Although the gorgeous Australian’s star rose quickly in Hollywood by landing a role as the pregnant plane crash survivor Claire on “Lost” (ABC, 2004 – ) after playing only two other roles in the United States, the path of the beautiful blonde Aussie starlet was one of careful study.
The Melbourne native began studying ballet at the age of nine and was accepted to the prestigious Australian Ballet School at 15. She performed with the Australian Ballet Company and with Danceworld 301. Born in December 1981, de Ravin studied acting at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Australia and the Prime Time Actors Studio in Los Angeles. Her first TV role was on the international series “Beastmaster: The Legend Continues” (Alliance Atlantis and Tribune Entertainment) as Curupira, Guardian of all Game Animals, which was shot in Australia for US television.
The sweet-faced young blonde had only been in the United States for one month when she was chosen for a role as the mysterious fourth alien on “Roswell” from 2000 to 2001. de Ravin also appeared in a TV remake of Stephen King’s classic “Carrie” before being cast away in to “Lost” fame in 2004. But the big screen ha also beckoned, first in a small role in the offbeat Indie thriller Brick, and now as a family member terrorized in the chilling remake of the horror classic The Hills Have Eyes.
In a Los Angeles hotel room, at the end of a long day doing press, Paul Fischer spent some alone time with the Australian actress, who talked horror, Hawaii and what she hopes will be revealed on America’s biggest TV hit.
Question: So I assume that you kind of have a window when you can look for something that you can do outside of Lost. So was Hills Have Eyes something that came up, during that window? Did you have ‘X’ number of things to choose from? I mean what were your criteria for embarking on this particular project?
de Ravin: It was one of those things… I was looking for something that, was different and that would challenge me in a different way, that was fun and people I was interested in working with. I wanted to travel a bit which i did, just had some time off, and then I decided to do this. There are a lot of horror movies around right now, but this to me was very different because it dealt with a lot of other subject matter as well which really interested me and from the from the first conversation I had with Alex and Gregory, the main thing for them was wanting to focus on character development and, just the acting in general in this film, so they didn’t want it to be just some slasher film where you didn’t care about the characters. That was really important to them.
Question: How do you avoid the stereotype of being the damsel in distress in a movie like this, and what do you do to try and bring more to the table than that?
de Ravin: Well, I mean… my character is wielding a pickaxe and stabbing people in the face so she’s not really a damsel at all, which I guess is another thing that drew me to the character. She’s a very strong female character and goes through a huge change through the film. I mean she’s a young woman, still sort of figuring out who she is and then she practically grows up in three days, for what she has to deal with.
Question: She does get raped by a strange psychotic character…
de Ravin: Yean she gets raped. She watches her sister get murdered and she’s got her younger brother there where they protect each other but, being the elder there’s sort of that weight on your shoulders of, okay, let’s do this.
Question: Do you have a big imagination? Do you rely on imagination to play stuff like that, and what are the acting challenges of playing somebody in that kind of intense danger?
de Ravin: I haven’t been in a situation like that personally so I just put myself in the character’s shoes and think about how she would be reacting in a circumstance like this. I mean a certain amount of its instincts taking over.
Question: Did you go out of your way to avoid seeing the original Hills Have Eyes?
de Ravin: Alex begged me not to beforehand in our meetings. Like, don’t see… don’t see the original, and I haven’t so. And I’m really glad I didn’t because it was nice going into it just fresh and not having any, preconceived notions on, oh, is that going to look like that scene or, should I do this differently than how she did it here? It was completely out of my mind and I like that because it is very different and it was nice to not have to think about it.
Question: The first film you did after Lost was Brick, which I saw at Sundance. and that was another very different kind of role. Are you kind of interested in not necessarily being a mainstream actor?
de Ravin: Definitely, definitely. I think there’s some very interesting mainstream movies out there and big blockbuster movies are, you know… There are some great movies out there, but, I love the Indie circuit. I think there’s some amazing sort of younger or undiscovered talent out there as far as directors, and just really edgy scripts and things that are maybe not as mainstream as you’re suggesting. They’re maybe not going to be as widely released but just really, really interesting subject matter which definitely interests me.
Question: Now you moved to L.A. six years ago. What kinds of aspirations did you have at the time, and what prompted the departure?
de Ravin: Hmm. That was a very eloquent question. Prompting my departure was, I worked for a year, when I was 17 in Australia, on BeastMaster, which is an American show so I had to do an American accent for that actually too. And then I got a call from Fox casting over here just to see if I’d come in and read for Roswell. Nothing fancy, just… I don’t know, maybe they thought I was here. Anyway, I came out – thought, okay, I’ll come out to L.A. and go on a handful of auditions. I knew some people out here at the time so, I wasn’t just going somewhere randomly. And, so I went on that audition, and a bunch of others, and booked Roswell – [laughter]… which was kind of a coincidence really, isn’t it; it’s weird. That was the one other one I booked – the one I got called out for. And, that was nine episodes. They got my visa for me and they turned it into a series regular and I sort of stayed out. My mum helped me move out.
