We took five to sit down and catch up with Menik Gooneratne over the holidays, The Aussie star who’s fast making a name for herself in Hollywood. Menik’s recent role in Peter Jacksons Mortal Engines has undoubtedly given the world a glimpse into her talents; We talk all about the part and the experiences that came with this role. And gain some insight into something, She’s also working on with a project closer to home a Screenplay with a uniquely Australian twist.
Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us today, and Congratulations for being apart of the Mortal Engines series.
What was it like hearing you had been cast in the film?
Ah, it was in a way, and even right now felt surreal. It was this weird thing, you work really hard, and you audition and you try all these things, and you get so much rejection, and then you get a yes and an easy yes if that makes any sense at all and it’s mind-blowing.
So There are four books in the Mortal Engines series, were you a fan going into the role?
No, I hadn’t heard of the books beforehand, so I read the first book before I went I went in to meet with Christian, Fran and Phillippa for my callback, and was like Oh, this is good, and after I got the role I read the rest of them. It’s one of those niche things I didn’t know about or how big the fan base was until I looked further into it.
So how has the fanbase been treating you? Are they excited for you to bring Sathya to life?
Yeah it’s been really great, we haven’t had much contact with the fanbase yet, as of the information about the film has not entirely release . But from everything that I have seen they’re very active on Twitter and Instagram and excited to see how Christian and Pete interpret the book.
How was the experience of working with Peter Jackson, Christian and The Team?
It was entertaining, The thing that kind of blew my mind was the fact they were all so down to earth and friendly. I’m walking onto a hundred million dollar film, and I’m like it’s a big budget, these guys have won Oscars, It’s going to be a big machine, So I’m going to stick to my lane and do my thing and if I get to chat to them outside work then that’s great. But I literally landed in New Zealand, and it was like being welcomed into a huge family, it was so lovely, and they were all warm and down to earth people. It just sort of made everything all that much more exciting and better to be around them.
That’s what you really need on a film; you need your actors to be nice and comfortable to really bring out those characters in the scenes, so that’s great to hear.
Yeah and the fact that a lot of the cast weren’t from New Zealand, most of us were from Europe or Australia, so you were away from home for an extended period, it really helps to soften the blow of being away from your family and friends by being around genuinely good people
You were talking about this being such a big production, how was working on the set of Mortal Engines different to say working on a film like Lion?
Well we definitely had more time and money, and I think that’s amazing. Lion was a really quick shoot, in and out fast, amazing in its category, but still very quick and authentic, real costumes and makeup. Compared to Mortal Engines with massive sets that have to be built and all of the intricate details that come with the bigger budgets, stunts and special effects, costume design, and training that helps establish you into the character.
So what was it like to bring the character of Sathya to the big screen?
It was great, the thing I enjoyed most was the producers and Christian were open to any ideas I had. In the books, you don’t see much of her in the first one, she takes more form and character in the second book, so it was really great that I had all these ideas and the opportunity to shape her with things I wanted to plant seeds for if there are a second or further movies.I had a free reign in preparing her and bringing my ideas on board, and they were really open to trying anything I had to offer.
So did you have to complete any research to get into the headspace of Sathya?
I did, she’s part of the anti-traction league,
They’re the badass good guys I’ve heard
Laughs) Yeah they’re the badass good guys, I head someone describe them as ecowarriors, so I did some research into freedom fighters and rebel factions fighting for a cause.So a lot of research went into that kind of area, and also one of my favourite historical figures was this woman called Noor Inayat Khan, she was a half Indian, half British Spy in World War 2.She was a wireless operator sent into occupied France and made her way onto the Gestapo’s most wanted list and later captured. I have loved her life for a very long time, and she was incredibly brave, and I was excited to bring elements of that strength and courage into Sathya’s character.I’m lucky, she’s a support character, and sometimes when you play a support characte role you don’t get that much of a vibrant part, it’s all about the hero and what they’re doing, and that feeds the movies storyline and characters story. But I was lucky enough to put some of this into showing that she’s a spiritual badass and that there is a purpose and a need in everyone she kills or what she’s fighting for and it was really nice to expand on these ideas and nuances into the character.
That’s awesome and mind-blowing. So if you could take Sathya to anywhere in Australia, where would you take her and why, let’s say if Australia isn’t a moving city at this point in the series.
(Laughing) Where would I take her? Well if I wanted to be really political, I would probably take her to Nauru and have her help those refugees there.
( Exclaims ) Oh
Yea I went there, I went there. Because I feel that she’s one of the good guys, she’s always fighting for a cause, and I think that this issue and what’s happening there, no matter what everyone’s opinions are, we need to work together and find a resolution.
Yeah, I think you’re right, She could definitely do some good.Thanks for chatting with us today and we would love to know what’s coming up next for you?
I’m currently working on a project which has been in the pipeline, for the last couple of years I’ve been working on this screenplay, I optioned the rights to a book, called The Wedding Season by a Melbourne author, and it’s kind of like an insight into the Sri-Lankan community in Melbourne, and this crazy wedding season that happens. I’ve been working on this for a while now; it’s a mix between Trainwreck meets Bend it Like Beckham but set in Melbourne.
The Aussie Backdrop
Yeah you know just a little bit of Victoria, a splash of cricket and all that stuff. But now since Crazy Rich Asians, has been so globally successful, it’s really opened the doors for films like mine. So we’re close to going into pre-production and hopefully I can come back to Melbourne and shoot it.