I vividly remember my first encounter with Samara Weaving. We were approximately two months into quarantine, and I, like so many others, was holed up at home binge-watching Ryan Murphy’s new Netflix series Hollywood. Weaving appeared on-screen in a striking red ensemble consisting of a dotted blouse and pencil skirt nipped in at the waist, her blonde ’40s-style barrel curls fastened with a flower. A swipe of cherry lipstick finished the look. Her star power stopped me dead in my tracks. Who is this girl? I immediately asked myself. And how is the rest of the world not losing it over her?
It turns out they are. After appearing in the 2017 Oscar-nominated Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Weaving landed a covetable contract with Louis Vuitton (she is currently starring in its F/W 20 campaign), and a leading role in the devilishly fun 2019 dark comedy Ready or Not followed. This summer, she stars in the hotly anticipated comedy Bill & Ted Face the Music, the latest installment of the iconic ’90s franchise starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter. Even as I sit down to write this, Weaving’s momentum is outpacing me. Hulu recently slated her as one of the leads in Nine Perfect Strangers, a book adaptation that everyone is predicting will be the next Big Little Lies. With each new project, Weaving’s brilliant performances captivate fresh audiences, but celebrity is a mere side effect, not the end goal, for the 28-year-old. “There’s a difference between fame and success,” she warned. “If you’re looking for fame, that’s quite fickle and dangerous because you will never be famous forever.”
Fame aside, Weaving is clearly playing the long game, choosing projects that highlight her range as an actress and teaming up with respected industry players along the way. So even if this is your first encounter with the Australia native, I can assure you it won't be your last.
This summer, you’re starring in the much-anticipated follow-up to the iconic Bill & Ted movies. How familiar were you with the originals before hearing about this new project?
I had no idea about the Bill & Ted universe, but I remember when I read the email I got for the audition, my partner jumped off the couch and started doing this strange impersonation of a stoner from California. I didn’t realize he was doing a Bill & Ted impersonation and that a whole culture was born from these films. Then, of course, we proceeded to watch both back to back.
It’s been over 30 years since the first Bill & Ted movie came out. What is in it for younger audiences (myself included) who weren’t even born when the original came out?
As much as it is a Bill &Ted follow-up, it definitely is a stand-alone film, so new audiences can go in not necessarily having seen the old films. There are still a lot of references to old characters and the quintessential language of Bill and Ted. However, I do think they’ve threaded in modern comedy and kept up with the times.
As for the casting process, they locked in Brigette Lundy-Paine and me so quickly. It was really lucky we got along so well and had that sisterly chemistry. I think if we didn’t get along, it would be much more difficult to forge that relationship because Keanu and Alex really are like brothers off-screen, giving each other crap, bouncing off one another, and having that synchronicity that you see in the first two films. So Brigette and I spent a lot of time together to get that same sort of cadence that they have, and I hope it works.
You were also in another big project this year, the Netflix series Hollywood, alongside Laura Harrier and Darren Criss, among other big names. Were you nervous at all?
The thing about Ryan Murphy is that there is this immediate trust because you know all of his shows have been great successes. So the anxiety or nervousness around “Oh, is this going to be a hit or not?” didn’t even cross my mind. I just had total trust in him from the beginning. He’s a real genius around storytelling and a deep well of knowledge of Hollywood around that time. Ryan said it was “faction” because of how it retold history in a fictional way, yet there are certainly references to real things, especially things that are quite raunchy and out-there. People would be surprised to know how many of them are real. Honestly, I think Hollywood and Ready or Not were my favorite projects to work on.
Being part of a Ryan Murphy project comes with a built-in audience and a lot of new followers. Did you notice a difference after the show came out?
Claire was a character I hadn’t done before, and I wasn’t covered in blood for once. Ryan has an incredible knack for marketing and getting people to watch his shows. It was the only project I ever had where he would email us personally and encourage us to use social media. He knows young audiences and where they find information for what to watch, and so his marketing of shows is really well done. He really pushes them hard so that the audience just gets bigger and bigger. Every week, he would give us the numbers of people watching, and we couldn’t believe it. He was all over the universal audiences that were joining in as it was opening up in Ireland and the UK and Australia as well. I think I got a text from my manager saying, “Have you seen how many followers you have?” Ryan not only pushes the show, but he pushes the actors as well. Like you said, the spotlight gets brighter on you.
