You need to get to know Markella Kavenagh, the 22-year-old at the centre of The Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power buzz.
The Australian actor has burst onto the scene as Harfoot hobbit, Nori Brandyfoot, but this is far from her first time on screen.
As part of our Women in Fantasy series, Markella Kavenagh sat down with features writer Dionne Brighton to talk all things fantasy, career highlights so far and the change she would like to see in the industry…
What does the fantasy genre mean to you?
It's interesting because growing up, I fell in love with minimalism and that kind of near realist film. I’ve always had such an appreciation for fantasy, but just never really gravitated towards it. So I never thought that I would actually end up in a fantasy world or that I'd be doing fantasy on screen.
What's been amazing about being a part of this series is that I'm able to realise and see that all those themes are still there. There's still love and friendship, and grappling between good versus evil, hope over despair etc. It's actually perhaps a bit easier to access because it's from the distance of fantasy - you know, the fancy visuals and the made up worlds and so it's been quite amazing. Now I am definitely really interested in what fantasy can do in connecting people.
How did you feel when you booked the role?
I just couldn't believe it at first, but I also couldn't tell anyone. It really felt like I was dreaming because I wasn’t able to share it with my close circle. It was all very surreal, and it didn't really hit me genuinely until I was first on set.
What drew you to the role of Nori?
How resolute she is. I think she's so naive in so many ways, but she really stands for what she believes in despite having so many people tell her that she's wrong all the time. I think she is so brave in so many ways. What stood out to me at first was just a real determination, following and trusting her instinct and a real interest in and caring for the underdog.
What is your process for getting into character?
We had two hours in the morning for hair and makeup - this is just the physical side of things, and then half an hour for the feet. After that I would do my own emotional preparation for that day, depending on the scenes that I was doing. Sometimes I would listen to playlists or I would go back and read over the backstory that I had mapped out for her.
It is amazing to be able to say that hanging out with Megan Richards, Daniel Weyman, or Dylan Smith was research and preparation, because they're truly just the best to work with and such great friends. We had to spend so much time together, but we also just chose to.
How did the wardrobe inform your character?
The wonderful heads of department had already built the costume and had strong ideas on hair and make up, so it worked seamlessly and was all collaborative. The apple seeds on the costumes are such a wonderful touch. They represent every member who has passed away. You'll see some of the elders of the community have many threads within the costume and attached to the costume, whereas the younger ones only have a few. That beautiful detail really resonated with me.
What is the coolest thing you did on set?
The crater scene where Nori kind of falls off the side. I didn’t get to do that stunt, but I really wanted to. I loved all of the wind and what they did with the surroundings, so I'd have to say that. Also there was a bit in episode five where I got to do a roll into the landing and that was quite fun. I love stunts - I really, really want to do more.
What is a lesson you learnt on set that will stay with you?
Stay curious. I really love that because Nori is obviously quite a curious character, and so to say that as an actor as well to stay curious about what Nori is curious about. I think that was quite profound for me at the time. There’s just always more to learn and absorb so that was very nice.
What is your favourite line from the script?
I have a few, but “Evil does not sleep, it waits. And in the the moment of our complacency, it blinds us” stands out. I just think it's such a good line. And Poppy’s line, “there's common sense and nonsense.” I remember reading it and I was like, that is gonna stick out. We still talk about it because we just think it’s so funny.
What has been your career highlight so far?
I feel so grateful that pretty much every person that I’ve encountered or worked with in the jobs I’ve done so far have been lovely. So, I think the highlight would be the people that I've gotten to meet over the last few years, and this is both crew and cast that I'm still in contact with today. That’s a career highlight for sure. I even got a message from a crew member that I was really close with this morning. That is what's amazing - you can be from such different walks of life, and such different ages and form really strong friendships and connections. That's been the highlight for me.
What is a key change that you would like to see in industry?
I just really hope that the industry continues to become more inclusive and more representative of the world that we live in. You know, I think there's so many important stories to tell and there needs to be the space to tell them.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
There's a video of Bryan Cranston saying not to have a claim on an outcome and that’s just a quote that really resonated with me. I think that it is just so applicable to everything in every aspect of life - not to want to control the end result. It just really helped me kind of remember why I chose to pursue acting and not to be results driven. I feel like it can kind of build a bit of an entitlement if I'm just focused on the outcome, so yes - don't have a claim on an outcome.
When did you know you wanted to pursue acting?
It's so funny - I always thought I was a really shy child and then I got sent a video of me singing a random song that I'd written when I was young. I loved performing. I did a course when I was nine - singing, dancing and acting every weekend, and I guess the love for it grew from there.
How do you stay positive?
It’s going to sound really cheesy, but genuinely just focusing on what I'm grateful for each day. I will try and always think of a few things that I’m really grateful for and focus on that. I have a friend who is really into meditation - I did it for a while too but I really want to get back into it because I think it’s really beneficial.
What are you looking for in your next projects?
I am looking for a walking contradiction. I really want to keep playing characters that may look a certain way or act a certain way and then have a completely different inner life. I would love to play all these different roles subverting expectations.
What legacy do you hope to leave behind?
Hopefully to be able to do what you love and lead with kindness.
When I was really young I was told to always leave someone feeling better about their day than when you first met them. I think that’s quite an interesting approach - to lead with kindness and do what you love.
What would you say to your 15 year old self?
Try and be as present as possible. I could often (and still do ) get caught up in “what if” and what's going to happen next in the future. So it’s important to just try to let it go and enjoy the moment.
Have you had the “I’ve made it moment” yet?
No, not really. My brain doesn’t really go there. But every time I get to fulfil some kind of aspiration, that’s when I just can't believe it. It’s more disbelief - like, I can’t believe I got to do this or got to have a conversation with this person. They are markers of what I have dreamed of but never thought I would be able to do.
Season one of The Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power is now available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.
Photography, Kyle Galvin
Styling, Sarah-Rose Harrison
Videographer, Rodney Rico
Makeup, Zoe Taylor at CLM using Chanel Beauty
Hair, Ross Kwan at A Frame Agency using Amika products and Cloud Nine tools
Manicurist, Julia Babbage using Mii Cosmetics Nourish + Nurture Nail & Cuticle Oil and Care + Caress Hand Serum assisted by Sara Sorrenti
Casting and production, Sarah-Rose Harrison
Production assistant, Angel Brown
Associate writer, Dionne Brighton
Editor-in-Chief, Andrea Thompson
Editor, Sunil Makan
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Dionne Brighton is a writer at Marie Claire UK, specialising in all things shopping, beauty and fashion. Born and raised in North London, she studied Literature at the University of East Anglia before taking the leap into journalism. These days, you can find her testing out the latest TikTok beauty trends or finding out what the next full Moon means.
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