‘The Last Thing He Told Me’s Angourie Rice Is Really Good At Keeping Secrets
I tried to get Angourie Rice to spill some details on Mean Girls: The Musical, I really did. Cameos? Spoilers?? Anything??? But the actor—who stars as Cady in the upcoming movie-turned-Broadway-hit-turned-movie that’s currently in production—has had a lot of practice in remaining tight-lipped. After all, her breakout role came as Betty Brant in Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) and Far From Home (2019) and the MCU is notorious for its secrecy. “I wish I could tell you,” she tells StyleCaster via Zoom, “but my Marvel training has served me well.”
As unsuccessful as my prodding was, it serves as a segue into her latest completed project, AppleTV+’s The Last Thing He Told Me, a thrilling and intriguing adaptation of Laura Dave’s bestselling novel of the same name. It’s what she and I have come to talk about the day we speak. Her character, Bailey, is the disgruntled stepdaughter of Hannah (Jennifer Garner), whose husband mysteriously goes missing after his company is shut down for securities fraud and his mysterious past unravels.
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In one early scene, Rice—as Bailey—is rehearsing for her high school musical production in singing “Anyone Can Whistle” by Stephen Sondheim. “I was so nervous to do it,” she says. “That was the beginning of me going to vocal lessons.” As production on The Last Thing He Told Me wrapped, Garner pressed her co-star on “what’s next” in her career, and unbeknown to Rice, it would foreshadow her casting in the fresh adaptation of Tina Fey’s beloved screenplay.
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“She was like, ‘What do you want for yourself next? What do you hope comes along?’ And I said to her, ‘I would just love to do something fun and happy because this was so dramatic. I don’t know, maybe a musical’,” Rice recalls. “Then, literally, a few weeks later, Mean Girls: The Musical audition came into my inbox, and I was like, ‘This is perfect’. I really feel like it came at the right time.” As it so often does in Hollywood.
StyleCaster spoke with the Australian actor about working with Garner and traveling to auditions from the age of 14.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What can you tell me about your childhood and background?
My parents work in theater. And we used to live in Perth [Western Australia], where the theatre and TV community there is quite close and small. So I grew up in that environment of just having actors rehearse at our house and going to see plays every weekend. That was my childhood. I loved the theater and I love watching people perform. And then I thought, hey, I want to do that, too. Then once we moved to Melbourne, I did a feature film [her debut These Final Hours in 2013]. And when I started high school, that’s really when my career in movies started.
You’ve talked about how you traveled around a lot when you were in school to work as an actor. How challenging was it to maintain friendships during that time?
It was hard because I would go away and be feeling so solid in my friendships and then I’d come home and everything had shifted. You know how quickly in high school group dynamics shift? Someone breaks up, someone has a fight with someone else and then everything reshuffles. I’d come home and be surprised that suddenly the group I felt so solid had dissolved and gone into like three separate little groups, and then I didn’t know where I belong. So that was tricky.
And spending so long away from people that you love and get along with is also hard because you miss things that happen in their lives—you miss birthdays, and important events and things like that. So, it was tricky, but I’m very grateful for the friends that I made in high school because I’m still friends with so many of them.
With The Last Thing He Told Me, were you encouraged to read the book? I know sometimes actors aren’t so as not to inform your character too much.
I really like the approach that combines those two, which is to read everything you can and research as much as you can and then when it comes down to it, you kind of throw it all out the window. What I did with Bailey, as I read the book and I read the scripts—the book has so much to offer from Hannah’s perspective about her relationship with herself and her family. The script really extends some moments with Bailey from the book, we go more into how Bailey’s feeling and how she’s dealing with everything that’s happened to her. So, it’s really good to have those resources and to draw from both.
You play an angsty teen really well. How did you come to understand Bailey’s personality and how she treats Hannah, especially in the beginning?
It’s so funny watching it back because when we did the scenes, I was so in Bailey’s head, I was like, ‘All of this is justified.’ And then watching the show back, Jen does such a great job of making you really feel for her. And then I watched the show and I think, ah, Bailey’s the worst! It’s so interesting to have the audience’s perspective versus the actor’s perspective of it.
I do think the more Bailey opens up, the more we see why she is the way she is and how she has struggled with this big traumatic event that’s happened in her life. And how it comes out how that deep fear comes out in anger toward Hannah.
What is Jen Garner like to work with?
She’s incredible to work with. I truly loved every second of working with her, she’s really dedicated, really smart. She carried the book with her. Like, every single day, she had this underlined, dogeared book. She even had it when I did interviews with her.
She’s also so kind and generous, not only person but also actor, she’s just so open to collaboration and to talking about the scene. What I really loved about working with her is the trust that I felt that she had in me and that made me trust her as well. Because we had that foundation, we were able to explore those more uncomfortable moments of tension.
Bailey and Hannah start out so disconnected from each other, and so frustrated at everyone and everything, but it really—at least I hope this is how it tracks for the audience—but for me, at least it really gives you somewhere to go. So that by the last episode, we have seen their entire journey from being opposites and adversaries to being a mother and daughter.
The Last Thing He Told Me is available to stream on AppleTV+.
Photographer: David Roemer
Hair: Laura Costa
Makeup: Misha Shahzada
Style: Aryeh Lappin
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