Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for
October 19, 2018

In the drama Brampton's Own, baseball prospect Dustin Kimmel (Alex Russell) returns to his sleepy little hometown of Brampton after his latest failure to get called up to a major league team. But after 12 years of dedicating every moment to an elusive dream of a career in professional sports, he struggles to reacclimate to small town life, and he is forced to reflect on his past choices when he realizes that everyone else has moved on, including his ex-girlfriend Rachel (Rose McIver).

Rose McIver has regularly been onscreen for most of her life, with projects including TV's Once Upon a Time and Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones alongside Saoirse Ronan. But the native of New Zealand became most familiar to worldwide audiences as Liv, the lead brain-craving protagonist of the CW series iZombie. The unique character, who can absorb the personality and memories of the deceased, has afforded her the opportunity to play a wide variety of personas through a single role.

In this exclusive interview, Rose talks about the introspective themes of Brampton's Own and her experience of working on the film, the fluid and ongoing pursuit of dreams throughout her own life, and the final season of iZombie.

Brampton's Own is available on VOD, including YouTube, Amazon, and Google Play. After years of becoming accustomed to portraying multiple personalities through Liv on iZombie, how was your experience of switching gears to play a character like Rachel in Brampton's Own, who has only one accent, one psyche, and one "brain," if you will?

ROSE: Oh, it's a small workload, that's for sure. [laughs] But also, I think it's the tone of the film that really feels different to me. iZombie is very stylized, and I try to play Liv with integrity, absolutely, and try to ground her. But it's just a very different style of project to something like Brampton's Own, which is very naturalistic...And for me, it's been wonderful to explore some of the themes in that film. I felt like coming from New Zealand and moving to the other side of the world (and the same for Alex, who came from Australia)...We both really tapped into some of the ideas of the balance, and the struggle to balance that stuff. So for me, it was a very realistic and grounded kind of theme and story to tap into, which is pretty different to, obviously, the genre style of iZombie.

One of the key themes is the idea of returning home. Given that your career requires a lot of travel, do you get the chance to go back to your hometown very often?

I do. I'm really lucky in that I've had a family that has just been so insanely supportive. I don't know why. [laughs] And very helpful with just keeping perspective and balance on everything. And there are definitely times that I'm overwhelmed, but I look to them as a really good perspective on it all. And I think sometimes when you're working in a career that does physically take you places, it's easy to kind of get self-obsessed and think that the world revolves around you. And actually, even back home, people are still going on with their lives and there's a lot going on. When you come home, it's not like this time capsule--it's a place that is still growing and thriving and changing without you...All of those people are pursuing careers and dreams as well. And Rachel in this story is...You know, her dream has kind of lived in the shadow of her partner's. And I think that that's really something that is worth bearing in mind, when actors can tend to get very "it's all about me and it's my trajectory." But actually, the people around you are all just as driven to pursue their own things. It just might not be in the public eye the same way. So for me, it's interesting the way Dustin and Rachel are both on these journeys of understanding their pursuits and their ambition, and it's interesting that Rachel is much better about balancing those [elements in] her life.

Since the movie is told from Dustin's perspective, Rachel is conveniently described as "the one who got away," even though she would probably never think of herself in those terms. As you've noted, Rachel has her own thing going on despite Dustin's journey. In preparing for this role, to what extent do you think about aspects of Rachel's own backstory, even beyond what we see in the script?

Well, it's certainly important for me when I'm taking a job to make sure that the character is not just supplementing somebody else's story. They really need to have their own. It doesn't matter if it's one scene or the lead. They need to have their own reason to be there, and to exist. I think that's how you serve the story the best. So for me, the fact that Rachel had tried to get on with her life (and yeah, maybe it didn't go quite as planned and she was holding a candle)...She was active. She's not a passive character. And so preparing her, I very much thought about how lots of people in my life have been asked to sacrifice their artistic or athletic pursuits. Because it is a luxury to be able to pursue them, ultimately. And for her to kind of work out how she can still integrate that in her life, it felt like a very active journey that she's on. And that's a big part of why I took the film.

Even with all the themes of self-reflection, the story has its lighter moments. Rachel owns an ice cream shop called Clean Sweets, and she and Dustin reminisce over a couple of bowls of dessert. Was a great deal of ice cream consumed in that scene between you and Alex?

You are too onto it! We were filming in a real ice cream shop in Pasadena, and late night on set, you're making bad decisions anyway with regards to craft services. So filming in an ice cream shop was highly dangerous, and also very delicious, because you had every excuse to finish every bowl every time. "Because you had to!" It's on camera, right?

Yes, you absolutely have to...Quick pseudo-Rorschach test: if a type of ice cream were to be named after you, what flavor would it be?

