Rose McIver: Bewitched
It’s hard to fly in Hollywood, but it can be done. Rose McIver’s career is lifting off.
First published in Metro, October 2014. Photo by Stephen Langdon.
Rose McIver is at Parakai hot pools with friends and she’s eyeing up the slide. It’s always a dubious endeavour, as it’s so bloody cold leaving the human stew of the pool and making the climb. But she’s up for it and leads 10 friends to the top, everyone grabbing mats on the way.
She’s the only woman and without anyone talking about it, we all know what our job is: to block the water-flow at the top for as long as possible with our bodies and mats so a torrent of water blasts us down in one big, writhing group. After 30 seconds, we can’t take the water pressure any longer and we launch down the chute, a missile of flesh.
Rose takes the most terrifying position, at the front, which means the bigger boy bodies behind her are constantly catching up and crashing into her. A few people lose mats, which means every join in the slide scratches or bruises. There are yelps, screams and laughter. Rose emerges first, before nine bodies arrive on top of her. It’s a mess. Someone’s lost their togs.
I splash some water into her mouth. The next day, a text message arrives: “My throat feels sore, you little witch.”
I’ve known Rose and her family for a few years, but have never asked where this particular insult comes from until now. “My mum and [Liv Tennet’s] used to call us both witches. My mum knew saying ‘bitch’ to me at a young age would be too much. So she used ‘witch’.”
A few days later and I’m sitting next to Rose on an Air New Zealand flight. We’re both going to LA. She insists on watching a movie in sync. It’s the second Muppets film. Jemaine Clement pops up. This flight feels very Kiwi.
Last year was a big year for Rose. She was in two TV shows which debuted at the same time — Once Upon a Time and Masters of Sex. One was a network blockbuster, the other an amazing niche cable show. She’s had big moments before, from Maddigan’s Quest to The Lovely Bones, but these two shows demonstrated Rose really was cracking LA. Now another biggie — the creator of Veronica Mars casting her as the lead in his new show, iZombie. Zombies are big right now, and she’s going to be leading them.
Rose always seems busy. With a month until she moves to Vancouver to shoot the series, she starts work on a short film. Her biggest lull in acting appears to have been back at the start of intermediate. “I went to Rodney Wayne at LynnMall. I told them, ‘I want something short and modern.’ They cut it into a little mushroom around my head and I didn’t get work for a year. Mum looked teary-eyed, but I said that was what I wanted.”
Most of the stories she tells me aren’t about Hollywood, they’re about growing up in West Auckland.
For the foreseeable future, Rose’s home is America. But most of the stories she tells me aren’t about Hollywood, they’re about growing up in West Auckland. The first job at New Lynn Fruit World. The firing from New Lynn Fruit World. The pet magpie Cocoa. “She would sit on our shoulders as we slept, or on our pillows, and fly around the neighbourhood. She was great until it got territorial and guests had to hold onto water pistols as they walked down the driveway.”
Then we found out “she” was a “he”, because he talked. It ended badly for Cocoa. “He stabbed one of neighbours, and had to be put down.” Rose’s mother, Annie, loved birds and nursed many a beak back to health. As anyone who rescues birds will know, there’s always room for disaster. “Mum got a baby sparrow to bring back to health, and after three days she was taking it from the bookshelf to let it out to fly away, and it fell out of her hands into our Alsatian’s open mouth.”
When I leave her in Silver Lake, it’s the day after Independence Day. We’re all feeling shady. I pick up some iZombie comics lying on a table. They’re vibrant, disgusting and feature a kickass leading lady.
Back home in Auckland, I go to Rose’s parents’ house for dinner. Mac and Annie have made mac and cheese. It’s delicious. Rose’s brother Paul arrives. He is the spitting image of Rose, but a few years older, bald, and a boy. Paul half-jokes he was the first sibling to take up acting. “I led her into it. I was cast to walk across the screen in a Farmers commercial.”
Annie chips in: “Rose was 18 months when she got into it. Paul got into a short film called The Joker, and they saw Rose and said, ‘We’ll have her as well.’” Paul kept acting, taking a role in an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers. “It’s the worst Stephen King movie ever made,” he says. “I was a little kid who got stolen away, and my brain was used to power the alien’s space shuttle.”
They’re all missing her. Annie finds it especially hard when Rose visits and then leaves. I tell her that her daughter is fine: she has good friends there and the show she’s on will be a killer. I tell her about Parakai and that Rose can hold her own. It’s preaching to the choir but I do it anyway.
Annie thinks. “The only thing I know is that Rosie can’t swim very well. And she’s never been able to float.” Paul jumps in: “Not big bones… just very solid bones.” Annie finishes. “She sinks. When she was a kid, she’d swim about three inches under the surface.”
Two dogs snore on the couch and there’s a cat sleeping by the fire in a tiny box. I text Rose telling her I’ve been given access to her old photo albums. She messages me back at 6am. “How were those old nutters? PS: I hope these wake you up, ya little witch.”
Photographer: Stephen Langdon
Art Direction: Delaney Tabron
Makeup: Philippa McIver
Hair: Stanze Rudduck for Stephen Marr
Rose wears Kelvin skirt and Harper cami by Juliette Hogan.