It’s a funny old world interviewing people you admire. When I was living at the bottom of New Zealand, I was so separated from the people I saw on TV and in the movies; I never dreamed that one day I would have a career talking to them.
But on a rainy day in Toronto, an email arrived in my inbox, and the sender was the astonishingly talented actor Rose McIver (iZombie, Once Upon a Time). Rose is a fellow Kiwi. I have the good fortune of being friends with Rose’s brother Paul, and so it was absolutely lovely to talk to her about both her career and her family.
We chatted about her passions, women in the industry, what inspires her and most importantly, her love and admiration for actor Allison Janney (The Hours, The West Wing). They say “don’t meet or talk to your heroes because they will only disappoint you” but Rose proved that theory wrong. She exceeded my expectations by being so down-to-earth and passionate about her job. It was hard to keep the fangirling down to a minimum. But I tried. I really tried.
I told Rose that I remembered the day Paul came up to me and said, “Rose landed the lead in this horror comedy show and it is fucken incredible.”
I told her that we were waiting for it to air and to see if people loved it. I told her that she may not know this, but he is so incredibly proud of her every day; he talks about her a lot.
Rose was adorable when she said, “Paul is the best person there is. He is so supportive and kind and is immensely talented himself as an actor. I guarantee that as proud as he is of me, I am prouder than that of him. He’s my favorite.”
In case you don’t know, Rose’s family is incredibly artistic and creative. I asked if she thought she was born to be in this industry in some form or another.
“I have been amazingly fortunate to land in the family I did. I can’t think of a more supportive, tolerant, immensely loving and patient group of people to call whanau (family). Being an artist is an absolute privilege and one that I am grateful for every day. Given that mum, dad and Paul are all deeply creative, I think it may have been more challenging and unfamiliar for them if I had left school and said ‘I want to be a lawyer’ than it has been to pursue a career in the arts, but regardless, the twists and turns of a job like this can be hard on a family and they have all been rock solid in their support and belief. I am too lucky.”
Paul and I were right to be excited about iZombie. Rose talked about how the role of Olivia Moore on the show has changed her life.
“I am really lucky with iZombie. I feel like I won the lottery. I work on a show I love with people I love and that is so rare. I just want to stay grateful and help provide opportunities to the many wonderful people I know who have just as much ability and drive as I have and just haven’t pulled out that lucky ticket yet.”
As well as acting, Rose has tried her hand at producing the horror movie Blood Punch.
I asked her what was appealing about that career direction and particularly the genre she chose.
“I think genre films and shows, in general, are wonderfully escapist and can hold mirrors up to society without asking you to repeat the experiences you have every day in the entertainment you watch. The terrain for women in film and television is changing dramatically at the moment in all sorts of ways and to me, being able to freely pursue whatever genre appeals to you as a woman is empowering and necessary for human progress.”
Rose and I have something else in common than our native accents, we both packed up our lives and moved to Canada.
I told Rose that I’d just moved to Toronto, Canada from Auckland, New Zealand and that I have instantly fallen in love with it. I mentioned that it feels like New Zealanders and Canadians are very similar. I asked what her experience has been working and living in Vancouver and how she feels about being a Kiwi representing her country overseas.
“I agree, there are so many similarities between New Zealanders and Canadians. A love of the environment, as well as an easygoing outlook on life, feel like the two most comparable aspects. I love shooting in Vancouver. I have made lots of great friends, and only wish I could merge all the people and places I love so I am not always away from family! I am always incredibly proud to be a Kiwi and more than anything I am grateful for what my childhood was like growing up in New Zealand. We are so incredibly lucky.”
I talked to Rose about what it was like being directed by Maggie Kiley in Brightest Star and if she felt that Kiley saw the film through a different lens than a male director might have.
“Maggie is a profoundly intuitive and sensitive director. She cuts through a lot of indulgences that directors can get taken in by and is very focused on getting to the heart of the characters and themes. Maggie leads her cast and crew to reveal the story in an honest and intimate way. I have worked with both male and female directors who I have found breathtakingly artistic and what is important to me is that there are equal opportunities given and risks taken on men and women in the industry.”
I knew Rose had worked with Allison Janney (The West Wing) – one of my personal heroes – on Masters of Sex so of course I asked her what that experience was like.
“Allison is one of my favorite actresses and so working with her was an incredible thrill. I am deeply inspired by her, not just by her acting which is exceptional, but by the way she lives her life, manages her career and treats the people around her.
Another of the women I really look up to is renowned acting coach Miranda Harcourt. She has been a mentor for me and is a gifted and driven woman who has a brilliant mind and an equally brilliant heart.
And then, of course, my mum. She really can do anything.”
Rose talked about who she’d love to work with one day.
“I am a very big fan of filmmaker Andrea Arnold (American Honey, Wuthering Heights) who is my ‘one day’ dream. Whether I get to work with her or not, it is really exciting knowing there are women like her out there who I will strive to be hired by. Shoot for the moon, right?”
As well as discussing her past work, we talked about her upcoming projects.
“I recently worked on an independent film called Brampton’s Own that is in post production. I had a really creatively rewarding experience [working on that movie] and I am excited to see how it comes together.”
I was incredibly interested in Rose’s love for writing.
“I have been writing a film for a long time with director Peter Salmon (Offspring, Nothing Trivial) that we are getting ready to start workshopping with some actors. I am very excited about that. One day I would like to write a novel. I’m just taking things as they come right now.”
From the beginning of our conversation, I immediately got a sense of Rose’s passion. I asked her what she would want her fans to know about her.
“I am passionate about community and using your strengths and resources to help people in need because no doubt, I am, and we are using the strengths and resources of many people to be in the positions we are.
One really fantastic organization that I have started working with is AIME mentoring which is focused on providing support to teens and encouraging equal opportunities for students from all walks of life.”
Everyone has a mission, right? Mine is to keep up with the Kardashians. Rose has a mission of her own.
“To be kind, and hopefully to contribute to society in a way that leaves it better, not worse. I want people to feel heard and represented. I want to celebrate what makes people unique and what they as individuals can offer the world. I want to create work that develops empathy and cooperation with each other. I also would like to enjoy the ride.”
What is a quote that you say to yourself the most often?
“‘One day you will no longer be able to run, today is not that day.’ It was a mantra I used training for a marathon but I find it helps with everyday life too.”
What is the best thing you have been called as a woman?
“Vulnerable. Being vulnerable is the bravest thing you can be.”
If you weren’t an actress, what would you be doing?
“[I’d be] a primary school teacher I think.”
The best actress of all time is…
Your favorite television show is… (aside from iZombie lol)
“The Office UK”
Your favorite movie in the past year with a woman protagonist is...
“My friend Karen Gillan just made a film called The Party's Just Beginning that is brilliant. She played the lead role, wrote it and directed it. It is a very special and important film.”
Last but not least, can we be friends?
“But of course.”