On October 9 – 11 I attended a Disney Press Event for THOR: RAGNAROK. My hotel and airfare and meals were taken care of while I was in L.A. Opinions and observations as well as recaps and such are all my own. This post will also contain some affiliate links to Amazon.com.
Rachel House was actually our very first interview on our Thor: Ragnarok press junket day. She plays the character of “Topaz”, Grandmaster’s right hand enforcer. She has a hilarious deadpan delivery that plays well off Jeff’ Goldblum’s Grandmaster and his eccentricity.
I was able to ask the first question. I asked, “how hard was it to keep a straight face with all those deadpan moments?” Rachel said, “I’m pretty used used to keeping a straight face, ’cause I’ve done a lot of Taika’s films, and it’s always like that. But some of the other actors weren’t so good at it. They were losing it, especially Jeff Goldblum, ’cause he was so funny. That’s not even half of it, what you see. It’s not even a quarter of the improvisation and stuff that we were doing. Jeff was just so masterful at improvisation.“
Most of Rachel’s scenes are with Jeff Goldblum as she is his enforcer. They have some really funny moments of miscommunication. building off the first question the next person asked if there were any favorite scenes that did not make it into the movie that she wished had made it in. Rachel explained, “There’s a lot, I believe that they’re gonna do a little kinda gag reel maybe. Something like that Taika was saying last night. There’s a whole thing we do with writing out a check, which is so bizarre in that environment. I’m kind of giving instructions on how to write out a check in my stupid Kiwi accent as well. It’s pretty funny I think. But yeah, Jeff was fabulous.“
Rachel has worked on many of Taika’s movies. She was asked what her favorite part of working with Taika was. She told us, “Just the fun. Yeah, the fun of it is really good. This is the first massive film he’s done. The others were very independent, therefore we had a very limited amount of time to shoot. So, you know, we made ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ with five weeks. And we had to literally run around the bush, and the mud, and the snow, and the rain.It was a lot of fun. But we had no time so, we just had to keep going. Whereas in Thor, because of the scale, we got to kind of breath a little bit. Taika was allowed to play as much as possible. So, that was really great seeing him able to do that without any kind of time restraint.“
Rachel was Gramma Tala in the movie Moana. One of the bloggers told her that she made us laugh and cry in Moana. She then asked what it was like transforming into the character of Topaz. Rachel stated, “Kind of easy-ish. It’s a kind of character that Taika always makes me play. You know what I mean? It’s funny, ‘cause I just play all these really mean characters, and I’m not mean at all. I’m sort of really ‘ooh’ about meanness. So, I think he kind of enjoys that.“
We delved into more about how Rachel has worked with Taika so often. Because she has this history of working with Taika we were interested in knowing how she was approached about the film and whether Taika sought her out straight away. Rachel told us, “I got a top secret kind of audition that I had to do through my agent. She said, ‘Oh, it’s for Marvel.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’ll be Taika.’ And she went, ‘Oh yeah, of course it will.’ Then I was given this tiny little scene with a few lines. So one of my buddies, who’s a casting director, he filmed it. It was just like doing it in the living [room], and then sent it off. Then I got a very kind of droll, email from Taika saying, ‘Oh, by the way, you got the role.’ Which is really lovely. I don’t know if they saw any other people. I’m not sure. I think he kind of tried to make it what he wanted to see me do, even though most of it hasn’t ended up in the film, but that’s okay. There’s better stuff in the film.“
With all this talk of Taika we wanted to know how Rachel first met him. She explained, “I met him when he was 17. He was in a play in this little theater in Wellington, and he was the best thing about it. I was a couple years older, and at drama school in Wellington. I just, met him after and said, ‘You were so great. Thank you so much.’ Then started becoming a fan of his little crazy comedy stuff that he’d do with Jemaine and Bret, and another guy called Nigel Collins. They had this really crazy… they’d have sword fights with straws and reenact Star Wars. That was their comedy. So, I became a very big fan. We just kept staying in touch. I had no idea he was gonna end up being an awesome film director. He was an artist, and an actor, and a comedian.“
since I am always interested with what is going on with the Marvel movies and the comics I asked Rachel how familiar she was with the comics and if she had read them, she had not but she had been watching the movies. “I watched a lot of Marvel films. So, I got familiar with the universe. But not all of them. I’m still catching up. I haven’t seen all the Avengers films. I know I should do that.”
Rachel was asked if she had any favorite one liners from the movie. Rachel replied, “I probably do, but they haven’t made it in. There was, ‘burnt toast’ I really liked. But that was one of about a 100 different things I said. And that’s the one that made it in. I remember there being a couple of others, and they were pretty hilarious. Valkyrie is just so… what a character. She’s so good.” With the mention of Valkyrie we asked if Rachel could share if there was more backstory to the relationship between topaz and Valkyrie. Rachel said, “It’s just that little moment at the beginning where she’s kind of, we just had a mess. And it happened on the day, with the encouragement of Taika. But we just started doing it sort of naturally. Because we were both trying to out warrior each other.”
Naturally we had to ask if Rachel and Tessa got along in real life. Rachel said, “Oh, yeah, she’s a darling. What a darling. She’s wonderful. I felt so embarrassed because I watched Creed, and I said to her, ‘Oh, I loved in that boxing film.’ I always forget names of things. Then I realized that I’d seen ‘Dear White People’ like three times, ’cause I love it so much. And, she’s in it. It wasn’t until afterwards where I actually Googled her, because I tend not to want to Google the people I’m about to work with ’cause I don’t wanna necessarily have that pressure, you know, feel intimidated.“
We kept coming back to the ad libs and things cut out of the movie. So we asked: Can you tell us a little bit more about any of the cut scenes that you really enjoyed seeing come into production, but didn’t see come into the movie? Rachel told us this story, “There was this whole scene where Jeff does a song at the keyboards. He made it up. It was really cool. He had a tiny little bit to go with. Then he just kept expanding. He is a wonderful jazz musician anyway. So, he just expanded that, and I was sort of his back up. Really bad back up singer. So, that didn’t make it in, which is a bummer.“
One of the final questions asked was if it was intimidating stepping into the Marvel Universe. Rachel said, “Yes. Yes. Unknown from New Zealand, of course, but you get over that really quickly. When you meet people and there’s so many wonderful people involved in the Marvel Universe. And just meeting them, they’re just people. They’re just normal people, talented people. So, the intimidation didn’t last long.”
This was a wonderful interview and Rachel was so sweet. We also talked about the stiffness of her costume and whether or not we would see her character in future Marvel movies. The interview was over far too quickly. We would have loved to keep talking with Rachel all morning.
Here’s a bit of interesting trivia. There are actually two Topaz characters in the Marvel Comic Book Universe. Marvel acquired Malibu comics and thus the characters in that universe. One of the characters is Topaz who is a warrior queen. She is the first character from Malibu Comics to become part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Topaz has a connection to Grandmaster in the comics as well. In Avengers/Ultraforce #1 Grandmaster forced the Ultraverse characters to fight the Avengers. Topaz fought Black Widow and lost.
The second character in the Marvel Universe comic books named Topaz is a mystic who has allied herself with Doctor Strange and Wong for a time. She also helped the character Jack Russel in the comic Werewolf by Night. Before the movie I did not know about the Malibu Comics connection or this other Topaz. So, it was interesting to see Topaz in this movie. Look for her to steal a few scenes with her deadpan delivery.
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THOR: RAGNAROK opens in theaters everywhere November 3rd!
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