Exposure star Alice Englert

Photo: Supplied

Actor Alice Englert says 'I'd been preparing my whole life' for her role in new TV series Exposure

The Australian actor may be known to some as the daughter of director Jane Campion, but she's continuing to carve out her own creative mark in this show about grief, sex and the power of women.

This time last year, Alice Englert was celebrating her directorial debut, Bad Behaviour at the 2023 Sydney Film Festival. Fast forward 12 months, and the 29-year-old returns to the harbour city’s major film fest for the premiere of what’s arguably her most complex, exhilarating and unnerving production all at once – Exposure

Englert has her acting hat on for the TV series, in which she plays Jacs Gould, a photographer who returns to her hometown of Port Kembla after her friend’s death to discover the hidden secrets of their relationship and the truth behind the death. As she processes buried trauma from her own violent assault, she grapples with the belief that a man “pushed her friend over the edge” and she must set out to uncover his identity. With sex and the darkroom being her outlets to channel her rage and grief, Jacs’ quest for answers about her friend, her grief and her own sense of self are somewhat familiar to Englert. 

“Unfortunately, I felt like I'd been preparing my whole life anyway [for this role],” Englert tells Missing Perspectives over Zoom. “One of the things that really drew me to it is that [the character of] Jacs kind of frightened me because I felt like I so deeply understood her… 

“Something that really rang true for me was the way that she has internalised that she's rotten or rotting somehow,” she continues, “and even though she's kind of defiant about it, it’s untrue. She's almost trying to manifest it in a way, because it would be easier if everything was her fault, so then you can do something about it.”

Exposure star Alice Englert

Exposure star Alice Englert. Photo: Supplied

Englert says Jacs is at a moment in life where she feels “suffocated” and as though her brain “is going to implode” – feelings that she could resonate with. However, as an actor she also wanted to ensure there was a healthy distance between herself and the character once she was off set, especially given the emotionally charged themes. 

“I kind of approached it like she was like a friend that I have a lot of compassion for,” the actor reflects. “While I was shooting, I was like, I have taken on this person as if this is my life. But at the end of it, I'm going to remember that they are just someone I love, and that I'm going to say goodbye Jacs, because I also do want to look after myself.”

Englert says she allowed herself to be curious throughout the acting process – to not be so resolute on what Jacs should or shouldn’t be. To be forgiving towards herself when the heaviness of the day became overwhelming.  

“I knew going into it that there would be times where I would be crying after work. That's all right, I'd be crying at some point during the week anyway, so I'm gonna do it through something I love,” she laughs. 

She says she came out of this experience “more healed than re-triggered”, attributing this to the support of intimacy coordinator Amy Cater, show writer Lucy Coleman, director Bonnie Moir and Executive Producer Nicole O'Donohue. 

“It was like this brunette army,” says Englert. “We just knew that we were all making the same kind of show, and that we were tough and sensitive in ways that were going to work for us. I think that actually just set the tone for the whole thing.” 

Exposure star Alice Englert

Photo: Supplied.

Rounding out the cast of this Aussie production are Heartbreak High’s Thomas Weatherall, Mia Artemis, Essie Davis and Sean Keenan – a diverse group that Englert describes working with as “especially ecstatic and invigorating”. 

Englert’s been in the entertainment game for some time – in fact, showbiz runs in her blood. She’s the daughter of Australian filmmaker Colin Englert and New Zealand filmmaker Jane Campion – who made headlines in 2022 when she became the third female director to win Best Director at the Oscars for The Power of the Dog. But despite her family connections or the fact that she’s been acting since she was eight, Englert doesn’t want to let any external noise or assumptions about who she is impact her work or what her career journey means to her. 

“I never know what anyone thinks about me,” she laughs. “I started acting so young, and there was a time where I really felt like I could have just been anybody – like I was kind of a relatively alright looking actress and person. I knew that I was a real weirdo, and acting really felt like a way to survive being grossly sensitive. I felt like I had to do it like self preservation. That's a crazy thing to be trying to have a career out of in that way, and weird that it worked and is working.” 

One of the more challenging aspects of her job has been dealing with the media. When she first did interviews, press tours and photo shoots, she felt “a sort of shiver going down my spine”. 

“It wasn't really what attracted me to it [acting], because as much as you want to do press and then feel like you're gorgeous and interesting, you mostly feel a bit embarrassed and see you've been photoshopped, and you’re like, ‘Oh, my neck's not that long’ and you’re just left with a lot of confusion about yourself,” she says. 

Alice Englert in Exposure

Alice Englert in Exposure. Photo: Stan.

Having now done this for two decades, Englert’s feeling a bit more at ease with the attention and who she is. “I feel like now I'm just more happily confused,” she laughs. “I think people know I'm a little bit strange, and I'm quite relieved about that, because I think it's actually my strength.” 

No doubt the press, crowds and audiences at Sydney Film Festival will soak up Englert’s infectious energy on Saturday night when she attends the premiere of Exposure. Amongst the glitz and glam of it all on the red carpet, Englert’s most looking forward to viewers walking into the cinema, immersing themselves into Jacs’ world, and taking away the most important message of all, “You are absolutely not alone”.  

Exposure will be streaming on Stan from June 27. Watch the trailer below: