Last time I saw Rachel House in a film she made me cry. She was as the sweet grandmother of Moana, and well, if you’ve seen the film, we know the crazy villager was a heart-tugging, inspirational character of the beloved animated film. This time around I am talking to Rachel House as Topaz in Thor Ragnarok, the latest and greatest film from Marvel. In this interview, she talks openly about her relationship with the film’s director Taika Waititi and how unfamiliar she is with the new universe in which she has so quickly been submerged as a sidekick if you will to Jeff Goldblum’s character, The Grand Master.
Rachel House as Topaz in Thor Ragnarok
While you were filming the scenes, there was a lot like really deadpan stuff. How hard was it to keep a straight face with all of that, which is hilarious?
You know, I’m pretty used to keeping a straight face, ‘cause I’ve done a lot of Taika’s films, and it’s always like that. But some of the other actors weren’t so good at it. They were losing it, especially Jeff Goldblum, ‘cause he was so funny, and that’s not even half of it what you see. It’s not even a quarter of the improvisation and stuff that we were doing, you know? And Jeff was just so masterful at improvisation, you know.
What’s your favorite part about working with Taika?
Yeah, the fun of it is really good. But, I mean, this is the first massive film he’s done. The others were very independent, therefore we had a very limited amount of time to shoot. So, you know, we worked with a handful of people in five weeks. And we had to run around the bush, and the mud, and the snow, and the rain. It was a lot of fun. But we had no time, you know? So, we just had to keep going. Whereas in Thor, because of the scale I think as well, we got to kind of breath a little bit. Taika was allowed to play as much as possible. So that was great seeing him able to do that without any time restraint.
Did Taika come straight to you with the script?
No, I got a top-secret kind of audition that I had to go through my agent. And, she said, “Oh, it’s for Marvel.” And I said, “Well, that’ll be Taika.” You know, of course, it will. And she went, “Oh yeah, of course, it will.” And then I was given this tiny little saying with a few lines. New Zealand is so small, so one of my buddies, who’s a casting director, he filmed it. It was just like doing it in the living room. Then sent it off. And then got a very kind of drawl email from Taika saying, “Oh, by the way, you got the role.” You know, which is lovely. I don’t know if they saw any other people. I’m not sure.
I think he kind of tried to make it what he wanted to see me do, even though most of it hasn’t ended up in the film, but that’s okay. It’s okay. There’s better stuff in the film.
How did you get involved with Taika in the first place?
So, we’ve known each other since he was 17.
He was in a play in this little theater in Wellington, and he was the best thing about it, you know? I was a couple of years older, and at drama school at the time. And I just met him after and said, “You were so great. You know, thank you so much.” Then I started becoming a fan of his little crazy comedy stuff that he’d do with Jemaine and Bret, and another guy called Nigel Collins.
had a night off the tickled road trip and got to see flight of the conchords play to 12,000 happy people. pic.twitter.com/aIbfnpDTQy
— David Farrier (@davidfarrier) June 20, 2016
They just did the most stupid stuff. They’d have sword fights with straws and reenact style wars. And, you know, that was their comedy. I became a very big fan. From then, we just kept staying in touch. I had no idea he was gonna end up being an awesome film director. He was an artist, and an actor, and a comedian. And so, yeah.
Were you familiar with the Thor comics?
No, I won’t lie, no.
So did you have to do some research?
I watched a lot of Marvel films. So, I got familiar with the universe. But not all of them. You know, I’m still catching up. I haven’t seen all the Avengers films. I know I should do that. Because someone’s going, “Who’s your favorite Avenger?” I just see them as separate
So what do you think about the film?
Great. I mean, it’s so Taika. So full of comedy, and his unique brand of humor. And Korg was so great. It was amazing. And, you know, people back in New Zealand are just gonna fall about, because it’s such a familiar character. That character is very real in our neck of the woods.
Can you talk about the backstory of your character and Valkyrie?
Valkyrie is just so my gosh, what a character. She’s so good. It just that little moment, in the beginning, we just had a mess. And it happened on the day with the encouragement of Taika. But we just started doing it sort of naturally. Because we were both trying to out warrior each other, you know? So, yeah.
Did you get along with Tessa Thompson in real life?
Oh, yeah, she’s a darling. What a darling. She’s wonderful. I felt so embarrassed because I watched Creed, and I said to her, “Oh, I loved in that boxing film.” I always forget names of things. And then I realized that I’d seen Dear White People like three times, ‘cause I love it so much. And she’s in it, and I had no idea when I met her. It wasn’t until afterward where I actually Googled her, because I tend not to want to Google the people I’m about to work with, especially if they’re kind of famous-, you know, ‘cause I don’t wanna necessarily have that pressure and feel intimidated. So, I didn’t do any of that. But once I realized it was her in Dear White People I started Googling and seeing how much else she’d done.
Can you tell us a little bit more about any of the cut scenes that you really enjoyed seeing come into production, but didn’t see come into the movie?
Yeah. There was this whole scene where Jeff does a song at the keyboards. And, he made it up. It was really cool. I mean, I think he had a tiny little bit to kind of go with, but then he just kept expanding. You know, as you know, he is a wonderful jazz musician anyway. So, he just expanded that, and then I would sort of his back up, and I am a really bad back up singer as well. So, that didn’t make it in, which is a bummer.
Is it intimidating to step into the Marvel universe?
Yes. Being from New Zealand, of course it was. But you get, you get over that really quickly. You know, when you meet people and, there’s so many wonderful people involved in the Marvel universe, and just meeting them. They’re just people. They’re just normal people, talented people. So, yeah, the intimidation didn’t last long.
Will we see you again you think, in Infinity War maybe?
Um. I’m not sure. May-, maybe. I don’t know.
What did you find most challenging as a performer on set every day?
Um. To be honest, my costume. It was really stiff. It was hard to move. And also, when we were doing that spaceship scene, like I was grr, ‘cause it’s quite stiff. It’s beautifully made. It’s ex-. You know, the costume designer is out of this world. But that was a bit hard to move in, you know?
You’ve been coined as Taika’s good luck charm.
Oh. Yeah, not good, because when you, when you put that out there it can reverse. And for that, I was really scared. I was like, no, because the prosthetic coming out before the film had come out, I was thinking, oh no, maybe that’s gonna, you know, implode. But, um, it, it didn’t, thank goodness. Yeah. Goodness. Yeah.
THOR: RAGNAROK opens in theaters everywhere!
*I was invited by Disney to attend the Thor Ragnarok Event to share my experience with my readers. All opinions are my own.