WHO SHE PLAYS: Celeste Wright, an enigmatic, former lawyer and stay at home mum.
MATERNAL STATUS: Mother of two sons, with whom she is raising with husband (Alex Skarsgard)
AGENDA: Struggling in a dangerous marriage where sexual and domestic abuse is a regular occurrence, Celeste carries a lot of secrets.
REAL LIFE: Academy award-winning actress and Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF and UNIFEM, she will next star in the film How to Talk to Girls at Parties, and the Jane Campion TV Series, Top of the Lake.
PERSONAL: Living in Nashville, she is married to Keith Urban, and is mother of four. Two from her previous marriage to Tom Cruise, Isabella, 24, and Connor, 21, and two daughters Sunday, 8, and Faith, 6, from her eleven year marriage to Urban.
You have gone through first grade several times as a mum. Is that partly why you were drawn to this material?
I don’t have a first grader right now, I have a kindergartener and a second grader. (laughs) But I am right in the thick of it, which is probably why I was drawn to the material. But primarily I was drawn to it because it was an Australian author. I read the book overnight, really, really fast, and I thought if this could be made, what a great opportunity for five women.
Do you see yourself as Celeste?
Liane Moriarty saw me as Celeste. (laughs) When I went and met with her in Australia, at Fratelli’s in Darlinghurst and had coffee there and that’s where I said, ‘If you let us option this book, then I promise you Reese and I will get this made.’ And she said, ‘I will give you the rights to the book as long as you play Celeste.’
It was a difficult role. Some of your fans might think, why would you put yourself through this?
It’s in me. I have heard Isabelle Huppert say, she is an actress down to her fingernails and her toenails, (laughs) and I think that’s the same. It’s how I communicate with the world. I really believe it’s the importance of art and I believe in the way in which art can bring us together. It can make us feel less lonely, it can join us, it can make us laugh or cry or feel and I am extremely dedicated to my artistic life. It’s that simple.
How do you get ready for an event? You always look so impeccable.
I have a stylist that I work with who lives in New York. I will go through a magazine and I will see things, or I might be lucky enough to be invited to a fashion show so I can go and look at the dresses. I went for a period where I was less interested in fashion and it was when Sunny was born and I was just living on the farm in Nashville and I kind of just went, ‘I am not interested anymore.’ And subsequently I have come back to being interested because I have a six year old daughter who is totally interested. And she always wants to know what I’m wearing. She’ll be like, ‘I don’t like that, I do like this,’ and she’s kind of ignited my love of fashion again, and I love that.
Do you go shopping with them?
I do go shopping with my daughters. Our most favourite place to shop I would have to say because of them, is Claire’s. Because my daughter wants her ears pierced and I don’t want to get her ears pierced yet and so we go and we buy the clip-ons. So I know everything about clip-on earrings. (laughs)
On the show there are some extravagant kids birthday parties. What kind of parties do your kids have?
When we do birthday parties for my kids, we don’t ones like on the show (laughs). We were lucky because Fifi has her birthday just after Christmas, so we are all in Australia and grandmamma is there, and we do pretty much an old school birthday where we play games like “Pass the Parcel” and we keep it really small. We have a few friends and we have kind of a smaller type party. But we also had a party recently for the kids on the show and had some cupcake decorating and we had some puppies over, it’s called “Rent-A-Puppy.” (laughs) We rent eight puppies for an hour. Kind of great, right? You go, ‘Hi puppies! Then bye-bye puppies!’ (laughs) The kids love it!
On a more somber note, watching the show was a little horrifying in regards to your character. What kind of advice would you give a friend going through this kind of abuse?
I am reluctant to tread into that territory because when I do my work for UN Women, that is when I really talk about it, because it’s so complicated. So I think what this says is that there are so many different relationships and they are so complicated and this is an extremely complicated relationship. When you see the whole seven hours, that’s when I can talk about it, because it has a particular way that it plays out, which I think in itself is interesting and sheds a light on things. At the same time, anything that unveils domestic violence and puts it out into the world is good. There is so much shame and that’s why there is so much secrecy.
From the outside it looks like the characters are living a dream. Perfect house, beautiful kids, great beach setting. Do you think it’s possible to attain a perfect life?
We all know it’s not. I don’t even know what the definition of perfect is. The desire to present leads to judgment. It leads to so many problems. My life might appear to people to be perfect but I always say that nothing came to me easily, I have always had to work hard and I’ve had massive losses in my life. I’ve been given incredible blessings and my job now is to be able to get out there and philanthropically work for things like UN Women. I am going to go to Serbia in April with them to work and to listen to womens stories at a womens shelter that has been set up by the UN Trust Fund. That is my job in my life now. The imperfection is what joins us and our flaws and the way in which people learn from each other is through revealing our flaws and revealing when we are in pain and helping each other. Because life has an enormous amount of pain, there’s an enormous amount of love and joy but it’s a difficult journey and the only way you can do it is by reaching out to each other.