Thumper, from first time feature writer/director Jordan Ross, is set in an LA neighbourhood where low income high schoolers work for a drug dealer, but when Eliza Taylor’s Kat Carter/Meredith turns up, possessing a dark secret, this fragile world is soon shattered. In among a supporting cast of strong young performers, the film also features Pablo Schreiber and Lena Headey, and is an auspicious sign of lead feature film roles to come for another Australian performer kicking butt in the US film industry.
Eliza Taylor was recently in Australia for the Supanova Comic Con & Gaming event, which is when we took the opportunity to speak with her about Thumper, The 100 and her future ambitions behind the camera and back in Australia.
What were your first thoughts of the role?
I fell in love with it. I thought it was really different. I liked that it didn’t glamourise stuff. I liked that it actually showed the underbelly. I was drawn to this role because I got to really challenge myself.
Did you do much preparation, did you look into that world of the film a lot?
Yeah, Australia being one of the leading countries on the issue, I spoke a lot to Australian police I knew from back in the day, and I also spent a lot of time with the US police department, especially in rural areas, and kind of got a very good indication of what that world was like, and it was certainly not pretty.
Has anything like this ever happened to you; have you ever been around an environment where these sorts of things are happening?
Yeah actually, after Neighbours, there was a three or four year period where I wasn’t really getting any roles, and as you do as an out of work actress, you go and get a job at a bar or restaurant, and I was working at a nightclub for quite a few years, and I was shocked actually at the amount of drugs that came through, and the casualness the patrons had about it, like it was just like having a drink. It was really eye opening. I definitely applied some of what I saw to this role, for sure.
How long was the shoot, and how was it make a US indie compared to TV and your work in Australia?
It was shot over 26 days. We were shooting in the Long Beach area, near the Projects predominantly. It was definitely eye-opening. I was really impressed with having such a small budget but making it all come together quite well, there was really a great sense of camaraderie and teamwork. It was super cool.
What was what was the most challenging thing for you about taking this on?
I think what was challenging about the role was in the way that it was the first time I was playing a character that was playing a character, if that makes sense. Playing a 28-year-old playing a 17-year-old was definitely something I’m not used to, and trying to build those layers and have a difference between Kat and Meredith.
Were there any similarities between The 100 and this; any common ground between them?
I’m so lucky to play a strong female lead in The 100, the similarity would probably be resilience and determination in the characters. The difference would definitely be that you see a lot more of the vulnerable human being in Kat. The cracks really show. I don’t really get to do much of that in The 100.
Were there things in The 100 that were helpful in preparing for this role?
I think I noticed when I started doing The 100, it’s such a large production, it’s on a much larger scale, so just learning from that experience helped, and I’d been working in the Australian industry for 15 years before that. It is very different, but I think being able to actually understand what people are saying, the concept of things, I was able to use the experience of The 100 for this.
What would you like to do next?
I really want to do more independent films now. Working on this, there was such a great sense of teamwork. With big budget films or TV, there’s not a lot of creative license. I found that in the independent market, you’re really able to work with the writers and directors to make it together as opposed to just getting up and saying your lines. We really got to mess around, and improvise on it, and there was a great trust among cast and crew, so I want to do more of that, and I’d love to get behind the camera as well.
Directing or producing, or both?
I’d love to produce, but I’m most interested in being a director of photography. I don’t think there’s enough women in the field. I’ve grown up in front of the camera, I started acting when I was 11, so I’m fascinated by lighting and lenses, and all that sort of stuff, so I’m going to try this season on The 100, to shadow our DP, and get a chance to see that.
Would you like to do more roles back home?
I would love to. I really want to do stuff in Australia. It’s been 6 years since I left Australia, it’s been about 8 since I did anything in Australia, so it would be truly wonderful to come back and shoot something. I actually just started watching Mystery Road, which is so Australian, and such a great example of the content we’re creating in Australia at the moment.
I’d love to do a period piece. Anything set from the ‘20s to the ‘70s would be amazing. That would be on the bucket list for me.
Thumper is available on DVD and digital from August 8, 2018