The 2017 film adaptation of Margaret Mahy’s classic novel The Changeover was an enthralling experience for feature film rookie Erana James. The Wellington actress Erana James spoke to nzgirl about what it was like to star alongside veteran actors Melanie Lynskey, Lucy Lawless and Timothy Spall, and also shared her tips for budding New Zealand actors.
This is your first role in a feature film. What was it like working alongside such a stellar cast, and what lessons did you learn from the experience?
It was one of the more rewarding experiences working along such talented actors and being able to work with such a talented duo like Miranda and Stuart also. From Timothy, Melanie, Miranda and Stuart the lesson I learnt the most that it was ok to ask for a bit of time. Acting can be tricky business sometimes and can be a bit overwhelming and they all gave me permission to take 10 minutes to clear my head so that I was able to come back and create beautiful work.
Your character faces dark and challenging situations, was there anything that you did to help prepare yourself for this role?
I am Māori so for the darker challenging situations in the film I really drew on my heritage to keep me spiritually safe during those times. My Aunty gifted me a karakia and a waiata to me for strength throughout the filming process and we had close communications with the local Iwi in the area Ngai Tahu who were incredibly supportive of me and of the film. Miranda and Stuart also really kept me ‘safe’ during the harder times, and as a result became like my second parents.
What are the characteristics you most admire about Laura?
Her strengths are definitely her assurances about the things that she believes. She is very assertive and speaks her mind which I think is her most positive quality, She is a woman who knows her mind and knows what she thinks and isn’t afraid to tell people about it, I think it is incredibly empowering.
How did it feel to be cast in an adaptation of a Margaret Mahy novel? Were you a fan of her books growing up?
I felt honoured to be able to bring Laura to life in a different way to how Mahy brought her to life. And I of course was a fan! – I don’t know anyone my age who wasn’t obsessed with the lion in the meadow at a time during their childhood.
What advice does Erana have for young actors?
The Changeover is now in NZ cinemas.