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“She’s a baby giraffe!” How Samara Weaving transformed for her role in Nine Perfect Strangers

''My phone didn’t even recognise me!''

By Scott Ellis
Samara Weaving has played everything from a troubled teenager to a deranged killer, a time traveller and more.
But it's safe to say the actress was surprised with the description of her latest role: a baby giraffe.
And although that was just a throwaway line used to describe Jessica – the character Samara, 29, brings to life in the television adaptation of Liane Moriarty's best-selling book Nine Perfect Strangers – it was enough for the versatile actor to immediately understand what was meant.
"Liane describes her [Jessica] as a baby giraffe and I thought: 'Yep! That's it. She's trying to find her legs and being awkward and clunky," Samara tells TV WEEK.
Samara stars as Jessica in Nine Perfect Strangers. Image: Getty
Beautiful, famous, outwardly confident, but still awkward and clunky is a more accurate description of Jessica, which is what attracted Samara to the role.
"I think she's really complicated," Samara shares. "She's vulnerable and broken and funny and raw and weird. She has such a plethora of problems that need to be addressed."
They're problems well hidden by the uber-popular social media sensation, who lives what looks like a perfect life.
It's only when she's brought to the Tranquillum Retreat with eight others to be transformed by wellness guru Masha (Nicole Kidman) that we realise Jessica is secretly terrified.
She thinks she's losing the looks that make her famous and is turning to cosmetic surgery to keep up.
Samara takes on a new role - and look - in Nine Perfect Strangers, alongside Melvin Gregg as Ben. Image: Amazon
That someone so seemingly perfect is just as troubled as everyone else is a message Samara hopes shines through.
"For this role, I did a lot of research on body dysmorphia and being addicted to plastic surgery and to social media," Samara says.
"And [while] it was quite fun working with the incredible make-up and hair department to make me look like I've had plastic surgery, and with wardrobe to make me look like an influencer [on social media], I learnt a lot about myself.
"I also learnt you really shouldn't judge people on Instagram, and influencers, because you never really know what's going on."
Wearing the Jessica prosthetics – "the boobs, the butt, the fake teeth, the wire to pull my face back every day so it looked like I had a facelift… my phone didn't even recognise me!" – helped Samara understand that for some, life is a constant façade of presenting what they think the world wants to see rather than being themselves.
"She [Jessica] is so anxious all the time, so I could just pour all my personal anxiety into her," she says. "And at the end of the day, I was so exhausted from being so anxious all day."
Samara as the troubled Jessica, opposite Nicole Kidman as wellness guru Masha. Image: Amazon
The complicated character is one of many Samara has embraced since her time as teenage tearaway Indi Walker in Home And Away in 2009.
After leaving the series for Hollywood, she has appeared in Oscar-winner Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, the comedy Bill And Ted Face The Music, horror series, Ash Vs The Evil Dead and will soon star as former Playboy bunny Holly Madison in the TV series Down The Rabbit Hole, based on Holly's book.
It's been a hectic ride that shows no signs of slowing down, which is why playing Jessica in a production that was moved to Byron Bay in northern NSW when COVID restrictions shut down most US projects, held another appeal.
"It was wonderful, because I didn't think I'd be able to visit home and my family," she says.
"I was really excited that I could get to go home for a while – and being in Byron Bay in summer and filming in a retreat? And working with Nicole Kidman was awesome. She's a great leader and inspiring to watch. The whole thing was just very utopian."
Samara was happy to spend the summer of 2020 back in Australia. Image: Instagram
And a world away from a very changed film and television industry she hopes can soon return to normal.
"The whole world is a bit weird," Samara says. "It's strange – I'm grateful, then I'm guilty. I don't know how to feel about anything.
"All I know is that I got vaccinated and that's the right thing to do, so that's what I suggest to everyone."

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