Interview: Gabrielle Rose Talks “The Birdwatcher”

Photo by Liam Rose-Mathews
Photo by Liam Rose-Mathews

Gabrielle Rose is an actress with an aristocratic look who could easily portray any Queen, just name it. In Siobhan Devine’s The Birdwatcher she may not portray some famous character, but a savior for a woman who seeks help in her last opportunity to take care of her children before she dies of cancer.

Even though I was unable to meet with Gabrielle Rose in person to discuss her character in The Birdwatcher, but the way the interview ended up, I could not tell the difference between having a one-on-one person or over the phone. Her classy act, willingness to discuss Birdy was an incredible journey for me as a journalist, who always enjoys talking to an actor who appreciates the character she portrays.

MOVIEMOVESME: What did it feel like portraying a character that gave up on her own daughter when she was very young?

Gabrielle Rose: It was an incredibly challenging prospect to portray a character whose traits you don’t necessarily approve of. So, it’s always interesting to find a route to create a back story that allows you to embrace the character and her decisions. Birdy makes a decision at a very young age that impacts her life for a very long time. It was really difficult to embrace it but thoroughly satisfying to portray because the depth I got in this character I did not encounter in a lot of characters I’ve previously played.

MOVIEMOVESME: The character Birdy significantly improves as the story goes on. How do you adjust yourself to the changes that happen to the character?

Gabrielle Rose: She makes some very poor choices throughout the film. I think that Birdy is a very self-contained human being who has a certain amount of neurosis about being a social human being. As she makes quick poor choices or as they are presented to her, it’s only the after-effect that she’s able to open up her heart and embrace those choices and even come to terms with her life. So, I don’t know if it would be correct to say that her character improves but it definitely does at large and she keeps committing the same mistakes over and over again until a time it’s almost non-redeemable.

MOVIEMOVESME: If you were given a chance to rewrite Birdy’s character, what would you change in her?

Gabrielle Rose: It’s very tempting to make Birdy somebody we approve of but I think it’s very important not to portray that desire to make her behave the way we want her to behave. It’s more important that we understand something about all mankind is that we’re not formed into specific moulds; we don’t adhere to everybody’s idea of what is correct behavior. Birdy would have been a very poor mother because of her inability to open up and it’s only because of the storm that she created for herself does she find some peace in the end. So I wouldn’t actually change it. I’m a mother myself and I couldn’t ever think about giving up my children. But then again mine wasn’t a very early pregnancy that was awkward and difficult. That wasn’t a decision I had to make and I can’t imagine what it would be like for people who had to make that decision. So it’s important to honor that decision.

MOVIEMOVESME: What was your experience working with the director and the cast of The Bird Watcher?

Gabrielle Rose: Siobhan Devine and I worked together on a short film which in fact portrays the 17-year-old girl in the film, daughter of Saffron. Shortly afterwards Siobhan asked me to be in this movie. We read the script together and I did have some input. So things were adjusted in the script as we went along and I had the script for the whole nine months; I can’t tell you the blessing that is to have, especially with a complex character like this! And she’s such an odd duck! Siobhan helped me immeasurably discovering that. I’ve had the honor of working with quite a few women directors and it’s such a blessing. Camille Sullivan and I had worked together on a few occasions but never this closely. She’s such a vulnerable, beautiful, sensitive actress and I cannot give her enough accolades, it’s just amazing to watch her work and hard not to embrace it. And Garwin I thought he and I had great chemistry; he brought something so amazing to the part of Finch. And the two children I’ve worked with both of them before. So it was hard not to embrace them as a family. But I had to keep my distance while shooting because of Birdy’s distance and that was an interesting challenge in itself. The writer is a beautiful woman as is our producer. Surrounded by these wonderful women what more could you possibly ask for?

MOVIEMOVESME: What quality, in your opinion, should actors have such that directors can count on them not just once or twice but again and again?

Gabrielle Rose: As an actor, your job is to bring to them a character that they can play with. It’s your job to put your creative head into place to fill in the part of the picture the director is trying to paint. If you think of it as a painting with all these characters and where are you placed in that painting and then to make that character be vital and vibrant as it is supposed to be in that picture and to work with the director and to listen and to enjoy. It’s a wonderful job when you’re given the right character to play. I just feel blessed being a part of their journey and if they ask me to take a ride on their bus.

MOVIEMOVESME: You had to gain 15 pounds for this role. How challenging is it for actors’ health-wise to gain those pounds and then lose them?

Gabrielle Rose: They were concerned that I was too young to play the part so they said maybe if I gained weight that I would look a little older. When you gain weight in your forties it fills in all your cracks and wrinkles, so you don’t look older, you look younger! Then we came up with the idea to push my face up a bit, which was funny. It was certainly fun to gain weight and almost bloody impossible to lose it. And I love my suits so eventually I did lose some of it. You do have to be careful with your health and not destroy yourself otherwise you cannot work and it’s not going to be of any use to anybody. The work we do as actors it always pays off in the end but you have to walk the tightrope of being healthy wile you do it.

MOVIEMOVESME: You are about to appear in a movie called “A dog’s purpose” where a dog dedicates his multiple lives to humans and here you play Birdy where you dedicate your life for animals. Could you draw parallels between the two characters and storylines you portray?

Gabrielle Rose: In “A Dog’s Purpose” I have a small role. It was such an honor to work with the director on it. I play the grandmother of Ethan, who owns the dog in one of his livesand the dog keeps on searching for something throughout his life. So it was an interesting, heartwarming, beautiful piece of Americana if you will. In this movie I play a prickly pear which is completely different. But her love of nature, Birdy said this, is what drove her to the preservation of nature. It’s such an irony in The Bird Watcher that she doesn’t preserve her own progeny but that’s sometimes the way we are. I don’t know if there’s a parallel, I never thought about it but it’s a great question!

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