MyAnna Buring returns to the big screen this week, as she is part of the impressive cast for hard-hitting film Hyena, which sees Gerard Johnson back in the director's chair.
We caught up with the actress to chat about her role in the film, the dark themes that the film explores as well as the other projects that she has on the horizon.
- You are set to return to the big screen next week in Hyena, so can you tell me a bit about the film?
Hyena is a film that explores police corruption, sex trafficking and the characters that are the centre of this. It is an incredible script and is a film that is written and directed by Gerard Johnson; he was very much the reason why I wanted to be involved. I have known of Gerard's work previously and Peter Ferdinand - who plays our lead - is a lovely actor that I have known for years but never had the chance to work with.
They got in touch quite late in the process of pre-production and asked if I would come on board and help tell this story. I jumped at the chance. It is an incredibly harrowing film, but the way that Gerard has shot it and the way that he has created these characters and brought them to life is extraordinary - I think that makes it stand out cinematically.
I am really excited for the film's release because I think that it is an important film, for not only the subject matter that it tackles, but it is an important film in the terms of watching a young and new cinematic voice be heard.
- You take on the role of Lisa in the film, so where does this character fit into the story? And how do we see her develop throughout the film?
Lisa is the ex-girlfriend of Peter Ferdinando's central character -we actually shot quite a few scenes that helped explain the backstory between them a little further. However, when they were going through editing, they felt that it was detracting from the main story and so we lost that. I think that the way that it works now is much more cohesive and it puts across what needs to come across much better than if we had dilly-dallied with that.
Lisa is Michael's ex-girlfriend and yet they still live together - they really do have this incredibly dysfunctional relationship, underneath which is the great love and respect that they have for one another. When Michael finds himself in dire straits, Lisa is the one person that he feels he can turn to and call on for help.
My character has the most to do with Michael and Ariana - played by Elisa Lasowski, who gives an incredible performance of a young woman who suffers at the hands of sex traffickers. That is really where I fit in; Lisa comes in and looks after Ariana for a while. You have these two women in Michael's life who are thrown together in the most harrowing way.
- What was it about this character and the script that was the real draw for you when you read it for the first time?
Gerard spent years researching this script; so much of it is based on absolute truth. It just felt like a really important story to tell. This is not the first time that we have heard stories about police corruption of sex trafficking - there are a lot of films that do tackle that subject - but I think that the way that it is being tackled by Gerard Johnson is what I thought was exciting.
I was exciting to see what he would do with it, and he hasn't disappointed. I have said it before, he is an incredible… he works very meticulously and has great care about the characters - he is able to mine a huge amount from them because he knows their stories so well.
- This is a movie that looks at the dark and brutal world of people trafficking, so what kind of research did you do into that as you were preparing for this role?
My research was actually working with Gerard and Peter as we sat down and created a really comprehensive background for this character. We knew exactly where she came from and why she would do what she did; we really did have a great understanding of all of that. In terms of the story with Ariana, when Lisa meets Ariana, Ariana represents a world that Lisa knows very little about; Lisa is on the fringes of criminal worlds and illegality, but she doesn't really operate in the really dark underworld.
All of a sudden, she is confronted with the horrific truth of what Michael has been involved with and she doesn't quite understand everything. Therefore, I felt that I didn't really need to research in order to get that across, I felt that the more questioning and the more confused Lisa was by the situation actually helped with the character.
It's not that I don't have an awareness about sex trafficking but the extent of my knowledge is the fact that it is tragically going on today - sadly, it is not something in our distant past and is a reality for a lot of people around this world. This is definitely something that we should be more aware of.
- You have mentioned Gerard Johnson a couple of times and he is back in the director's chair for the film. How did you find working with him as amazingly this is only his second feature film?
Extraordinary, I can't believe it. Some people are just natural storytellers and in different ways, some are actors, or go into writing or producing, or all of it. Gerard Johnson is definitely a director as he is incredibly clear about how he wants to tell his stories, he is very calm on set with both crew and actors and he never loses sight of what he wants to do.
And that is amazing considering the amount of detail that this story has, there were no characters that were just brushed over, as he knew everything about every character, every detail, every strand and how it was all connected.
- Even though Gerard had a clear vision of what he was trying to achieve with Hyena, how collaborative a process was it between the actors and the director?
