hopefully I get the opportunity to play them. In an industry where the actor has so little control, I think that’s probably the best route is to just take it as it comes. •