Whether she’s on her way to the set or stage, Angourie Rice starts her mornings listening to a carefully curated playlist – made specifically for the day – through noise-cancelling headphones.
“If it’s Monday, I’ll listen to a song that has ‘Monday’ in the lyrics. Friday’s will include a song about Friday,” she tells Broadsheet. It’s become a kind of morning ritual for the Australian actor, offering a moment of calm before jumping into script reads, rehearsals, film takes or whatever else the day has in store.
Rice has been acting since she was 11 years old. Her vocation first found expression in ads and film projects for uni students before she scored a lead role in the short film Transmission – landing her a Best Actor gong at the St Kilda Film Festival in 2012.
Now 22, Rice already has a solid screen career. You might have seen her opposite Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in The Nice Guys, alongside Jennifer Garner in The Last Thing He Told Me, playing Betty Brant in Marvel’s Spider-Man franchise or perhaps on HBO series Mare of Easttown.
Having found her place in Hollywood, Rice is currently working closer to home – on stage rather than screen. “It’s making me step out of my comfort zone a little bit and pushing me in a different way creatively,” she tells Broadsheet before going into rehearsal for Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of My Sister Jill.
“The last two years have been a lot of packing and unpacking and arriving somewhere and knowing that I only have a set amount of time there, so it’s really nice to just be [in Melbourne] and not have to worry about any of that.”
It’s been nine years since Rice was last on stage, and these days prep for theatre “feels like a workout for the brain”, she says. “It’s a lot more about sustainability and being able to sustain your performance, not just throughout the whole show for 90 minutes, but night after night.”
Unlike the film sets she’s become used to – where there might only be 30 centimetres between her and a camera lens – on stage, Rice must perform over distance, projecting all the way to the back row.
My Sister Jill follows an Australian family from the 1950s to the ’70s, navigating their relationships with a traumatised father back from fighting World War II. Rice plays Christine, the youngest child of five, and the only one who idolises her father and his stories of wartime heroics.
“Something that really struck me when reading Christine as a character is that she’s so vibrant and full of life … always playing games and playing pretend.” Rice talks a lot about reconnecting to the childlike sensibility of her character – though their games of choice might have differed. Christine opts for mock battles and warfare, while Rice’s childhood was spent playing pretend as a dancer, singer and actor.
Outside of work there’s a lot that keeps the performer busy. Rice spent much of 2020’s lockdowns writing a chapter a day of her first book Stuck Up & Stupid – a contemporary adaptation of Pride and Prejudice co-written with mum Kate Rice, an award-winning playwright – out in November. “I wanted to read this book, and it didn’t exist so we wrote it together.”
Her latest pastime is baking. She gets an app prompt on her phone asking, “Do you want to open your recipe book?” at exactly 11pm each Sunday. It’s her usual time for whipping up bread and other baked goods before heading into work again the following morning – head full of Monday songs and ready to tell stories.
MTC’s My Sister Jill runs until October 28 at the Southbank Theatre.
This article first appeared in Domain Review, in partnership with Broadsheet.