Penelope Mitchell: 'Hemlock Grove' Exclusive Interview!
The 22-year-old Aussie actress plays Letha Godfrey, who she describes as “a delicate and virtuous person who’s going through a lot of emotion to do with her spirituality, her family, and her sexuality.”
JJ recently chatted with Penelope to get the scoop on her character Letha, how she celebrated after getting the role, and her cousin Radha Mitchell.
Click inside to find out what Penelope spilled to us about her show Hemlock Grove…
Just Jared: Why should people watch Hemlock Grove?
Penelope Mitchell: Apart from the fact that it’s kind of, such an amazingly revolutionary platform being on Netflix and it’s one of those great shows you can binge watch. I think it’s definitely an iconic classic interpretation of a really classical narrative form, which is the gothic literature form and it’s a lot of fun.
JJ: How would you describe the relationship between your character Letha and Bill [Skarsgard]‘s character Roman? Why are they so close?
PM: I guess Roman and Letha are in an interesting predicament, obviously being a part of the Godfrey family, they are a prominent high profile family in the society. The thing that Letha and Roman have in common is that the Godfrey family are revered by their community, but also kind of loathed in the community as a result of what’s going on. Even though they are well known, in many ways, they are also ostracized and that’s definitely something to have in common. The mutual kind of loneliness they share, but they are also very sensitive, interesting people and they are really lucky to have each other in this subliminal phase in their development.
JJ: How are you similar or different from your character?
PM: I guess what happens when you work on a character for six months, you often kinda feel like so much of you is extractably related. Because I guess that a natural challenge is to find the things you do have in common with your character. I really enjoyed stepping back into that fragility and vulnerability that one experiences being a teenager and trying to find your place in the world and how you want to communicate and what you want to be seen as. That was something I really admired that she was so self-righteous about, what she believed in and not being willing to compromise her values and her sense of self worth, which is really lovely. There are a lot of things I admire about her and strive in my own being.
JJ: How was the audition process? What made you want to be part of this show?
PM: I was really lucky in the sense that I had actually just moved to America from Australia for pilot season and the script was sent to me at the tail end of pilot season after I had read zillions of post-apocalyptic family dramas. I studied literature at University and I was always a massive fan of Bryon and Gothic literature. It really spoke to me on an intellectual sense, but also really the sensibilities for something I really identified with and it was so brilliantly written and so clever. So I was like, ‘Yes please, I would love to audition for this’ and then I went in the next day and read with Denise Chamian and she was really happy with my read. Usually it’s weeks and weeks of waiting and I didn’t put too much thought into it and then the next day, which was a Saturday morning, I got a call from my agent saying, ‘Look, they love you, they want you to come in on Monday and test,’ which was really serendipitous. So I was like ‘Okay, this is cool, let’s jump in’ and I went in on Monday, I went in with Eli, Brian, Lee, and Mark and it was the most amazing audition I had ever been through in my life. I felt like I was sitting down with my big brothers and we talked about our favorite movies and all kinds of crazy stuff and I did my audition and it was a dream come true. It was a big collaborative family from that day on.
JJ: Once you got the part, did you do anything to celebrate?
PM: It was so funny, I was so ridiculously poor by that stage, I was eating like free protein shakes that I got from some events and almonds for a few weeks. I was deprived of nutrition. I think I had about $150 in my bag that I was saving for dire straits and I called my two friends that I have in LA and I said, ‘Guys, we’re going to Bar Marmont with $150, let’s just see what we can buy.’ And then I lived off almonds and protein shakes for another month before we started shooting.
JJ: What’s the scariest thing that’s happened on set so far?
PM: My first day on set was pretty terrifying. Apparently our last location was haunted, but I’m not much of a ‘fraidy cat, so I kind of like to take it upon myself to go exploring. It was cool and pretty trippy. There was an old church and it was abandoned for a couple years. I’m fascinated by human habitats that have been abandoned from some time. I wouldn’t say it was particularly scary. It was a very unscary set. It was way too safe but they need to step it up a notch [jokes].
JJ: Eli Roth is known for his horror, what was it like working with him?
PM: Eli was our director on the show and he kind of set the tone for the whole six month stint. Eli was incredible, this was my first American project, so I had no idea about evil in America. It was really great having him there, he’s super energetic, he’s super enthusiastic, super collaborative, and knowledgeable. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of film and all kinds of wacky stuff. It was great working with him on set because he’s so up for ideas and bouncing around all the time. We would always hang out and talk about our favorite movies and I’d come home at the end of the day with a list of films to watch and educate myself, so I was being edified on multiple levels. It was pretty amazing.
JJ: What are some projects that you have lined up for the future?
PM: I’m working on a film called The Curse of Downers Grove, which I’m in the middle of shooting at the moment. I’ve been shooting night shoots for like two weeks. That’s going to be coming out soon.
JJ: If you weren’t an actor, what would you be doing instead?
PM: An explosive technician.
JJ: What’s the best advice you’ve been given by your cousin Radha?
PM: I think the best advice my cousin ever gave me growing up was that it was really important to develop my own sense of self and to kind of give myself other options. Basically, she literally said she would smack me in the face if I came to LA without finishing my undergraduate degree in Australia and finishing my education. That was really important to her and to me. I’m really glad I took my time in coming to LA and waited until I was ready. I felt like I was a strong enough person in my own self. This city can be really brutal and really fast paced and it’s really important to have a sense of grounding and your own morality and not get swiped up in all the bulls–t.
JJ: What are your favorite shows to watch?
PM: I have older brothers so I grew up watching all kinds of crazy sci-fi stuff, I really love Star Trek. At the moment, I dabble, I love watching documentaries. I’m fascinated by real people and what they’re really doing.
JJ: Have you gone to Eli Roth’s Goretorium in Las Vegas yet?
PM: No, I haven’t had time. We literally wrapped this at the end of December and I was back home for two weeks and I came back and started work on this new project, so I’m really looking forward to taking a day off. I’ve never been to Vegas and I know what Eli’s like so I can barely imagine the hilarity.
JJ: What’s your biggest “pinch me” moment so far?
PM: When we did our first Hemlock Grove press conference, we did it with cast of Arrested Development with Ricky Gervais. I probably pinched myself, I was bruised by the end of the day. That was pretty rad.
JJ: What’s the last film you downloaded?
PM: Le mépris (Contempt).
Hemlock Grove will be available exclusively on Netflix beginning Friday, April 19!