Rachel House: has been acting and directing professionally for more than 25 years. The striking appearance of the 50-year old New Zealander may have made you recognize her in roles like Topaz in Hollywood’s blockbuster Thor: Ragnarok (2017). Or, perhaps, her voice as Gramma Tala, in Disney’s animated film Moana (2016), and Terry in Soul (2020), which won the Golden Globe. The Maori actress may have been seen in Taika Waititi’s early New Zealand films, such as Eagle vs Shark (2007) in which she portrays Nancy or Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016) in which her role is Aunty Gracey.
Rachel House, who was born in Kamo, a township near the tip of New Zealand’s North Island, recently appeared in Ainsley Gardiner’s and Briar Grace Smith’s celebration of wahine Maori [Maori woman] in their adaptation of Patricia Grace’s 1992 novel Cousins (211). Her debut feature film as a director is in progress. It will also celebrate Maori culture.
You’re in Prague filming the science fiction series Foundation. We want to know more about the science fiction series Foundation.Jared Harris is the anchor, and he’s wonderful. I am a strong leader in a tribe of gathered people. She is extremely powerful.
Our last meeting was on Next Goal Wins. It is a film about a Samoan soccer club that isn’t very successful. What was it like to follow Taika Waititi from Hawaii to make this film? What is your role in the film?
I have a small role. However, I also followed Taika to Prague to film Jojo Rabbit. Although I find it sad that we can’t go to the actual place, it was set up in Hawaii with great resources.
With a large group of actors from New Zealand, you were there
Taika is known for bringing his family along to any movie about Nazis or Nordic gods. What is the significance of this to you as an actor?
Rachel House It is amazing – it’s a privilege that I don’t take for granted. He is in a fortunate position to be able to do this. Taika has such strong beliefs in himself as an artist and creator that he can ask his team to join him. They are willing to go. Many of us have achieved success in our respective fields but would give everything to help Taika. We all have done this to be there for Taika. It’s a wonderful experience to work alongside your film family.
Taika Waititi has worked with you many times. You were in the first Eagle vs. Shark film from 2007. Jojo Rabbit had your scene cut. However, you were still there: you were coaching young actors. What makes you and him such a great team?
We are both Indigenous
Rachel House of us are Maori. We share this in common. Both of us are mixed-race, which means that our feet can be found in two cultures. This is a strong bond that we share. It is important that we laugh together. It works because we are both irreverent as well as reverent. We get along and have been friends for so many years that it feels like we are family. We feel almost like brothers and sisters, so it is easy to find shortcuts and ease. Boy for the children had me as an acting coach. I feel like I’m a handy person to have because I can help him in many other ways than just being an actor. It feels natural.
What has Taika done to pave the way for Maori culture not only in New Zealand, but internationally?
It is unmeasurable. It is fundamental. He is the key leader in bringing our stories and culture to an international audience. His first short film, Two Cars, One Night, won him an Oscar in 2004. It is so important that it makes me feel overwhelmingly emotional. Because it has brought healing to our country’s cultural relations and race relations. It has been very healing. I am proud to have known him and worked with him. He has had one of the greatest impacts an Indigenous person can have on our country.
The power of storytelling is what brings us closer together. That belief is what I have held onto for so many years. It can heal, and we can all learn so much from sharing our stories. It brings people closer together. Story is a powerful tool that allows us to step into the shoes of others and experience their lives and cultures. It is amazing. His work has a special appeal to me because it celebrates Maori.
Which role was your favorite in Taika Waititi films?
It is difficult to answer. Because she was so absurd, I think Hunt for the Wilderpeople was my favorite role. That is what I love. Another reason we love Taika is that he writes wonderful roles for women. He doesn’t make them do anything. He likes to explore all possibilities. Not all filmmakers do this. He loves to see women as clowns, complex and flawed. It was also an honor to portray one of his aunties in Boy. It was a great honor to be able to represent someone important to him.
Taika had an amazing acting coach, but then he became ill and they brought me in. I had previously done acting workshops for Maori teens with an organization. Rachel House It made sense because I had been a theater director and was just starting film school in Prague to become a director. It was possible. Because I was their chaperone on Boys, it was one of my most difficult jobs. It was exhausting and never-ending, but it was also very satisfying. Although I didn’t want to coach, I was able to continue doing it because I felt familiar. It was a combination of chance and familiarity.
Directors sometimes think they can let the coach do the work. However, this is not true. They still have to direct. I went to Roman’s rehearsals, and Taika was there. Roman knew exactly what he wanted so I was there to help with rehearsals and warm up.
You did it in Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog! ?
Jane Campion is a good friend. James Rolleston, a young actor, was a friend of mine. I was also his acting coach after his performance in Boy. Jane recommended me to Jane, and I worked with Jane on Top of the Lake. Jane didn’t ask me to act as the coach for the cowboys of The Power of the Dog. I was to be her acting coach, she told me. It was not my decision (laughs). It is because these amazing artists believe in their work and everything will be fine.
You are also a director. I believe you are directing a feature film called The Winter Boy. Are you right?
I have 15 years of theater experience. Taika began in theater. I believe theater is where the greatest directors are born. Yes, there is a feature movie coming up. It is a fantastic kids’ adventure that includes a strong and warm Indigenous perspective. It is also funny.
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