Essie Randles on expanding their sense of humanity to encompass their characters

Essie Randles, who plays Brooke Delaney in Peacock’s Apples Never Fall, chats using music to take themselves away from the noise and get in the right emotional place. They discuss empathizing with their characters, letting go of fear, and the importance of continuing to put yourself out there as an actor.

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Let’s go back to the beginning of your career. Was there a defining moment when you realized that this is what you wanted to do?

I’ve always loved performing, and I’ve wanted to be an actor since I was a kid, but there are two moments that I can pinpoint. The first was when I was five years old, and I did a performing arts night at my school. I remember my mom saying [afterward] that it was the happiest she’d ever seen me in my life, and that made me want to keep chasing that feeling. I had a tiny role. I played a possum in a costume that my mom had made on her sewing machine, but it was [an] amazing feeling being onstage and performing.
When I was a little older, my dad would always take me to [the] theater. I saw a production of Suddenly Last Summer at the Sydney Theatre Company with Eryn-Jean Norvill. I remember seeing her perform and being completely blown away and thinking, “I want to do that. That’s what I want to do.” That’s the moment when I decided [I wanted] to [do this as] a career.

You mentioned performing arts. Did you do theater in school?

I did a lot of theater in high school. I started when I was about fourteen, performing with a company called The Arts Unit in Sydney [with] a director [named] Paul Viles. We would get together with this group of young actors, and we’d put on plays. High school is not easy for anyone. Collaborating with these amazing artists was the best time I had in high school.

What was your favorite play that you did?

We did a production called Bassett with the same group right after I graduated high school. I played this bolshy girl called Kelly who was so upfront and said everything that she wanted to say. I had a great time in that role and on that production.

That sounds like a lot of fun.

I loved it. Those were some of the happiest moments in my life.

What is something you know now that you wish you knew when you first started acting?

I’ve always wanted to do this, and I’ve always known that this was my goal. I’ve learned that you can’t rush it. I always had this feeling of “oh, no, no, I need to do it now,” but now that I’ve had this opportunity, I’m so glad that I’m coming to it as the person I am now and not the person I was years ago. I’ve had this time to grow and learn, and I’m so glad that it’s happening now. 

What do you think is the most important thing for people who are getting into acting to know?

It’s a really hard profession, [and] there’s a lot of rejection, but if you know that [this is] what you really want to do, you have to keep going. You have to keep putting yourself out there. There’s this great quote [by] Theodore Roosevelt about how if you’re actually in the ring, putting yourself out there, trying, and throwing everything at the wall, then that’s what’s going to fulfill you. It’s much better to have tried and failed than [to have] not tried at all. 

It’s easy to forget that there are going to be a lot of nos, especially in the beginning. What helped you keep going through all the nos?

When I wouldn’t get a role, and I would be really heartbroken, there was always a tiny part of me that kept a flame burning for what I really wanted to do. I would try and divert my attention to that tiny, tiny part of myself that believed that I could do it. 
My friends are the most amazing people in the world, and I’m so grateful for them. They’ve been there through everything. I’ve had so many phone calls with my family freaking out and crying, and they’ve just been like, “It’s going to be okay. You’re going to be fine.”

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What do you feel like acting allows you to express about yourself or within yourself that you might not be able to do otherwise?

I’m a very emotional being. I always have been since I was tiny. Being in a profession where those emotions are valued and seen as an asset, rather than something to overcome, is really positive for me. I cry all the time. I cry at everything. Being in a workspace where emotional sensitivity is really valued is an amazing outlet for me to channel those emotions into the lives of my characters and feel what they’re feeling. I have found [it] really, really positive. As an actor, you expand your sense of humanity to encompass another person. It’s an amazing thing to get to do. I’m very grateful.

You’ve acted in a few drama mysteries, including your most recent role as Brooke Delaney in Apples Never Fall. Are there other genres of film or television that you would be interested in exploring as well?

Definitely. I want to try it all. I’d love to be a bit of an Eddie Pie Hands [with a] finger in every pot. I’ve been watching some really slow-burn romances recently. [It] would be a dream to be in [something like that]. Even though it scares me, I would love to try comedy too.

If you could be in any recent show or movie, what would you choose?

I saw Dune: Part Two the other night. It’s a fantastic film, and being in a franchise like that would be a dream. It would be a really incredible experience to be in a total fantasy world taking place outside of what we know.

Fantasy is always really fun to watch. What do you usually watch when you’re not acting?

I just started watching GLOW for the first time. Alison [Brie] and I worked super closely together on Apples Never Fall, and I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t seen it. I’m loving GLOW, so something like that would be a dream. [It] makes me laugh a lot, and it also makes me emotional, obviously. I’ve also been watching One Day on Netflix, and [I love it]. I recently saw All of Us Strangers. Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal were breathtaking, and I loved that film.

That sounds fun! I don’t think I’ve heard of those. I’ll have to add them to my growing watch list that I keep saying I’m going to go through.

I have a note like that on my phone where I have a list of things to watch, and it’s always growing and hardly ever shrinking.

I feel that. There’s not enough time in the day.

There’s so much content these days, which is incredible, but it does mean that there’s a lot to catch up on.

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If you were planning a giant party with your co-stars from Apples Never Fall, who would most likely fit the roles in these scenarios? Who is most likely to be fashionably late?

Probably Annette Bening, because she’s the most fashionable, stylish person ever.

Who is most likely to DJ?

Alison Brie, because we would probably be [dancing together at the party]. 

You’ll have to ask her for her playlist sometime.

It’s very good. Her playlist [and] her music taste is excellent.

Who is most likely to go last-minute shopping for an outfit?

Probably me. I love shopping and vintage shopping. I would be very particular about what I wanted to wear, especially if I was planning the party.

