To Deadland and beyond with Kendal Rae

March 17, 2023
Kendal Rae has come a long way since her debut on Channel 9’s The Shak in 2006. 

After shooting over 500 episodes of the Australian children’s show, Rae moved into the big league, scoring roles in everything from Warner Bros’ sitcom 2 Broke Girls to Anton Corbijn’s feature film Life. This winning streak looks to continue in 2023, with Rae securing lead roles across multiple mediums.

January saw the release of Square Enix’s PS5 title Forspoken, where Rae played Queen Tanta Cinta, and this weekend, SXSW will host the world premiere of director Lance Larson’s Deadland, in which Rae plays Hannah Waters, the wife of a U.S. Border Agent facing a supernatural threat.

FilmInk sat down with Kendal on the eve of the premiere to talk about everything from emerging technologies to the thrills of genre filmmaking.

Deadland is not your first venture into genre films. You have frequently collaborated with Australian filmmaker Dee McLachlan (The Jammed) on films with high concept pitches like 10 Terrorists, Out of the Shadows, and The Wheel. What attracts you to this type of material?

“I wouldn’t necessarily describe Deadland as a genre film but as a heightened narrative – a dramatic thriller. The film has cross-genre elements, which make it fresh and exciting. In terms of previous work, Dee creates high-stakes concepts that take the audience to an edge. Working on The Wheel [Australian release name, US release was as 2099: The Soldier Protocol] as David Arquette’s co-star was also a draw. He is a unique actor to work opposite. I aim to follow my gut in terms of the creative experience and, hopefully, the challenge.”

Deadland looks to combine horror thrills with the real-world concerns of the United States border with Mexico. What allegories and parallels did you find in the script? 

“Upon the first read, the script hit me on many levels. The film’s setting is the border, but ultimately the movie traverses the pathological borders of the mind. The boundaries within ourselves manifest on the outer. It was the multidimensionality of the script that drew me in.”

Kendal Rae and Roberto Urbina in Deadland

Can you tell us about your character, Hannah Waters, wife to protagonist Angel Waters (Roberto Urbina)?

“Hannah is a nurse, a salt-of-the-earth woman, who walks an internal tightrope in the film regarding its familial storyline. She is trying to bridge the gap between her husband and his estranged father; a last effort of sorts to help mend their complicated marriage. She develops a strong bond with her husband’s father and then has to juggle her husband’s grievances with integrating his father – who suffers from mental health issues – into their family. She is a full-time worker and pregnant, and she takes multitasking to new multitudes.”

South by Southwest festival is over 35 years old and covers interactive media, film, and music – how excited are you to be part of the 2023 line-up that includes the world premiere of Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves, Evil Dead: Rise, and Tetris?  

“It’s incredible. The Deadland team is very excited by our selection and to show the film at this prestigious festival. I am also looking forward to seeing other films from established and new filmmakers alike. Austin is a melting pot of creativity this time of year, so I am definitely looking forward to the festival.”

Speaking of interactive mediums, you recently had a starring role – as Tanta Cinta – in Square Enix’s blockbuster game Forspoken; what challenges come with a video game role, and has the leap to the next generation (PS5) changed how your role is captured? 

“When I work in this medium, it’s motion capture. As in the suit, with the head cams. The same modality as films like Avatar. It can be an adjustment technically, not wearing the character’s costume, etc.; however, I enjoy it. It is like theater, with one take and an emphasis on physical expression. With my dance background (I am a trained ballet dancer) – it is stimulating. The interactive projects I am a part of are narrative-driven, not typical “fight” games, so I get to work my acting muscle. In terms of technology – it is forever evolving and will only continue to advance. It’s exciting.”

Kendal Rae as Tanta Cinta in Forspoken

 What’s next for Kendal Rae?  

“I play a key part in an amazing franchise interactive show to be released globally in April. I can’t wait for everyone to see it.”