Guy Pearce is a legend in Australia, having started (as fellow Australian star Margot Robbie And Chris Hemsworth) on the popular series Neighbor. Since then, he’s achieved international success in everything from comedy The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert for mystery thrillers L.A.’s secret And Memorieseven won an Emmy for the 2011 miniseries Pierce Mildred beside Kate Winslet. Julia Savage is on its way to having an equally exciting career. At just 16 years old, she has already been nominated for AACTA and AFCA for her performances Fire and appears as a younger version of Emily Browningcharacters on Prime Video Class of ’07.
Savage is once again playing a younger version of an established actress clearing as Amy, with Teresa Palmers starring as his adult self. As one of the oldest—and most empathetic—children in the fearsome cult in the middle clearing, Amy is, in many ways, the essence of the show, with a role that requires her to go to some dark places. Pearce played Dr. Bryce Latham, who works closely with cult leader, Adrienne (Miranda Otto).
I got the chance to talk to Pearce and Savage about shooting some of the show’s most intense scenes, which is why they both thanked the director’s leadership. Jeffrey Walkerthe cult documentaries they watched to prepare for this show, and more.
COLLIDER: First of all, congrats on the show. It’s incredibly scary in the most mesmerizing and exciting way. Julia, I want to start with you because I feel like you have some of the most intense scenes. Some that really stood out to me were the ones you personally shared with Miranda Otto, which was pretty scary in this regard. How did it feel to shoot those scenes with him?
JULIA SAVAGE: Yeah, very intense scenes having to do with administering drugs and stuff like that, but it was a very safe and respectable set. It was a very trusting environment, and Miranda was really fun to work with. I think when you’re dealing with material like that — especially with young people and the god-like complex nature that she views as her chosen one, her daughter — it’s obviously very content heavy. But on a set that we kept light on, it was really fun to film.
Obviously, everyone gets nervous, especially for some of the heavier scenes, which my character is quite involved in, but it’s a trusting environment. For the LSD scene, Jeffrey Walker, who directed the first part, was there guiding me through it. And having that connection with the director and with Miranda in such an intense scene was really important. I think that’s what allowed me to go to those places with those characters.
Speaking of Jeffrey, Guy, you once said that directors often weigh your decisions into certain roles and projects. What was your experience like working with Jeffrey as well as Gracie Otto?
GUY PEARCE: Well, Jeffrey is an old friend of mine. I knew him when he was a kid, so I’ve known him for years. When he was a child, he was like a little old man, and now he is a little old man, he is like a little child. He’s like Benjamin Button. She is brilliant and the most loving, caring, communicative and respectful human being I think I know with amazing ideas and great inspiration. So I will do anything for him. As Julia points out, it’s a very respectable set, especially, I think, led by Jeff.
Obviously, Gracie did too, when she joined. But she’s a very different energy altogether. He’s kind of great [pumps fist] beats, you know. She’s beautiful, very playful, but also very respectful. But Jeff, he and I are like big brothers. We really know each other well, and I work with him Irish Jackand Matt Cameron, who wrote this with Elise [McCredie]write too Irish Jack. It’s a small team that I’m familiar with, so it’s very easy for me to sneak into it.
I didn’t have as much to do as Julia and the others did, but I was excited to really come into something where you don’t have to do the show but you have a very integral part and to understand the importance of that role. and how precisely it is present or not. And Jeff really appreciates that too, so that’s great.
SAVAGE: Jeff himself having been an actor himself, especially at such a young age, was really like this about him. Like Guy said, he really knows how to handle content with young kids like that, and it feels good and is a very kind and loving set.
Julia, it’s really interesting because you know where your character ends up a few years down the road, with Teresa Palmer also playing her. When I spoke to him he talked about how he would actually watch your performance and try to pick up on some of your antics and things. I wonder if there are any seeds you planted that you know will bear some fruit later.
SAVAGE: That’s very interesting. It’s quite interesting when it’s reversed because I think the character of Teresa is going to look back at her childhood, and that can affect her future and how her character is then. But I really didn’t read much into Teresa’s character Freya because I don’t think Amy really knows what her future holds. And I think, because he’s in this cult, this is his life now. This is what he sees in the future. This was what he hoped for the rest of his life, following Maitreya and all that. So I didn’t explore Teresa’s character too much because I think they really stand on their own in different time periods.
Guy, you talked about how your character is definitely not the main character, but I think he’s very interesting because he’s kind of an abuser but also a victim, which is an interesting position to be in. I wonder how you find that balance and the juxtaposition of falling into the trap but also engaging in abuse.
PEARCE: Yeah, in case Bryce isn’t found [Adrienne] as his student at university, he would probably continue to teach at university with all the weird and wonderful ideas he had about metaphysics and alternative ways of living and alternative ways of thinking. Maybe, he’s just been parked on a shelf somewhere, everyone thinks he’s a little kook and he’s at another time and he’s kind of old-fashioned in his thinking. Or was he a bit ahead of his time but socially incompetent? Then Miranda’s character comes up to her at university saying, “I know exactly what you’re saying, and I really want to be a part of this,” and something that opened up an opening for her thus far, “Maybe there’s a better voice for everything I’ve ever heard of.” think instead of my own voice. Here she is in this glorious, beautiful, charismatic vision of beauty. Go.”
So he got involved, of course. I think he is quite responsible. And because I think, on some level, there’s a part of him emotionally that can be disconnected from the negative consequences of what’s going on. The way these kids were treated…I forget exactly what the line was, but I have a line about when worldly pleasures are taken away from these kids, that’s when you really grow up. So whatever pain and suffering he saw them going through, he would truly see it as a step in the right direction. So let’s keep at it. I’m sure there will come a time, if it gets too out of control and too excruciating, where you will go, “Wait. This is not what I’m talking about.” But he can, for want of a better phrase, turn a blind eye to those things because he is constantly seeing a much bigger picture.
I personally am a huge fan of cult documentaries. I think they are very attractive. I wonder if you watched any of these to prepare for this and if any of you found it really helpful or just really interesting.
PEARCE: I mean, I’ve seen a few along the way. I’m a bit fascinated with David Koresh. In fact, I went to Waco, Texas, years ago in the late nineties when I was working not far from there. I thought, “I have to go to Waco.” So I went there. Of course, I didn’t see anything because the whole place was burnt to the ground. Recently, since filming our show, I noticed Oath, but I’ve seen the stuff in Jonestown and various other cults that have existed before. And obviously, there’s a lot about Charles Manson, as well as various other things that aren’t as well known.
They are all attractive. They’re all existing power dynamics and vulnerabilities on one hand, and then, on the other, you have leaders who easily end up with some sort of god complex. It’s just a recipe for disaster. So they’re all interesting—as you point out, you’re pretty fascinated by them too. The interesting thing about them, in the same way you might look at religion — Christianity or whatever — is that we’re all looking for answers. We are all looking for a better way of life. We are all looking for community. We are all looking for ways to feel connected and help each other throughout life. So that the needs that we have quite often utilized.
I think the cults in our story are even more extreme because it’s not like these kids went away and chose to be in these cults. They are not 18 years old, “I feel so lost in life, and I flunked university, and my boyfriend doesn’t love me, so I’m going to join this group of people and feel better about myself.” These children were taken when they were babies. So this is a very extreme and unusual version, in my opinion. And it’s also weird because it’s run by a woman. That’s weird.
clearing available to stream on Hulu.