Since graduating from Curin University in Perth, actor Jessica De Gouw’s has quickly established herself both in the Australian film industry and abroad, with guest roles in acclaimed Aussie TV shows Underbelly: Razor and Crownies.
This lead to her big break as comic book anti-heroine “The Huntress” in TV series Arrow, which was soon followed with De Gouw cast in the lead role of Mina Murray in the short lived drama Dracula.
Now De Gouw stars in the acclaimed Australian apocalypse thriller These Final Hours, written and directed by Zak Hilditch in which a self-absorbed young man (Nathan Philips) finds himself on a redemptive journey in the final hours of the world’s existence.
Matt’s Movie Reviews spoke to Jessica De Gouw about her role in These Final Hours, the experience of taking the film to the Cannes Film Festival, and her role as The Huntress in Arrow.
So you get this script written by Zak Hilditch. What was it that made you say: “Right, I’m packing my bags and heading back to Perth”?
The script. I loved it from…well, I was devastated from finishing it. I sort of started reading it, and scripts come through often anyway, and then I couldn’t stop, and then “well, that disappeared quickly and now I’m crying!” (laughs) It’s just a great script. It’s a page turner. So even from that original point I thought it was going to be something cool.
But I also know Zak and I’ve seen his work before. A lot of my friends worked with him at uni, because we all went to the same university, a couple of years a part. So I knew of him and I knew what he’s like, and I know what kind of films and stories he likes to tell, so it was all about banging on his door and saying “Please! Let me do it. It’s gonna be great. I would love to be a part of it!”
It is a journey of redemption for the main character James, but what I found interesting is that journey is dictated by the four women in his life: The girl he saves (Angourie Rice), his girlfriend (Kathryn Beck), his mother (Lynette Curran), and your character Zoe. So what would you say Zoe represents to James in this emotional journey?
Well I think she’s kind of that voice that’s with him the whole time, and she bookends the film. She’s at the start and you see her relationship given the complications, but you also see this love that’s there, and I think ultimately it’s a love story. It’s about people connecting with one another, and at the end of our lives what more could you want then a real connection with other humans.
So she’s present though the whole film. I mean, I’m not a huge part of the film, but you feel the character throughout the whole thing, throughout the whole journey, and his desire to be back with her.
“I think ultimately it’s a love story. It’s about people connecting with one another, and at the end of our lives what more could you want then a real connection with other humans.” - Jessica De Gouw
Australia has a rich history of apocalyptic movies from Mad Max to now with These Final Hours. What is it about this country and its filmmakers that lends itself to this type of movie?
Well I think generally apocalyptic films and the end of the world and that kind of thing, is such a part of our collective anxiety. I mean, we’re so aware of the world, with how fragile it is and how it could come to an end for any number of reasons at any time. So they’re stories we want to tell because they’re always relevant, and we’re also fascinated with mortality and death as human beings. It’s something that everybody thinks about and everybody deals with.
But I think that Australia really does lend itself…I mean just physically! The landscape was shot in Perth, and it could not be a more perfect place to shot an apocalypse film, you know? (laughs) It’s so sparse and has such beautiful country as well. But because Australia is so varied from one place to another, Perth looks a world away from the Nullarbor or Tasmania. I think you can tell such different stories in the space. There is so much opportunity for that.
The film is set in Perth, where you were born and raised. Was it strange watching these apocalyptic events unfold upon areas which you may be familiar with?
Yeah, there is something kind of strangely satisfying about it, seeing the deserted ice rink (laughs)… something strangely satisfying about that.
But also I’m from the hills in Perth, and Angourie who plays Rose, her parent’s home is in Roleystone which is a 10 minute drive from where I grew up. So seeing that on film and seeing that it’s described as a place of peace as well in the film, was quite beautiful yet it’s so familiar.
But yeah, it’s sort of great being so identifiably Perth as well. Like a Perth audience will see it and know all of it. Know all of these places and it puts a bit of a smile on your face knowing that.
You guys took this film to the Cannes Film Festival. What is the Cannes experience like? I always wanted to go, but never been. Explain to me the Cannes experience.
It is….hectic. It’s crazy. It’s champagne in the sunshine…you know day drinking never goes well. People selling films, and people in suits…I mean, fortunately we went with a film and I think it’s a very different experience when you go…you know, I wasn’t trying to sell a film, we were part of this official selection, so that’s a nice position to be in.
So we had the screenings and the Q & A’s, and as well it was received very well which makes the experience so much better, being in a cinema where people just kept applauding and that was a pretty amazing thing to be a part of.
But also going over with a film that I really enjoy and support, and a team of people that I adore, they are just so deserving of whatever comes there way as filmmakers and storytellers and people. They’re just great people.
"Arrow has the most vocal and supportive fans, I think, because you walk onto something that’s already got a pre-existing fan-base, so everybody knows the character and has expectations of the character." - Jessica De Gouw
With your role in Arrow as “The Huntress” you’ve firmly established yourself in the fanboy/comic book world and all of the overwhelming praise and scrutiny that comes with it. Is that as intense an experience as I’d imagine it to be?
Yeah, they’re pretty….passionate fans of all of the things that I’ve done. Arrow has the most vocal and supportive fans, I think, because you walk onto something that’s already got a pre-existing fan-base, so everybody knows the character and has expectations of the character.
Fortunately, I think for the most part they like me as the character, so that’s lucky. But yeah, it’s a great thing to be able to go back to. I’ve been back three times now over two years, and they leave the character in a way that she can come back again.
But yeah, it’s a fun job to pop back to and it’s a show that has such a strong social media following as well, so I get lots of people who just want to say “they really like the show”, and “they really, really love it”, which is great!
You are the latest in a long line of great actors to come from Perth (Heath Ledger, Melissa George, Judy Davis) and establish a career in America. What is it about Perth and its acting institutions that produce one great actor after another, that have established careers abroad?
Well there are the institutions there and there is the education, but I think it’s also coming from somewhere that’s so removed and so isolated that you’ve got to have such a drive to leave.
I mean, going to Sydney is already a big deal. Going “east” is already a big deal, and then going to L.A. it’s like…I think people throw themselves at it so much harder and have so much further to fall maybe, that there’s that drive and that work ethic as well.
I think Australians generally have a really good work ethic, and it’s something that’s really respected internationally in terms of actors or crew. So I think because it’s so much further to go you fight so much harder for it.