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Rose McIver is sprinkling her pixie dust all over TV these days.
After a winter break, Sunday marks the return of ABC's "Once Upon a Time," on which the New Zealand native charms as Tinker Bell, the feistiest fairy in the Enchanted Forest. The iconic character is a contrast from McIver's role on "Masters of Sex." On the Showtime series set in the 1950s, she plays Vivian Scully, the daughter of the university's provost (played by Beau Bridges) and an impeccably dressed and tressed candy striper who seems hell-bent on landing a doctor husband.
Further, the 26-year-old is currently shooting "Petals on the Wind," Lifetime's upcoming TV movie sequel to its hit adaptation of V.C. Andrews's "Flowers in the Attic." She's playing the starring role of Cathy, taking over for "Mad Men's" Kiernan Shipka, who played the younger version of the character in the first film. "Petals" picks up 10 years after the first film.
While it seems she's suddenly everywhere, McIver isn't exactly a newcomer. At the age of 3, she appeared in the Oscar-nominated film "The Piano" and her memory of the experience is a funny, leg-crossing one. She's also spent time fighting crime, TV style, as a Power Ranger, wearing the yellow suit for the series in 2009. So we hit her with some Big Questions…
1. There have been many famous Tinker Bells. Who and what inspired your version on "Once Upon a Time?"
What was great was when I auditioned, I didn't know it was for Tinker Bell. I thought I was just auditioning for a fairy. Because of that, I didn't bring any of those ideas to my initial performance. So it's been a nice fusion of a completely original portrayal of a fairy, and merging in some of the original ideas of Tinker Bell. When I looked into J. M. Barrie's creation of her, he envisioned her, because of her pint size, to only be able to house one emotion at a time. So she's either incredibly jealous or incredibly elated or incredibly encouraging. That's been fun being able to have an almost manic element to her, where she can flip and become very stroppy at the drop of a hat. She doesn't symbolize one thing or one virtue; she's much more three-dimensional than I had expected.
2. And, of course, your Tinker Bell has a cool New Zealand accent. How did you convince them to keep it for the part?
What's cool is because the story is universal — everybody from all different countries grew up reading it — the "Once Upon a Time" creators were open to keeping it a really universal and global production. The characters can be from all over the world; they're not locked into being American or British. They have Australian accents on the show, and now, this is the first Kiwi accent that they've had. It's a nice way to unite and tie in audience members from all over the world into a very universal subject matter.
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3. Your "Masters of Sex" character, Vivian, is one of the most marriage-minded girls we've seen on TV. She's 18, but so excited to walk down the aisle that she ruined her own marriage proposal.
I know [laughs]. But I feel like I do know those girls. It seems like a dated idea, but when I look around at some of my friends, it's an absolutely essential thing for them in their lives that they really have counted down the days, and almost spoiled the moment, because it's so anticipated. But, yeah, it's funny — in some ways, it's such a 1950s show, and it's really presenting people's images and understandings and psychology at that time. But when you look around, some of people's mindsets today can still be very comparable. On the show, you see everybody wears 1950s costumes and speaking sometimes in a dialogue that feels a little out of date. But the things that they’re talking about are still issues that I feel are not necessarily resolved today, and they were generating a conversation that is still very much in the works. It's not something that's irrelevant, which is great.
4. Your character's parents are played by Beau Bridges and Allison Janney, making it the second time you've worked with Allison, who also appeared in the movie "Brightest Star." What have you learned from her?
Allison is definitely one of the people I’ve looked up to most since starting work in the United States for sure. I just really admire her choices. I admire how down-to-earth and grounded she is. She's incredibly professional. I really look up to her a lot And she's a lot of fun. She knows that she's lucky to do what she does for living. As for this role, it's really inspiring to think that it doesn't matter how experienced you are, you can still take new roles and push your boundaries, and find new characters to play. So that's been something I've looked up to.
5. Any funny reactions to the title of the show from people who didn't know the premise — that it's a show about sex research pioneers Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson?
My mom and dad [laughs]! I told them on Skype. I remember vividly — I was so excited and I phoned to say, "Guys, you'll never believe this. I got the role in this great cable show. It's called 'Masters of Sex.'" And I just saw their faces drop. I hadn't thought about the fact that to phone my parents on the other side of the world, who let their little girl go live in Los Angeles, to get that phone call and not know the context was probably pretty terrifying. But when I told them it was about Masters and Johnson and the research and explained the role, they were really excited for me. But certainly, the title has a shock impact that can be little throwing to some people. And I have to explain to people that Vivian is not one of the racy subjects or part of the experiments. She's the virgin and everything comes with that [laughs].
