A real scream: Morgana O'Reilly on Housebound
When you were a kid were you the one telling the ghost stories and moving the Ouija board around or were you the one under the covers hiding?
I definitely went through the Ouija board stage. Yeah, I was probably the one freaking people out. Always the ringleader.
Why are ghost stories so gripping?
Ghost stories mainline what a good story is supposed to do anyway. It immediately makes you feel something – and something within a realm of safety, because it’s a story and hence not quite real but it leaks into your current situation and your imagination goes crazy. I think that’s why it’s so intoxicating.
Even though Kylie’s in the traditional victim role, she’s not a victim – how did you approach playing her?
She was interesting to find. Early on in the process we were trying to come to an understanding between myself and [director/writer] Gerard Johnstone about who Kylie was. I guess funnily enough the rough, angry, violent, young woman – my interpretation of her initially – was more Grey Lynn. We needed to take her a little bit more Tauranga. She’s more a punk/hard rock chick whereas maybe Morgana is a bit more hip-hop. I had to veer away from that.
You and Kylie have something in common in that you are both only children – how has that shaped you?
For me, which is probably different for Kylie, for myself it’s been lovely having a one-on-one relationship with my parents so the three of us are a tight little unit. I’ve always been spoken to like I’m an adult or a peer so always felt a little bit older. That’s shaped me. Whereas, Kylie, her dad is absent. I can see that makes a very different only child.
The relationship Kylie has with her mum, played by Rima Te Wiata, is so hilarious but also quite touching and really develops through the film.
It’s nice that humanity from Kylie shows through. She’s been wrapped up in her own shit. She’s been really self-involved. In her situation, I can see why she’s antsy, pissed off and bored in the shitty little town but with that comes this huge amount of self-absorption and disrespect. She finds a little bit of perspective on that via her mother and sees that her mum is sensitive too and wants to be loved. It’s not just up to the parent to be that person. There comes a point where as a child you need to nurture back. Kylie needs to figure that out.
Housebound took years to make. Why was that?
My take – Gerard and [producer] Luke [Sharpe] probably have different angles on this being on a different side of the camera – but there are a few reasons. At the start it was that maybe we weren’t quite ready to start filming when we did and the scripts weren’t quite there. Gerard was still figuring out what it was – hitting that tone just right. Films take years anyway. We just happened to start shooting too early, probably. If your script isn’t there, then you don’t have anything. And budget [constraints] meant that we couldn’t go on and lock down another big block and we’d have to keep chipping away.
There must have been a big commitment from the creative team to keep working and make it as good as you could get it?
Yeah. That’s Gerard and Luke – persistence persists. There were totally times during filming where the rest of us were going, “Just buy that shot. Please finish.” But they wouldn’t settle for anything other perfection and now we all couldn’t be happier and more thankful. Instead of easily finishing something that was kind of ok, it took a lot of hard work for something that people think is awesome.
It’s had an amazing response already overseas. Have you been able to go to any festival screenings elsewhere?
No I haven’t. It seems like a funny little trick of fate that I happen to be a working actor now and it means I can’t go to the openings.
What scares you the most?
On the irrational side of things, snakes scare the bejesus out of me. On the more rational side of things, its probably very similar to most other young people in the first world country that we live in – I guess I’m scared of waking up and my life not quite going the way I’d hoped. That’s scary.
So why move to Australia, home of snakes?
Home of snakes but maybe bigger opportunities. I’ll trade in one for the other.
And it’s paid off already hasn’t it. You’re now described as Ramsay Street’s resident temptress. How’s life on Neighbours?
I’m having a really great time. It’s a wonderful job for right now and has set me up in a wonderful way here in Australia. I’m glad. Not without a hint of irony. It still makes me giggle that I’m on Neighbours. I work with really wonderful people. I’m really blessed.
Have you learnt anything about acting on Neighbours that you didn’t know before?
Oh yeah, it’s actually honing in on Acting 101 skills because it’s so fast-paced. Things like the importance of listening. The importance of doing your homework but not too much as to shut yourself off from new offers from another actor. It’s basic, basic stuff but it really hammers it home when you’re working that fast. And what a joy it is when people are doing the right stuff. Then there is the whole social media stuff, which is another kettle of fish.
Do you have to participate in that?
You don’t have to participate in that at all but it is quite amazing. I have started because I think it’s a lovely luxury of our time that as a public figure you can have a bit more control about what’s being said out in the ether.
It’s a double-edged sword with the hacking of celebritys’ naked photos this week. Does that make you nervous?
It’s awful. You should absolutely have the right to take photos of yourself in the nud on your phone. Although I couldn’t imagine anything worse than looking at myself naked on my phone every now and then. But that’s just me. I’m sure there’s plenty other embarrassing photos on my phone.
It might be something to keep in mind for the future. When you’re storing your photos.
Yeah, they better be flattering.
You just took your solo show The Height of the Eiffel Tour to Edinburgh Fringe. How did it go?
It was so awesome. I’m still buzzing from my time there.
That was a show you did at the Basement ages ago.
It was about five years ago. And I’ve been adding to it over the years. I think I’ll put it to bed for a little while, unless some fancy theatre wants me to do it somewhere else. I saw heaps of shows at the Fringe which was really inspiring to make another one.
Do you have any time to write?
Yes. I am going to keep on my ass to do that. I need to.
Do you have a career plan?
Kind of I guess. I’ve got another year on Neighbours then I don’t know. It’s quietly brewing away but nothing that I want to say yet.