Hugely collaborative, hugely. I came into process quite late but he had done a number of workshops with the actors who were with the project from the beginning. When I came on board, as I said, I sat down with Peter and Gerard and spent hours working out their relationship, how they got together, where they had met, when they had broken up, why they had decided to keep their flat - so there was never a moment when you were on set when you had questions. Gerard made sure that everyone came on to set fully prepared and fully armed with all the information that they needed for the character and to play the scenes.
- A terrific cast has been assembled Peter Ferdinando, Stephen Graham, Neil Maskell, and Richard Dormer just some of the names on board. What was it like being part of all that - they are a great line-up of British actors?
They are some of the best British actors that we have. When you walk on to set with people that are terrific and what they do and are lovely people, it is a real treat. I always hope that I get to work with people that are brilliant because the game is on and you have to up your game. You up your game because you want to, you need to and because you don't want to let anyone down.
- The movie opened the Edinburgh Film Festival and played at Toronto, so how have you personally been finding the response to the film?
There have been great responses to it, which has been great. Sadly, I have been working all year and missed all of the festivals, so I didn't get to see it until recently in London with our producers Stephen Wolley and Joanna Laurie. It has been fantastic. It is always great to do something that matters to you and more so when the people that are involved matter to you. It is great when you get such a positive response.
Independent film is always hard to make - we all bang on about this but it is true - it is a difficult struggle, so to get an independent film out in cinemas is fantastic. It is just wonderful if audiences do make an effort to go and see it because a lot of blood, sweat, and tears have been put into this story. It is wonderful when you hear people react to it, however it is that they do react - I thinks as long as you are eliciting emotions from people when you are telling stories, then you are doing your job right.
- You are also going to be back on the small screen next week in Banished, so can you tell me a bit about that?
Banished is a story about the first convicts that went over to Australia in 1788. It is written by Jimmy McGovern, and he has used that framework to tell what is essentially a fictional story. It is a story about the convicts and the soldiers out there, how they survived and how this new makeshift establishment was trying to enforce rules and how that affected the convicts.
It is really a story about love and survival. I play a character called Elizabeth Quinn who struggles with the desperate situation that she finds herself in, as she just tries to stay alive in this foreign land that makes no sense to her. She has fallen in love and she is getting through of it and is buoyed by love.
- I was watching an interview with Russell Tovey last week and he said that you would get guides to the types of spiders and snakes to avoid with your script. How did you find filming out in Sydney?
I just didn't read that bit of the call sheet. After the first day, I just thought 'I am not reading this as I cannot go to set every day terrified.' We would have good hour-long talks from one of our guides - who were fantastic - who told us what to look out for and everyone was told to stomp as they were going through the bush. Tiptoeing through is not really a good idea - stomp through the bush and the snakes and spiders know that you are there and run away.
It is extraordinary and it gives you a lot of respect for nature. Australia is such a beautiful country and the locations that we shot in were stunning. These creatures are beautiful and incredible, but it does gives you a lot of respect when you know that one little bite could kill you in twenty minutes. It does make you think a little more carefully when you are running about.
- Finally, what's next for you going through 2015?
I am doing a play at the Hampstead Theatre, which is a two-hander written by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and sees me star alongside Sinead Matthews. We wrap at the end of next week - it is quite a big week next week as Hyena comes out, Banished starts, and I finish The Wasp.
We will see if that has a life after that. I am not really sure what's next, the world is my oyster. It is the first time in a long time that I am not sure what I am doing next. It is quite an exciting new feeling. I might sleep for a bit.
- How have you found the return to the stage?
It has been great. It is such a daunting prospect. Last year I did Strangers On A Train in the West End - I was literally just in a couple of scenes, but I decided to do those couple of scenes to see if I have got the courage to go back as it had been seven years.
This year it has been eight years since I had done a two-hander and a really intense piece, but this came up and when I read it I knew instantly that I wanted to do it. I was extraordinary pleased when I got the chance to do it, and having a sparring partner like Sinead Matthews is the best thing in the world. It is a harrowing play and a difficult subject matter, but it is great fun. There is something about the immediacy of theatre that is just wonderful.
Hyena is released in UK cinemas on March 6th.