Harriet Dyer has been happy keeping under the radar, but all that is about to change. This month the 28-year-old Aussie actor has headline roles in two major productions, dark new thriller Killing Ground and TV dramedy The Other Guy. While she’s already enjoyed recurring parts in hit series Love Child and No Activity, this is a definite step forward into the spotlight. So far, Harriet isn’t sure that she likes the accompanying glare.
“I’m a very private person, so I’m almost happier that people don’t know that they’ve seen me in a couple of things,” she says.
Her love life has already had more than its fair share of media scrutiny. Last year, New Idea attempted to link her to Cate Blanchett’s partner Andrew Upton, while a large chunk of the questions on the Killing Ground press circuit have concerned Harriet’s relationship with Offspring star Patrick Brammall.
- Killing Ground is in cinemas now.
- The Other Guy is streaming on Stan.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with the work,” Harriet says. “It’s like I went to bed in drama school and woke up the next day and people feel free to make things up about me. I feel very powerless.”
This focus on the personal is a shame, as Harriet is consistently the best thing about everything she’s in. Her visceral terror as unlucky camper Sam makes Killing Ground utterly compelling, while her turn as Matt Okine’s best friend Stevie is the boldest comic note in The Other Guy. Although she admits playing at being scared for three weeks was exhausting, it was playing Stevie for laughs that she found most nerve-wracking.
“I would go home from The Other Guy and I would sit in my car and stare out the window and think ‘I don’t know if I was funny at all today’. I did find it hard, but challenges are good.”
She’s been delighted by the show’s reception and particularly by the love female viewers have showered on Stevie. There’s no getting away from the fact that the character is something different for Australian telly. Not only is there a total lack of romance with her co-star’s character, but Stevie is also the badly behaved party animal of the pair. She gets drunk, she gets high and she buys the morning-after pill (picking up the pharmacist in the process). This wickedness has struck a chord, it seems.
“I’m getting such good feedback from women going, ‘Oh, Stevie’s my spirit animal’ or ‘I am Stevie’. It’s so lovely to be a voice for ladies who feel underrepresented onscreen. Female characters have to be smart, sexy or crazy. You can’t just be kind of cool. This show allows for that. I was stoked to be part of it.”
Although Harriet is quick to heap praise on writer Becky Lucas, she says the character’s voice rings very true for her. It’s the sort of part she might once have dreamed of playing, if she had allowed herself that luxury. As it is, Harriet says she still can’t quite believe she’s a working actor.
“I’m just pinching myself every day, to be honest. When I was leaving drama school, someone asked me where I saw myself in five years and I said ‘working for free in the theatre at Woolloomooloo.’ I didn’t dream big enough to have an answer for that question.”
Now, she’s about to have a crack at the big time, heading off to Hollywood to knock on doors the new film has opened. Killing Ground has met a great reception at festivals stateside, although Harriet thinks the attention it brings her will likely be more “slow-burn” than “meteoric rise”. She’s certainly burning no bridges here.
“Once you’re in your 30s, if you haven’t given Hollywood a go, the vibe there is it’s a little too late. I’m going to do a few auditions and see how the cards fall.”
While it’s a traditional rite of passage for Aussie actors to try their luck in Hollywood, Harriet says she has nothing to prove. Instead, she’s simply being pragmatic.
“I never saw myself going to America. The reality of the situation is more stories are told there. It’s also about money. If I had the career in the states that I’ve had here, I’d have a house by now. I’m not going to be the young blonde forever, so I need to shake things up a little bit if I’m to earn a proper living.”
All the same, she’s aware she’s taking a leap into the dark.
“I’m hesitant to say I’m moving to America because I would very much like a job here too. It’s a funny thing doing press for two things at once, it gives you the illusion of being very busy. Hopefully something heartwarming and exciting is just around the corner, I just don’t know what it is yet.”
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