This interview was originally published in a 2010 issue of Remix Magazine, and has been transcribed by the Rose McIver Online staff for the web.
The lovely rose Rose McIver is one of New Zealand’s most promising talents. She’s already starred alongside Rachel Weisz and Mark Wahlberg in The Lovely Bones and she picked up a role in the new Kiwi film The Predicament. Not bad for someone who’s only recently celebrated her 22ND birthday.
Researching for an interview with Rose McIver is refreshingly interesting. Think less archived interviews and IMDB credit lists, more ask your mates’ mate who knows her from that time in Europe. Thank you two degrees of separation. So what do her mates say? She’s great, she’s lovely, she’s this that and the other. Everything you would expect to hear from her friends really. But one thing that kept coming up was her humble and down to earth attitude in an industry that’s infamous for breeding the opposite. A mutual friend told me about the time she was on a Contiki bus trip in Europe when Rose got a call confirming she had landed a dream role in The Lovely Bones. Rose, the friend explained, got up when they had to introduce themselves and told the group that she was an actress and that she had just got some good news. She had just been offered a part in some movie based on some book which was being directed by Peter Jackson. Peter Jackson? That’s pretty cool the people on the bus thought.’What’s the movie?’ The eager crowd asked her. ‘Ummmm, The Lovely Bones?’ Rose told them. And what was Rose’s response to their cries of amazement and congratulations? ‘Hmmm, I should probably go and read the book.’ When I spoke to Rose she was in Wellington having just done her REMIX shoot. I wanted to find out if this abundant modesty was just her Contiki persona or a fundamental part of her personality. ‘I think that you have been talking to liars, I am a horrible person’, she jokes. So yes, she’s humble, and apparently funny too. Rose puts it into perspective. ‘I’m not a scientist or a life changing doctor or anything, you know?’ She is of course an actress and given her young age, just 21, an incredibly prolific one. At just two years old Rose was appearing in television commercials, at three years old she was in The Piano and by age four she was on the set of Hercules. ‘The thing with acting is that one minute you are getting work and the next minute you’re not so you just enjoy it when it’s around.’
Wise words, luckily for Rose work has always been around. She’s grown up in the industry, grown up on screen. Rose learnt her craft on the set; she’s never been to acting school. She was too busy acting. ‘My work means I end up being surrounded by people I would be learning from anyway. I learn a lot on the job,’ she says. Rose has played a wide range of characters. From a Power Ranger to manipulative girl named Constance who drew comparisons with Antonia Prebble’s Loretta West (on Outrageous Fortune). ‘I’ve been really fortunate and I’ve been able to play a variety of different [roles] which is always what you look for when you’re developing yourself as an actor.’ Rose grew up in Auckland; her mother is an artist and her father a photographer. While she got involved in acting early on, her Mum was a bit hesitant. She was never allowed to take too much time off school, which is normally the main reason kids sign up willingly to extra-curricular activities. But not Rose, she avoided home school and kept a healthy balance of acting and education. Being around the camera from an early aged helped her to become comfortable with seeing herself on the telly, a process terrifying for some. ‘You have to comfortable with yourself on screen. You definitely have to be comfortable with people watching you and humiliating yourself!’ Humiliation can also come in the form of rejection. ‘You can’t take it all too personally. Sometimes it’s because you’re not good enough and sometimes you’re not what they’re looking for. Sometimes it’s purely physical.’ Rose says the result of rejection is that you learn how to cope with the good and the bad. ‘You just have to have a thicker skin. You just have to be aware it’s not a personal attack or anything.’ Easier said than done, unless of course you’ve got 19 years worth of experience. Rose lives in Wellington, which is where she is right now, taking time out while babysitting to talk to me. ‘I’m looking after a friend’s son today, so that’s what the noise is about,’ she mentions casually.
After making her proper big screen debut last year in The Lovely Bones (she was only three when she appeared in The Piano) Rose has followed up with a role in a Kiwi film. Appearing alongside Jermaine Clement and Heath Franklin in Predicament, based on the novel by Ronald Hugh Morrieson. Set in 1930’s New Zealand, Predicament is about a nerdy and awkward boy who makes some sinister new friends and gets himself into, well, a predicament. ‘I had a lot of fun on it, I wasn’t doing any of the darker or laborious stuff. The only bad part was wearing minimal costumes in the middle of the Taranaki winter,’ says Rose. From the sounds of it that was one of the few downsides to the Predicament set, Rose says she thoroughly enjoyed working with Kiwis again. ‘I love working in New Zealand because we’re all so laid back. We had a lot of the same people from the Wellington leg of the Lovely Bones shoot. It was still familiar and nice, and because everyone was away from home in Hawera we socialised a lot and had a great time!’ Says Rose. The Predicament shoot must have felt like a world away from the American location of The Lovely Bones set, and it was. Shooting took place in Philadelphia for three months. ‘We were filming in the suburbs between Amish communities and Philadelphia town centre so on either side of us there were very, very different social environments.’
Then there were the big names, the heavy hitters. The Lovely Bones starred Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz and Susan Sarandon before breaking a sweat. ‘They were obviously very experienced and had a lot to offer but they never really made you feel inferior at all or that your contributions were any less than theirs,’ she recalls. While Rose is happy to take their advice she’s less inclined to chase after their celebrity status, happy with keeping a low profile. ‘It’s not like I can’t go down to the shop or anything like that. I’m far too small scale!’ she says. Whether you view fame as a reward or a consequence, becoming a celebrity is a by-product of acting. But Rose is taking steps to take to keep things under control. ‘I think you are able to make the choice to keep your personal life personal and certainly do as much as you can to keep away from that side of things,’ she says. Right now Rose mixes her acting with academics, she’s studying psychology and linguistics at university. A seemingly perfect fit for an actor. ‘Linguistics, it’s the social side of things, they way we communicate. But with psychology it’s the human mind, the way we interact and develop, which is something that has always interested me. ‘Possibly from acting, that desire to get into other peoples’ heads which may have been my inspiration.’ Actor, student and now model? This is her first shoot for REMIX. ‘Fashion is great for conveying images and ideas. I like the story telling side of it, where you have something you are working towards.’ She enjoyed it, a lot. ‘We were shooting in a house in Thorndon (Wellington), which is a place I don’t know very well. ‘I was really intrigued by the historical buildings. Based on the outside, you wouldn’t believe what was on the inside. It was a massive, sprawling place.’ So what’s next? More television. ‘Right now I’m doing a TV series up in Auckland called Supercity which is Madeline Sami’s new show. It’s a comedy-ish kind of thing.’ With enough television and movie credits for multiple careers, the only thing left is theatre. Well, it was the only thing left. ‘At the start of the year I did That Face which is a play at the Silo theatre. It was really cool, written by an English playwright called Polly Stenham. So I’m keen to do a bit more theatre actually.’ For now Rose is more than happy to stay in the nation’s capital, applying and auditioning for roles anywhere in the world is no longer a challenge. However she hasn’t ruled out switching up her location if the right job comes along and given her track record, I quite fancy her chances. Interview by Tim Lambourne