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Oh, Alice – Alice Englert covers SIDE-NOTE digital, edition 1

STYLIST: Karla Clarke
HAIR: Kyye @ AP-Reps
MAKEUP: Linda Jeffereyes @ The Artist Group
ART DIRECTOR: Stephanie Huxley
INTERVIEW & WORDS: Bianca Farmakis

How much we want to know about those we hold closest to us is a question we rarely need to ask – we see them frequently, we understand them on another level, we look to them for a better understanding of ourselves. But for Exposure star Alice Englert, she found herself staring both into the darkness the idea encompasses and deep into the lens of one of her most complex shows to date.

The psychological thriller mini-series tracks young photographer Jac’s plight to uncover why she lost the friend she held dearest to her through gripping portrait shots and quintessentially Australiana footage captured on a camcorder in a rite of passage trip to Bali.

And while the show boasts the tagline ‘the closer you look, the less you see,’ such is the case with the star – who naturally lightens the mood and the room around her when unravelling the dark subject matter of her latest role.

Speaking to SIDE-NOTE from LA, Englert sports a jumper in the middle of a blistering US summer, admitting “I don’t know how to turn the air conditioning off in this place.”

“I’m an Australian in a jumper in the middle of summer in the middle of LA – it’s quite ridiculous,” she laughs.

It’s a warm introduction to the face of a show that ripples from reckless behaviour, youthful self-destruction and dauntingly recognisable spaces that leave an audience revelling in the fear that what occurs over six gripping episodes could happen to them.

Exposure battles with one of the most unimaginable things you could do in a sacred friendship and the lines of intimacy blurred beyond belief, evocative of the Soderbergh spectacular Sex, Lies and Videotape, with it’s reliance of multiple narratives – and films within a film – to paint a broader narrative.

“It really is a Trojan horse of a story,” says Englert, praising writer Lucy Coleman’s script.

“You think you know what you’re looking for and then something else from the interiority of the character kind of maps the new direction and I loved it because you could feel it. You could feel that things weren’t going to be what you thought.”

Describing her character as “something of an auteur” that is “extremely rude about her own work – as is required of us Australians,” Eglert says, noting that the show’s underlying exploration of intrusive thoughts struck a personal chord.

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Experiencing OCD with “aggressive intrusions,” which Englert experienced severely during later adolescence, she tells SIDE-NOTE “there’s some kind of beautiful, compelling parallels to that storyline which I was really attracted to.”

“I mean it’s fiction and there’s some liberties with it – but in a way, I was really excited to see intrusive thoughts played out on screen in a way that I haven’t really come across yet.”

It’s that honesty that makes Englert so captivating. Her unflinching capacity to say what she means and how she experiences it brings an authenticity to the screen that is confronting as it is comforting.
Sharing a private moment from her life, she tells us her therapist once encouraged her to “be curious, not scared – even find the confronting things funny if you can.”

“And it changed everything,” she adds, her hands motioning to an imaginary wider picture.

“When I feel afraid I have nowhere to go, but when I feel curious, I can go anywhere – and that’s somethingI felt like the show kind of starts to deal with, and how I related to it.”

She motions to her head, running her fingers through untamed brown curls in a signature comedic break from difficult subject matter.

“Like trying to scratch that itch in your brain that just won’t go away, you know?” she adds, smiling, “it’s like a process of oxygenating the brain.”

At 29, Englert has already had a decorated screen career – feature film roles, TV series leads, a directorial debut last year with Bad Behaviour starring Jennifer Connelly. And while a foot in the door came with an Oscar-winning heavyweight step from her mother, she’s a rare breed of nepo baby that doesn’t stray away from celebrating the path paved for her.

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“Yeah, my mum is Jane Campion,” she muses, when asked about how she gathered an intrigue in the cinematic life.

“I grew up around cameras.”

It’s a fact for the child of antipodean acting royalty. The granddaughter of theatre legends Edith and Richard Campion, with an “arty, whimsical” family residing in New Zealand, Englert’s on screen debut happened at an age where most children are still assimilating into playground politics in primary school.

Boasting prominent production houses in her credits, prior work with Hollywood hit-maker Ryan Murphy and song-writing credentials among her accolades, Englert remains naturally playful in her self-assessment.

She breaks away from the conversation to detail life in Los Angeles to date: a burger delivery for dinner left at her front door step, a skunk by the side of it that appeared adorable at first glance, a reminder that a single spray could leave her smelling foul for months on end.

“I had to remember if you get sprayed you smell for months, and I have a screening I’m meant to do an intro for tomorrow,” she laughs.

Taking acting up, Englert says, was a means to escape the “role play of real life”, one where she admits she was essentially “big on the loser spectrum”.

“I mean I had good hair, so it gave me a chance to fit into the popular crowd,” she says, adding “but then I would prove myself unworthy.”

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Firmly in love with the ‘silliness and seriousness’ of acting, watching Englert’s work is a stark deviation from her jovial personality. Dark tones, harrowing character arcs, sinister plot lines have typified her career to date – and her rationale for it, is in a way, skin deep. She points to the dark circles under her eyes, smiling to pronounce the alluring shadows.
“It’s the rings, I’m telling you – that’s why I get picked for these characters,” she shares.
“I think I also find it more comforting to play and to explore things that otherwise kind of get kept to the fringe. It becomes a place where you can make safe some of these feelings and emotions that otherwise people don’t talk about.”

Her candid honesty affords one more confession in the conversation.

“I’m secretly positive,” she says, reflecting on the characters she’s played, from silverscreen young adult adaptations (Beautiful Creatures), intimate dramas (Ginger and Rosa), and true crime miniseries (The Serpent).

“I feel like I can go and kind of be there for the more morose characters of the world and also believe that it doesn’t have to just be that way.”

SN: What would you like people to know about you?

AE: I don’t know if people know that, I’m just so good looking? [Laughs]. Honestly, I can only think of embarrassing things – I was really good at making horse noises as a child. Tell them that.

Exposure is now streaming on Stan

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SIDE-NOTE acknowledges the Eora people as the traditional custodians of the land on which this project was produced. We pay our respects to Elders past and present. We extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples reading this.