Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan is the attention-getter in The Lovely Bones as Susie Salmon, and Stanley Tucci is the Golden Globe nominee for his role as her killer, but Rose McIver is a force to be reckoned with as well, playing Susie’s sister Lindsay, who gets things done while her family is drowning in grief. McIver is a 22-year-old part-time actress from New Zealand, and even though she’s been doing this since she was a toddler, it’s not necessarily something she actually wants to do with her life.
“I was 3 when I was in The Piano, but it was a very small role,” she says, downplaying her childhood work. “When you’re that young, it’s about being a kid who can behave on set and speak when spoken to, and I don’t think I possessed any great talent at that age. It was just something I did in my holidays, and my mom was very adamant that I still was at school, so it was just something that was a little bit of fun, actually. It’s not something I’ve wanted to do, primarily. It’s part of my life. I want to do a whole lot of different things. I’m really grateful that she’s the furthest thing from a stage mother and she’s encouraged me to do a whole lot of different things.”
What could she enjoy more than acting, you might ask? “I’m studying linguistics and psychology at the moment in Auckland. I don’t know exactly what I’ll do with them but there are things that really interest me. I’ve got a few years left at university, and I’ll see how I feel at the end of that.” She also has no interest in doing the Los Angeles transfer, either. “I still live in New Zealand. I’m very happy at home. I’d love the opportunity to work in a variety of places, but I’m very happy for Auckland to be my home. It’s between two coasts, so I live 20 minutes from one of the most amazing beaches. All my friends and family are there. It’s beautiful.”
So acting might just be something she does for fun, but there’s definitely more to it than that in The Lovely Bones, based on a book she loved. “When I first read it, I was 13, so it was pretty overwhelming,” McIver says. I was in Susie’s shoes, really. I was just starting high school and it really struck me as something that could happen to anybody, and I loved the variety of ways in which people dealt with it. I think, for me, the most significant thing about the novel that’s translated into the film is that people grieve in different ways, and there’s no right or wrong way. It’s a very individual process. There’s humor and there’s positivity as well, it’s not just a sadness kind of thing around loss. There’s jealousy and a whole variety of emotions, and I think the story really accepts that and I hope people come away seeing that.”
She’s certainly happy with the film as well, and working with director Peter Jackson. “He’s brilliant. He’s everything you hear about him and more. He’s really nice and a down to earth, easygoing guy, which makes it even more wonderful to work with him, but he’s also immensely talented. The book was 300 and something pages, so there was a little bit of a reduction process there. The big thing was making sure the essential parts that were really fundamental were in there, and I feel like they still are. I love it. I’m really happy with it.”
Her connection to this story about the ghost of a girl torn between finding justice for her murder and letting it go so she can move on to heaven leads one to ask the big question – namely, does Rose McIver believe in the afterlife? “I don’t have one formed way of understanding it, but I definitely believe in something more,” she responds. “I think I’d want to be surprised, if it’s anything I could fathom right now. I’ve got a little pea-brain. I don’t have a clue what’s going on. I think it’s something beyond my imagination.”
That’s not the only big question I asked her. Given her career track, I had to ask an even more weighty question. Namely, which show was more fun to work on – Power Rangers, Hercules or Xena? “Oh, all so different!” she answers with a laugh. “I had fun on Power Rangers because it was a whole lot of my friends I was working with. It’s a small community in New Zealand and lots of familiar faces. Hercules and Xena, it’s a pretty close tie. I had a lot of fun on Hercules and it was one of the earliest things I did, but in Xena, I got to do a whole lot of stunts and horse riding and stuff. I got to do her war cry, because Xena’s soul was put into my body, so I was playing a mini-Xena and embodying Lucy Lawless was pretty fun.”