My go to is mint chocolate chip because that's my favorite ice cream flavor. I feel like there might be some really subconscious thing that's, like, trapped in there that I associate with. But I would be really doing a bad film school kind of stretch to try to work out why I think that I am mint chocolate chip. However, I would be honored if there was a mint chocolate chip flavor named after me.

If you were running a small town shop like Rachel in an alternate life, what sort of business would you like to imagine owning?

Sewing supplies. Sewing/craft supplies. [laughs] I'm such a nerd. I'm a total embroidery person, and I always think those things are being taken over by such giant companies. And it used to be, like, "in a village, there would be a little fabric shop with the needles and every supply you'd need locally sourced." So I would love the idea of that. In another life, I'm running a little sewing shop that somehow is absolutely thriving in a small town beach in New Zealand.

Along the same lines, another major theme of this movie is the idea of following your dream. Was acting always your first and foremost passion growing up, or was there a time you thought you might pursue something else?

Oh, I still think I might pursue something else. It's been the strangest journey for me. I'm incredibly lucky to be able to do this. And I more sort of followed the idea of living abroad and trying something new and having a full and varied life--that was sort of the thing that interested me. The acting part of it...I knew I wanted to be involved in a creative pursuit in some way. But I think we get sort of confused sometimes, and we think that if you're a creative person, that has to be your career. And I don't always think that that's the case. I know a lot of the people that are dearest to me in my life...My brother works in logistics, and he's a brilliant classical musician. And he's still able to play classical music, and balance having a family and living down the street from my parents with enjoying the artistry of the music side of it. So for me, it was exciting to go and live abroad and do other things. But I always humored the idea of maybe there'll be a chapter in my life where I pursue something else for a bit. And you only get one go at this. I don't want to ever lock myself into thinking I know exactly how it's all going to unfold.

Is there a particular corner of the world that is already beckoning to you?

Well, I've lived in the States for about eight years, and my boyfriend and I...He's from Australia and I'm from New Zealand...We both feel pulled back to those parts of the world--you know, our families are there, and we're missing watching our nieces and nephews grow up. And there's definitely reasons that we want to spend a lot of time back home. But we also both really enjoy traveling, and have been very fortunate to be able to. What kind of a weird luxury life is it that I'm able to take a job that is somewhere else and have a different experience for a month or two? So I keep trying to stay open to what's around there and have just been appreciative.

Obviously, it's sad that iZombie will be coming to an end next year, but you have that silver lining of knowing in advance that it's your last season, so you have time to give your character and your fans a proper send-off. How do you feel about going into these final episodes, and what has the show's impressive run meant to you?

Well, you said it best. It's bittersweet. And having the chance to wrap up and give the fans and ourselves and our writers an ending is so fortunate. It's not always the case, obviously, with television these days. We feel really honored that we get that chance. We're sad that we'll be leaving each other behind. It's become a family, and it's probably the best job I'll ever have in my life, in terms of the work environment and the people that I get to work with, and the nature of the show. But at the same time, five seasons is such a great run. We're lucky. And I think that it's been able to reach a really beautiful audience that we are so grateful for that have kept us alive for so long. And I'm really honored. I don't think that it's normal to have something as seamless and effective and fun as this job, and so I'll always treasure my iZombie days. And we're halfway through the season today, so really feeling the sort of home stretch of it all, and the nostalgia already. You know, it's going to turn into a Brampton's Own story--we're all going to come back together, years later where we're all back in Vancouver thinking [about] what could have been and what was. [laughs] It's definitely got that very sweet sort of feeling to it all. So it's just kind of a miracle, this job, and I'll be very sad to let it go.

In what other projects can fans expect to see you in 2019?

I have a musical that I shot in New Zealand this year called Daffodils that's, like, a love story told through the '60s, '70s, and '80s. Really amazing production design and look, and just incredibly full of heart. So I'm very proud of that job, and that's coming together right now...It's been a really fortunate, busy couple years. I've just been very lucky.

How did you feel about getting to return to New Zealand to work on a film?

Oh, it was so wonderful. I mean, I travel back to visit my family a lot, but I hadn't worked back in New Zealand for eight years or something. So it was fantastic. And it's such a small industry back there--like, a lot of the people were people I grew up working with. Somebody I had worked with when I was 2 on a film set was the location scout on Daffodils. So it's that kind of very, very family feeling. And it was precious to shoot at home. I love the way Kiwis work. And I was just really grateful for it, and I think it could be a really incredible film. So I'm excited to see it finished.

Rose, thanks very much for speaking with us today, and best wishes going forward!

Thank you so much, I really appreciate your time.

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