That’s fair. If you’re the host and you’re throwing the party, you have to be fashionable.

It’s got to be perfect, right?

Exactly. Who is most likely to eat all the snacks?

If they’re healthy fun [snacks], I would say Conor Merrigan-Turner. 

Finally, who is most likely to sneak away and go home without telling anybody?

Absolutely, without a doubt, Jake Lacy.

I believe you call that an Irish goodbye.

I mean, I kind of love an Irish goodbye — just saying you’re going to go to the bathroom or something and then sneaking out — but I think in this situation, it would be Jake.

What did the casting process look like for Apples Never Fall?

I received an email with some scenes and the pilot script, did a self-tape at my friend’s house, then a Zoom callback with the team. I did one more callback with the casting director and the team and then I got the job, which was totally crazy. I still can’t really believe it, even though it’s been over a year now.

That’s exciting! It’s good that it doesn’t sound like it was too chaotic.

When I first got the tape sent to me, I’d been feeling a little bit down about auditioning, so I said, “You know what, I’m going to approach this audition [as] if I don’t have any fear. Fear, thank you very much. Go away.” I thought, “Well, I’m never going to get this job, so I may as well have some fun.” Then, the impossible happened.

That’s amazing. Sometimes, approaching things like that is the key to success, and you have to just leave it all behind.

Definitely. Thanking my fear for watching out for me and trying to protect me from getting hurt, but also recognizing that it’s maybe not the most helpful thing to tap into was pretty life-changing.

What initially drew you to Brooke’s character?

When I read the character description and the pilot, I [immediately] loved how Brooke had this strong assertion and really [stood] up for herself. She is the youngest child, [and] I am also the youngest child in my family. She is a queer person, [and] I am a queer person, too. There was a crazy thing in the character brief [about how] she had had this ankle injury. I had a pretty bad ankle injury a couple years back, and it immediately made me think, “Oh, I understand this person. I understand at least a facet of what she’s been through.” [I] immediately felt this almost psychic pull towards her.

I imagine you got to understand Brooke pretty well from researching and playing her character. What were some of the similarities and differences between the two of you? 

I adore Brooke, [and] it was such a joy to play her. She can be a little bit [pricklier] than I am. Something similar about us is that we’re both very determined and driven individuals. Brooke lashes out sometimes, and I at least hope that that’s not similar to me, but I had to find a way of empathizing with where that comes from within her. Her perfectionistic [tendencies] and self-expectations are so high that when other people don’t meet those expectations, it almost feels like a personal offense for Brooke. 

What are some of the biggest ways that Brooke’s character evolves from the beginning of the show to the end?

I’m so excited for people to see Brooke’s journey. A lot of her walls come down — her fear of being messy or emotional or too much — and you get to see a completely different side of her by the end of the series. Playing that arc was just a joy. I’m so used to theater. I’m so used to playing a character for two hours at a time. I’ve loved every character I’ve ever played, but I’ve never gotten to sit with them for that long before. I was so lucky to see the changes because I had this long period of time to hang out with her character and get to know her. It was very satisfying [and] very special.

What was the most important trait or aspect of Brooke’s character for you to portray perfectly?

Thinking back to the first audition [and] the first character brief I got, there was a line in it that [said], “Brooke was clinging to the mantle of a perfect child.” I returned to that phrase often when I was thinking about what it meant to feel like you had to be perfect not only for yourself, but [also] to live up to your parents’ expectations. Brooke’s perfectionistic tendency of wanting to be the perfect version of herself was something I returned to over and over again.

What was the most important part of your process when you were preparing to play Brooke?

I worked a lot with music. Having a Brooke playlist was incredibly helpful. You get to see her in so many different moods and situations. I would attach different scenes to different songs, so if I was filming the next scene in the sequence, I would return to that song and know exactly the kind of state she was in. 
I also did a lot of research on tennis families, professional athletes, and people who have had a parent go missing. Brooke is a physio, and I spoke to this wonderful guy, Ollie, who was also a physio. He gave me some insight into the psychology of a physiotherapist [and] the different things that might come up in her personality because of her line of work. 

What were some of the songs on your Brooke playlist?

“Magnolia” by Odette comes to mind straight away. It’s a cover of a Gang of Youths song, and I still listen to it all the time. “Never Felt So Alone” by Labrinth. “How Lucky” by Kurt Vile and John Prine makes me think about my dad. Because Brooke is so close with her dad, [those feelings] came up a lot with that song.
Music was something that I found so helpful from the start. [I knew that taking] myself away from all the noise and [putting] in my headphones [to] listen to a song would put me in the right emotional place. I adore music. I love music so much, and I find it so powerful and visceral how a song can affect you so much.

What is the most random thing about yourself that people may not know?

[Here’s] something weird. When I was a kid, I was absolutely obsessed with broccoli stalks. They were my favorite food. 

Mine, too. That was my favorite vegetable. Everyone looked at me like I had two heads.

Oh my gosh, I’ve never met someone else who had this fixation with broccoli stalks. Did you have them with some olive oil and salt?

Yes! I didn’t learn about broccoli with cheese until later on, so it was literally just steamed broccoli. I used to ask for vegetables for breakfast as a child.

I used to beg my parents to let me have broccoli — specifically, the stalks. The florets were great, too, but the stalks were my favorite thing. That is so serendipitous.

Such a small world over our obsession with broccoli.

I mean, I still love broccoli. Do you still love broccoli?

I do! I never grew out of that one.

Photography IRENE CHEN







1 Comment

  • M

    They seem so lovely and thoughtful, and as a fellow deep feeler and crier I had never ever considered that acting would be a place where your emotional self would be an asset.

    Hope they continue on their path with satisfying, interesting work that inspired them!

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