Rachel Griffiths: “I never came in feeling like I was slumming it.”
Rachel Griffiths explains what attracted her to Nine's House Husbands.
After all she has Golden Globe, SAG and AFI awards and a string of major credits including Six Feet Under, Brothers and Sisters, Muriel’s Wedding, Saving Mr. Banks and My Best Friend’s Wedding.
Perhaps that’s why some observers were surprised she signed on for a local series role. It’s not a view she shares.
“That goes back to some idea that if you’ve made it overseas you don’t come back because what we’re making here just couldn’t be as good, but I just don’t have that attitude,” she tells TV Tonight.
“I think this show is as good as any network show in the States. It finds its audience, the actors are as good as any leads or ensembles on American television. So I never came in feeling like I was slumming it. ‘Oh God, I’m back here and I have to do local drama?’
“So that ‘surprise’ comes from an innate snobbery that is not really valuing the quality of what we produce. Americans do it with a shitload more budget and time. This was tight! That was the hardest thing: we’re moving on and I’ve only done 2 takes…?”
Griffiths concedes it suits her to focus on work in Australia, having recently appeared in Underground: The Julian Assange Story, Paper Giants: Magazine Wars and the Australian-shot Camp.
But there are other reasons why House Husbands ticks the boxes for her.
“I’m a big fan of Ellie (Beaumont, writer) and I think this is my happiest tone to inhabit,” she admits.
“It’s not necessarily my happiest tone to watch. I love House of Cards and Breaking Bad. But in terms of actually going to work and being a human being, I love operating within the Dramedy zone. You can hit the true moments, but you can also break it and be silly.
“This year I’m at a point where, with my whole work / life balance, I didn’t want to be in a dark workspace.
“I love this cast. Had it not been been Gary (Sweet) and Rhys (Muldoon), who I knew, and Julia (Morris), who I have a huge amount of admiration for, I probably wouldn’t have signed on. But with the existing cast I just knew I would have a tremendously good time. And I knew they would be nice to me!”
Griffiths worked briefly with Gary Sweet on an episode of Police Rescue in 1995. Aside from 13 episodes of Secrets for the ABC in 1993, House Husbands is her only other drama series role on Australian television.
“I did Secrets for the ABC before Muriel’s Wedding. But it was just about 10 years too early. (Now) the whole spy thing has a bit more munch to it.
“I haven’t exactly been in retirement! I’ve been talking about being in retirement but I’ve actually got quite a bit done!” she laughs.
“I also really love work that is seen. It can be depressing to do work that doesn’t find its audience, no matter how good. I’ve done that before. There’s something wonderful about a really nice (ratings) number on Monday morning.”
In Nine’s drama, Griffiths plays the ex-wife of Gary Sweet’s character, Lewis. While promos tease that she is set to make trouble, Griffiths is adamant she is no villain.
“No and I didn’t play it that way,” she insists.
“The most frustrating thing as an actress is when they write a role and nobody can actually answer ‘what the character wants.’ Even on Brothers and Sisters it would change. One season it was about saving the family business and often the goal was about holding the family together.
“But this, right from the get-go, this character had a really clear want which was to find her son. For a woman what could be a greater want when you’ve given up a child and you’ve then heard he’s appeared and is looking for you?
“So it’s beautiful and empathetic and a noble goal, and there’s a collateral damage that happens. But you don’t play the collateral damage.
“I think what drew me to it is that her core intention is a true and honest and beautiful notion, but the unfolding of it is troublesome and inconvenient.
“I guess on the Neighbours or the soap version she’d come in to cause trouble and that’s not a role I’d ever be interested in playing –just to be trouble for the sake of it.”
House Husbands returns 9pm Monday on Nine.