6. Do you still have your yellow Power Ranger costume and, if so, please tell us that you wear it in public from time to time? Or Halloween?
I wish. I absolutely wish. It's funny, I was in Austin around Halloween this year for the Austin Film Festival and I saw a bunch of people dressed up as Power Rangers walking down the street in a drunken state. I never realized going into that project how much of a cult following it had. In New Zealand, it's actually banned on screen for being too violent — weirdly because compared to some of the other stuff that's on screen. I mean: It's rubber monsters! What's the risk of that being carried out in the playground? [Laughs.] So I didn't realize its impact until coming and spending time in the States. It was so much fun to make. It was a job where I worked with five of my best friends, they had a lot of New Zealand cast on the show, and we flew around and fought rubber monsters for months on end. It's kind of a dream gig. And, no, I never have dressed up as a Power Ranger for Halloween. I feel like I spent enough time in that spandex to last a lifetime.
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7. Were you a girl who had V.C. Andrews books on her nightstand?
I actually had never read these books, but so many of my friends and family had, so I wasn't unfamiliar with the series. The limited time between casting and when production began meant that reading the books was not a realistic goal if I wanted to juggle all the other preparation I wanted to do as well. I spent a lot of time doing ballet, developing Cathy's emotional arc throughout this story, and building relationships with the cast and crew I would be working with. And I always work via Skype with a coach and mentor back in New Zealand — Miranda Harcourt — so I made time for that as well. Unfortunately, reading the books will have to wait.
8. You've just started filming, so how is it going? And, because it's an intense role, what do you do to shake it off at the end of the day?
So far I have been really enjoying finding the truth in each scene. Because Kiernan Shipka already did a fantastic job bringing Cathy to life, I am able to draw from her performance as well as creating the character with the supremely talented director I'm working with, Karen Moncrieff. [As for shaking it off], hot baths! Not only is the emotional component of this project really taxing, but there is also the physical component of ballet training. So I have been making sure I find time to wind down with a hot bath and a cup of tea at the end of long days. It also helps that my fellow cast and crew have a great sense of humor and strong work ethics, so we are able to keep spirits up in a wonderful way.
9. Your biggest movie role that Americans will probably know was in fellow New Zealander Peter Jackson's "The Lovely Bones." What was that experience like?
I remember that it was my first time working abroad. I remember how thrilled I was to be coming with a group of awesome filmmakers from my own country who hadn't worked directing and making films abroad either. Although they were so experienced and capable, it was their first time adventuring overseas to make a project like that. So there was something really nice about embarking on it with a bunch of other people on their first adventure like that too, and we made something that I feel is really special. I made some lifelong friends on it, and I learned a lot. It was quite hectic — it was during the writer's strike. And it was everybody working away from home, but I was just lucky that I had such a positive experience and met wonderful people and learned a lot.
10. What, if anything, do you remember about being in "The Piano"?
My most vivid memory, it's actually one of my first memories, I was three and I was the youngest angel in the show production. And I remember being absolutely desperate for the toilet. I needed to wee really badly. So I was crossing my legs when I was walking down. I remember just thinking: This is so unjust that this little girl is desperate for the toilet. And they're saying, "Aww — it looks really cute! She looks just like a girl in a school production. Keep her like that." And I remember being like, "Oh, I will never let myself need to go to the toilet like that again." That's the only memory I have!
11. You started acting so young. When did you decide for yourself, "Hey, I love acting. I'd like to keep doing this forever"?
Well, to be honest, it's still a decision that I make every day. I don't ever want to feel like my whole life is laid out before me and I know exactly what's gonna happen. That would be so boring. What I love about my work is the variety and not knowing what's coming next, and being able to embrace something for a period of time and know something new is going to follow. I also know that I want to do other things in my life as well. I’d love to write, and I think about teaching. But at the moment, what feels right is acting. I'm really fortunate that I am in continuous work and I love what I do. And I think that there's a reason that it keeps happening. So while that keeps happening, I will be thrilled — and feel lucky — to keep doing it.
"Once Upon a Time" returns Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.