So you noticed a significant uptick in followers on social media after the show was released?
I don’t pay too much attention to that. I think it can be kind of a dark spiral if you get your self-worth from how many people follow you. But it was incredible the number of positive fans following me and saying nice things about Hollywood and Claire—a definite uptick, and I think playing someone like Claire who I hadn’t done before, some other creative people were like, “Oh, she can do that as well.”
Let’s talk about how you got your start in acting. I know the soap opera Home and Away really launched your career in Australia, but we don’t have anything comparable here in the U.S. What did that show mean to you?
At the time, all we had was cable—no streaming services—so soaps like Home and Away and Neighbours were the biggest in Australia by default. It was quite a gold mine for Aussie TV.
Even the name Home and Away is what initially got me into many rooms with American agents because they had seen the actors who had come out of it beforehand. They were like, Oh my gosh. Heath Ledger and Isla Fisher and Dannii Minogue—all these huge people came from Home and Away, so maybe you will go on to be successful, too. It’s a breeding ground for incredible actors.
But at the same time, it’s also ironic because it was so difficult to find Australian work after it. Within Australia, there were fewer opportunities for me because people didn’t see it as this creative, forward-thinking artwork since there’s this strange stigma around soap operas, which I think is both right and wrong.
But you were able to overcome that stigma and take the next crucial leap in your career. Was Hollywood always the automatic next step for you?
I think there’s a difference between fame and success. If you’re looking for fame, that’s quite fickle and dangerous because you will never be famous forever. Whereas if you want to be successful and want to be a steady working actor, that’s a different pile of fish. I think a lot of actors out of Home and Away have kept working and are very happy and have great balance of family and work, and they’re able to keep that. That is success to me.
Was “making it” in Hollywood always in the back of your mind as a young actor?
It was a pipe dream. I’m glad that I don’t dwell too much on the future, and I try to stay as present as I can. I was so young, I think 14, because I did a show before that called Out of the Blue. I still didn’t realize that I could do this for a career. I was just excited that I could basically do drama class and get paid for it. I think curiosity was the biggest drive. Because I was so affected by these films and TV shows, they were my comfort food growing up. I had such a love for cinema and TV. I just wanted to be part of it. I was like, there’s a party going on, and I’m not invited.
Obviously, we are a fashion publication. You know we have to talk about style. What’s your relationship with fashion like?
In terms of styling, I’ve been working with Petra Flannery, who styles me for events. Though of course, I haven’t done anything with her since COVID-19. I’m an ambassador with Louis Vuitton, which is incredible. That was a lucky thing to happen. Petra was sitting with Nicholas [Ghesquière] watching the SAG Awards or Oscars, I can’t remember, and I was on-screen for Three Billboards at the time, and Nicholas was like, “Who’s that?” If Petra hadn’t been there, that would’ve been the end of it, but she goes, “Oh, that’s Samara. I dressed her for it,” and was like, “Oh, I want her to be a Louis Vuitton lady.” It was a very lucky series of events.
How would you define your personal style? Do you have any favorite brands, apart from Louis Vuitton, of course?
I’ve realized the power of fashion quite recently. It can change how I feel. If I’m maybe nervous about meeting someone or apprehensive, if I wear something I feel confident in, it changes my whole physicality, which ties back into acting. Wardrobe departments are so integrated into how characters come alive. I love a lot of Australian brands. For instance, Lucy Folk. Its jewelry is amazing. And Hansel and Gretel. There was a bikini I wore in the shoot I did with you guys, actually all of the clothing I wore in that shoot—I want to know all of those brands. Everything was stunning.
I can’t agree more! Did any particular look stand out in your mind?
The bikini look was definitely cool, and we also incorporated a prank that’s been going around my friend circle, where we’ve been leaving this enormous stuffed bear on each other’s lawns and in each other’s houses to scare the absolute crap out of each other. It’s so funny, but yeah, friends of mine—I can’t believe our alarms didn’t go off—they jumped over our fence and put this huge stuffed bear right outside our bedroom window, and we woke up and absolutely shat the bed. It was so terrifying, so we’re plotting to get them back.