Question: Was your mom very concerned about you doing this?
de Ravin: I’m very close with my family. They’re very supportive of what I do and I’m very lucky to have that. I’m very close with my mum. She’s supportive. She, trusts me. She knows that I’m not going to make stupid decisions about things and I guess you have to have quite a mature attitude towards life, moving when you’re sort of 18 to another country and I’m sure she was concerned but she, she trusts me. She knows that I’m smart about things. And there’s no way I could have moved to a different country unless I was working; I’m so close with my family, it would have been so hard. But when you’re working everyday that it’s put into the perspective, okay, I’m here and I’m working.
Question: Well TV is very risky and that show was cancelled after three seasons, so at that point did you want to stay on or did you think of going back?
de Ravin: To Australia?
de Ravin: Well, I was still sort of going back and forth as much as I could, but then I did Carrie not long after – so I spent a few months back home because I missed home. I still miss home so much. And, and then just kept working really…
Question: I assume that Lost was presumably just one of many things that you went for.
de Ravin: Well I never tested for another pilot and I wasn’t really looking for a pilot to do.
de Ravin: Roswell was sort of a little sporadic too – you didn’t work everyday on it but it kind of scares me, doing something and you’re working with like three people literally constantly everyday for nine months of the year – the same character. So I really wasn’t that interested in television. I sort of read for a couple of other ones and that was it. And then I was away working on something else and I got Lost it was so different with fourteen series regulars and a really cool character and a really cool concept of the show. And basically the fact that there’s so many different avenues that they can take with it, so many different people to work with – you’re not going to be working all the time so you’re not getting bored with your character for so many reasons…
Question: And presumably J.J. Abrams was a factor.
de Ravin: Who I really respected and loved his work and his ideas.
Question: Now was she written as an Australian?
de Ravin: She was written as an Australian, yes.
Question: So were they specifically looking for an Australian actress to play this?
de Ravin: Yeah, they were. Yeah.
Question: Was it fun for you to be able to not worry about dealing with an accent for the first time?
de Ravin: Yeah, it was nice for a change and it was really fun playing such a different character for me, and then playing 8 months pregnant, getting to do all that research to do with, what you can and what you can’t do when you’re in that situation – especially on an island.
Question: Do you draw on your maternalism?
de Ravin: I do. And my sisters and my mother – [laughter]…
Question: What are the pros and cons of filming in Hawaii?
de Ravin: The pros are it’s probably one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever seen and the people are so nice. It’s a very relaxed, nice atmosphere there. We’re so lucky to be able to shoot there. As for the con I personally decide to travel back and forth – I don’t live there and so I split my time, when I’m working I’m there and when I’m not I’m in L.A. So, the flight gets a little tedious after a while, but then again I make sure I utilise that time to either read or sleep with no cell phone. So, it’s kind of nice in a weird way. The airports are the thing I hate. I hate going to the airports – especially LAX.
Question: What would you hope to see revealed about Lost?
de Ravin: I want to know why we’re all there – [laughter] – the big question.
Question: Why you’re all there?
de Ravin: I want to know… Yeah.
Question: What do you think is going to happen to your character, and what can you say about her future direction?
de Ravin: I don’t really know. It’s cleared up that the baby’s not dying at the moment and that she remembers, physically what happened, from, her memory being repressed when she was kidnapped. But what those injections actually did – apart from make her loopy – I mean, have they affected her? Have they affected her child? I want to know that because that really interests me. There has to be some kind of side effect to that somehow – I’m assuming, or guessing. Hoping – [laughter]. You know.
Question: Do you hope to continue doing it until it’s at an end or… or do you think you’ll eventually get tired of the grind?
de Ravin: Who knows? I’m having an amazing time. I can only really say how I feel now which is, I’m having a great time. I love working with these people and I’m very lucky doing something that I love that people enjoy watching so much too – that’s pretty special. But, I mean, people are going to die on this show. That’s going to keep happening. And I’m sure because it’s quite real really – the show. I mean obviously – [laughter] – we’ve got monsters and polar bears and things but, it’s quite gritty and real in the fact that they don’t screw around, as far as… in a situation like this, the doctor on the island can’t save everyone. things are going to happen when you’re on an island with guns, weapons, animals and monsters. So, it’s sad when people die but then, I understand and it also makes it more interesting in a weird way. So I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how everything plays out.
Question: Any idea what you’re going to be doing on your next hiatus?
de Ravin: No, I’m just sort of I guess starting to read things now. it’s… it’s that sort of time now.
Question: Are you looking for things to do in Australia? I mean does that ever cross your mind?
de Ravin: Yeah, no. I’d love to do something in Australia. I mean depending on what it is obviously.
Question: What do you like the most and the least about L.A.?
de Ravin: I think you have to find pockets in L.A. L.A.’s a crazy place. If you are lucky enough to find the right friends and places to hang out on, there are fantastic pockets in L.A. and some crazy people and crazy places but once you get to know the city and embrace it for what it is, there’s some great things. It’s a really eclectic city.