Despite playing the live-action incarnation of Frozen's Elsa on ABC's Once Upon a Time, Georgina Haig isn't all about pristine fairy tales, as demonstrates in her down-and-dirty crime thriller The Mule.
The Australian-born actress is about to wrap a high-profile stint as Disney’s popular ice princess on OUAT's fourth season as the series reaches its midseason finale. But Haig’s more adventurous new fans can check out another side of her in the new film she made in her homeland: The quirkily Fargo-like, possibly true and extremely scatological tale follows Ray, a lumpy, inarticulate loser (writer/director/star Angus Sampson) who’s cajoled by a childhood pal into smuggling 20 condoms filled with heroin into Melbourne in the early 1980s. Detained by police, Ray has to test the limits of his endurance as he attempts to wait out the legal limit of days he can be held for before he takes a trip to the toilet and produces evidence of his crime.
As Ray's protective and sympathetic yet hard-driving attorney, Haig crosses swords with a pair of cops (Ewan Lesie and a menacing Hugo Weaving) as she tries to free her client from custody before he "lets it go" – a role about as far from Elsa as can be imagined. The actress chatted with Spinoff Online about both parts, seeming equally tickled to be playing storybook melodrama and bathroom humor.
Spinoff: This was a very interesting and unusual movie, to say the least. Tell me how it came your way.
Georgina Haig: Well, I was actually shooting a pilot in Boston called Reckless. I just got sent a script, and I read it and I loved it so much, and I just put down an audition on an iPad. See, I didn't even have a reader [to read opposite her], because it was my first few days there, and I didn't really know anyone, so I just sort of did this monologue on my iPad and sent it off and was so delighted when I got it, just because I really did love the script. I just thought it was a wonderful, suspenseful thriller, but it had great black comedy elements to it.
In particular, you got a lot of juicy scenes opposite Hugo Weaving. Tell me about working with him on that antagonistic interplay between your characters.
Ah, yes. Obviously he's a huge icon in Australia. He's amazing, and I was just so blown away to get to work with him. The little conflict going on between Tom Croft and Jasmine, my character in the movie, is great. Hugo plays this chauvinistic asshole part, basically, and it's 1982, so Jasmine as a professional woman is kind of used to dealing with a bit of sexism, but it really grates on her. She just wants to beat him and to show him that she's good enough to show him up, kind of thing, and to show that he can't treat people the way he does.
Speaking of 1982, how did you like the wardrobe?
I loved it! I I thought it was so fun, and it was so fun to have on the big, massive ‘80s hair – I think the guys got a bit over the mustaches by the end of the shoot. Setting it in 1982 made so much sense, obviously against backdrop of the America's Cup, which is a very famous yacht race which America had actually won like a hundred years in a row, and Australia just never thought they had a chance -- that was the year that they took it. So the idea of winning against all odds was a big part of the sermon and reflects Ray's journey and a lot of the other characters' journeys, as well. And it was just a great fun, that style I think. The color palette and the look, and music was very heavily influenced. And I think it works well for suspense and for thrillers, people not having mobile phones. They really ruin movies, don't they? It's like, "Ah, where's so-and-so? Ah, they just dropped a pin. We know where they are now." [Laughs]
Another thing that struck me: I recently had a conversation with Joel Edgerton about his movie Felony, and he mentioned that Australians generally have this cultural interest in these crime stories. Have you found that to be true? Is that a particular cultural thing?
Yeah, I think so … We were settled as a penal colony, so I don't know if it goes as far back as that in terms of where that fascination with crime and everything comes from, but I think it kind of suits Australian filmmaking and often it's low-budget stuff. So if you can make a really good crime thriller then that does well. I don't know if an American film could be made about a guy trying not to shit for a week, but somehow in Australia, that idea appeals to more people or something.
It's been such an interesting time in your career, first with Fringe and then Once Upon a Time and this film. What's it feel like to kind of have all these things suddenly really happening – getting this really, really broad audience right at this moment in your professional career?
I do feel really fortunate. A lot of the times as an actor, you might be working on a bunch of stuff but nothing's out yet, so you've got nothing to show for your work. I kind of knew that this year, a lot of stuff that I'd been doing over the past couple of years would be coming out. Obviously I didn't predict I'd be doing Elsa in that point in time, and then that happened as well, so I think it was a bunch of things all happening to come out at the same time, which kind of gives you a buzz. It's almost slightly superficial, though, because, you know, it's all work I've done over the last couple of years, but it seems like it's all happening right now. But yeah, I just feel really fortunate.
With the Elsa experience, now that you've been at it a while, what it's been like? That character so quickly, from the animated film, meant so much to so many people, what's it been like, after several months now of walking in her shoes, to get the reaction from fans who love her character and now love you as the character?
It just kind of blew me away. I don't think I really understood what I was getting myself into. It's just been amazing to get to be her, and to have a whole production team helping you be her, getting to wear those [clothes] – the costuming was unbelievable! The amount of money it took to create that costume and make it look like that, and then getting to wear it. It changes the way you walk and the way you are – and two hours in hair and make-up – and so I did feel like it was this huge transformation. The best bit was always getting to meet kids. Everyone on the crew who had kids brought them onto set at some point, and it was so much fun. Elizabeth [Lail] and I – Elizabeth played Anna – we would just pretend to be Elsa and Anna, whenever we were around the kids, and we'd sing at them and chat. It was just amazing, because to them you are real, and as an actor, you so rarely get to actually interact with people on that level, where they really think you're the person. It was so special. I mean, I was so emotional taking off the cape for the last time, I have to tell you! Saying goodbye to Elsa was really hard. I loved getting to be her. The specialness of it, and the honor was definitely not lost on me. I know how much it means to so many people and how important she is to a lot of people, so yeah, it was just a real honor.
Did you walk out of there with a little souvenir? Did you slip something in the bag, just to remember your Elsa time?
Oh, my God. You know what? I always do that, just a little sneaky thing. And I totally just forgot. I was emotional from it. I was so emotional, and I just forgot to take anything. The one thing I did realize I accidentally had in my bag was, in the show we wear these yellow ribbons that bind the three sisters together, and I still have the yellow ribbon. But I kind of wish I'd kept, like, a pair of shoes or something. Usually it's easiest to steal jewelry, like if there's a necklace or a ring or something, but she didn't really have anything like that. And I kind of felt too bad to sneak the corset into my bag. [Laughs]
I know there are still a couple episodes before that midseason break. Is there anything you can kind of tantalizingly tease about what we have yet to see?
I'm not sure what I'm allowed to say, except that you get to see a lot more of the Frozen characters actually in Storybrooke, which is fun, and obviously all the stuff with the Snow Queen, the storyline between her, Emma and Elsa has a really sad, beautiful ending, and it's gorgeous. They really wrap up that half of the season really beautifully.
What are you onto next? Are you taking a little breather? Or do you already have the next gig or two lined up?
I'm not really sure what's next at this point. Yeah, it's sort of taking a breather and just seeing what's out there and doing a little bit of writing. My husband's a writer and we sometimes work on stuff together. Yeah, I'm as curious to know as you are. I'm not sure, but we'll see. Maybe not another Disney character. Ah, Bambi! I might be up for Bambi, if they gave me a cool reindeer suit.
The Mule is available now on digital, DVD and Blu-ray. Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.