TW: this feature contains references to body dysmorphia.
It’s 6.45pm on a Tuesday evening, and Samara Weaving pops up on Zoom wearing a black vest and plum lipstick. She’s here to talk about Nine Perfect Strangers; the new Prime Video show she stars in opposite Melissa McCarthy and Luke Evans, centred on a wellness retreat in Australia with some unique healing techniques.
Despite an early admission that doing press is “really hard” thanks to her anxiety (more about that later), Weaving is friendly, charming and calm, as she talks through the adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s book. “In the series, nine strangers head to Tranquillum House, a 10-day retreat run by Nicole Kidman’s character Marcia, in an attempt to better themselves.”
Weaving plays Jessica Chandler, a young influencer hoping to fix her marriage. Through Marcia’s “unusual methods of therapy”, deeper issues she’s been experiencing come to the surface. “The retreat unearths Jessica’s body dysmorphia and her relationship with plastic surgery. I did a lot of research for the role.
“I spoke to friends of mine who have body dysmorphia, as well as someone whose mum has it. We went into what it was like to grow up around it. There was one case where a woman had liposuction on her kneecaps, which summed up for me how unwell the illness can make you.”
On top of her research, Weaving also spent two hours a day in the makeup chair. “The wardrobe and prosthetics departments were incredible at creating Jessica. They would pull the skin on my face back with wire, and cover me in fake tan. I had fake boobs and a fake bum, as well as fake teeth. I actually kept them from set.
“What took me by surprise was how people looked at me while I was in character. It made me think about how much society judges face value, and how people would assume things about Jessica based on how she looks.”
While the role itself sounds fairly heavy going, Weaving insists there were some lighter moments during the production, too. She used TV sitcoms to snap out of character, and Weaving’s partner Jimmy Warden also joined her on set (“the fake tan in the bed was quite tricky for him to live with,” she jokes.) On working with the all-star cast, including Bobby Cannavale and Melvin Gregg, Weaving adds, “The whole experience was like a dream. I was starstruck by everyone.
“I hadn’t met Nicole [Kidman] before, but she’s lovely and everything you’ve read about her is true - she’s incredible, kind and funny. And when she clicks into character, she’s really incredible to watch. I felt very lucky to do a scene with her.”
Nine Perfect Strangers aside, Weaving has dipped her toe into everything from action films, like G. I. Joe’s Snake Eyes, to sci-fi Bill & Ted Face the Music and horror-comedy, The Baby Sitter. She even had an audition for Fifty Shades Of Grey.
“I had to do a self-tape of a very explicit scene where two women are talking about having sex with men," Weaving reveals. "I was staying in a small town in Australia with my parents, so I had to ask them to read it with me. It was so embarrassing, and my mum couldn’t do it. My dad was like, ‘C’mon, let’s get into it’ and was really acting and performing. And I had to be like, ‘No, just read the lines. Don’t make eye contact with me. Let’s just suffer through it.’ I didn’t get the role."
One genre Weaving loves to film is horror. “My mood on a horror set is always really calm; I find it a good outlet for my anxiety. When I’m running, screaming and pretending to be afraid all day, I always feel quite zen at the end of it.”
Weaving also has a number of other coping mechanisms in place to manage her anxiety. “I go to therapy a lot, and use grounding techniques. I try to meditate and exercise every day. I take medication sometimes if that’s what I need - I went to a doctor and we had a very thorough conversation about it. I don’t drink alcohol, which helps with anxiety, and I’ve noticed really sugary foods can trigger me the next day.
“I try to stay present. If I’m in the moment, it’s easier - I think that’s why I love acting so much.”
WATCH NOW Nine Perfect Strangers is available on Amazon Prime Video now.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from body dysmorphia and/or an eating disorder, visit Beat for information and advice.
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