Earn­ing her stripes

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy STEVEN CHEE Styling KELLY HUME In­ter­view BREE PLAYER

Aus­tralian act­ing ex­port Danielle Macdon­ald tells

Stel­lar about her re­cent dream run in Hol­ly­wood, in­clud­ing play­ing Jen­nifer Anis­ton’s daugh­ter in

Dumplin’ and co-star­ring op­po­site San­dra Bul­lock.

“Whoa! Some­one else felt the way I did in high school”

Hav­ing played Jen­nifer Anis­ton’s daugh­ter in Dumplin’ and starred op­po­site San­dra Bul­lock in the hit drama Bird Box, Danielle Macdon­ald has be­come Aus­tralia’s hottest act­ing ex­port. Now the 28-year-old plays fash­ion muse for Stel­lar as she re­flects on her, well, “stel­lar” year

Danielle Macdon­ald is not afraid of fear. The 28-yearold Aus­tralian ac­tor was al­ready chip­ping away at a ca­reer in Hol­ly­wood – clock­ing up a role along­side Dakota Fan­ning and Diane Lane in the film Ev­ery Lit­tle Thing, as well as ap­pear­ing in Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story – when she was cast well against type for her first ever lead­ing role in a movie. The part? Patti Dom­browski, the as­pir­ing rap­per from New Jersey who is also the ti­tle char­ac­ter in the 2017 in­die flick Patti Cake$.

“Patti Cake$ was so dif­fer­ent for me,” says Macdon­ald, as she re­laxes dur­ing a photo shoot for Stel­lar. “It was be­yond any­thing I ever thought I could do.” She clearly proved her­self wrong – and when the movie de­buted at the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val two years ago, her per­for­mance caused a stir. “It was the first role that got me more op­por­tu­ni­ties,” says Macdon­ald. “I ac­tu­ally got to have a say or a choice when it came to pick­ing my next project, which you don’t re­ally get this early on in the in­dus­try.”

Macdon­ald grew up in Avalon on Syd­ney’s North­ern Beaches, a world away from the rough mi­lieu of Patti Cake$, which boasts a plot full of ex­pe­ri­ences she’d never had. And that’s why it piqued her in­ter­est. “There are cer­tain things that I stayed away from, and then there are cer­tain things I went to­wards – usu­ally the roles that scare me. And [Patti Cake$] was scary. But I find that when I’m in­tim­i­dated by a role, it’s usu­ally a re­ally good thing.”

True to her word, Macdon­ald was next drawn to Skin, a dark and con­fronting fea­ture film that deals with white supremacy in the US Mid­west. But af­ter sign­ing on to it, the role of Wil­lowdean Dixon in Netflix’s Dumplin’ landed in her lap. Play­ing the tit­u­lar plus-size teen, who is very com­fort­able in her own skin de­spite be­ing teased and nick­named “Dumplin’” by her pagean­tqueen mother, res­onated with Macdon­ald.

Tech­ni­cally, Macdon­ald’s sched­ule wouldn’t al­low her to take the role. She ploughed ahead, any­way. “I was so, so ex­cited be­cause it felt spe­cial to me, this one,” says Macdon­ald. “It was some­thing that I could re­late to and some­thing that I re­ally wanted as a teenager – and I never got. When I first read Dumplin’, I was like, ‘Whoa! This is so weird. Some­one felt the way I did in high school.’”

An­other draw­card for Macdon­ald was that Jen­nifer Anis­ton had been cast to play Wil­lowdean’s mother. It wasn’t long be­fore she found her­self hang­ing out at

“Jen­nifer Anis­ton was wel­com­ing and warm. I felt safe around her”

Anis­ton’s house so they could get to know each other ahead of film­ing. “She was just very wel­com­ing, open and warm. I felt very safe and calm around her, which is good ’cause you can’t be think­ing, ‘Oh, this is Jen­nifer Anis­ton!’ It needs to be like, ‘This is just my mum. What are you talk­ing about?’ We had to get to that place and I felt like we found it eas­ily. It was cool.”

Macdon­ald wasn’t quite as calm and col­lected, how­ever, when she dis­cov­ered Anis­ton had men­tioned her to San­dra Bul­lock, her even­tual co-star in last sum­mer’s Bird Box. “I went to the ta­ble read for Bird Box and I met Sandy. First thing she said was, ‘Oh, I just had din­ner with Jen. We were talk­ing about you.’ And I was like, ‘What is hap­pen­ing? Why are San­dra Bul­lock and Jen­nifer Anis­ton talk­ing about me over din­ner?’ I’m def­i­nitely OK with it, though.”

Bird Box sent the in­ter­net into melt­down when it hit Netflix last De­cem­ber, with Macdon­ald in par­tic­u­lar sin­gled out for the ac­tions her char­ac­ter took. On re­flec­tion, she tells Stel­lar, it was an ex­pe­ri­ence far more in­tense than she had an­tic­i­pated. “I got death threats,” she says. “Peo­ple came onto my In­sta­gram to ha­rass me. It was weird – Dumplin’ and Bird Box came out at the same time and so peo­ple in the street would ei­ther ap­proach me with a lot of venom and ha­tred or a lot of love. Some peo­ple were both and they were like, ‘Ugh, I’m so con­flicted, I loved you in this, but I hated you in this.’”

But Macdon­ald isn’t both­ered ei­ther way. “I just think to my­self, ‘Great. I’m do­ing my job, then.’”

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