7 Questions with Top of the Lake: China Girl Star Ewen Leslie (Pyke)
Top of the Lake: China Girl star Ewen Leslie introduces his character Pyke’s journey, discusses his audition with creator Jane Campion and divulges his love for her films.
Q: Can you introduce us to your character?
A: I play Pyke who is married to Julia, played by Nicole Kidman. And we are the adoptive parents of Mary, played by Alice Englert, who is Robin’s daughter. And when we meet Pyke at the beginning of the story, he’s very much in a bit of a funk in his life. For lack of better words, he’s a bit lost. His wife has fallen in love with another woman and they’re in the middle of getting a divorce. And I think he’s at a point in his life where he’s a bit unsure which direction to take and he’s become a bit inactive. And I suppose throughout the course of the story he has certain fires that are reignited.
Q: What is his relationship like with his daughter Mary?
A: He has an incredibly close relationship with his daughter Mary, which is tested when she starts seeing Puss, played by David Dencik, who I think in Pyke’s eyes is pretty bad news.
Q: What made you want to work on Top of the Lake: China Girl?
A: … I love Jane Campion. I’m a really big fan. I love her films. And I was really just happy that I got an audition, to be honest. I thought, “Well, at the very least I’ve got Jane’s attention for 15 minutes or however long I can stretch this audition out.” So I went in and did the audition, and it was great to meet her and it went well. And then a month later, I got the call saying that I got the job, which was a really great day.
But I’d actually only read the first episode when I auditioned, and I loved it, but I instantly found it very different to the first season, which I was really excited by. And there were big, long dialogue scenes that you don’t necessarily normally get in TV. It was kind of like reading a play, I suppose. And then as I was given the other scripts and I read through it, I genuinely found them really surprising. And really exciting. And there’s just a wonderful sense of character revealing.
Q: What was your experience like working with Top of the Lake: China Girl creator Jane Campion?
A: Jane is very supportive, challenging… she really pushes you. But also really trusts you, which is an amazing thing. I mean, I feel very empowered working with her. And I’ve learned a lot working with her. … So, I feel very lucky and very blessed that I was given the opportunity to work with Jane Campion. It’s been extraordinary.
Q: What kind of journey is Pyke on?
A: Some of it’s really sort of emotional. I think what Jane and Gerard Lee were interested in was setting up this guy who was very sort of very calm, collected … and putting him in situations where he was going to be forced to lose control a bit. So that’s been really challenging at times, but also, really exciting to play as well. I feel a great responsibility playing Pyke, but I think everyone feels that with their characters, and I think everyone is aware that they have a very specific sort of thing that they have to hold up amongst the ensemble, so I feel very blessed to be a part of it.
Q: What was your experience working with Top of the Lake: China Girl director Ariel Kleiman?
A: I’d seen Ariel’s Partisan, which I really enjoyed. So I was really keen to work with him. And he’s been fantastic. It’s a huge job for him, a huge job — and he rarely gets stressed. I mean, he’s taken it all in his stride and I think has done a really wonderful job. I really look forward to seeing his episodes and I think they’re going to be really great.
Q: What was it like filming in Sydney?
A: The scope of the show is huge. I mean, Sydney, it’s a really varied city. And there’s a lot of different facets to it and I think that this series kind of visits all sorts of places. And you get to see lots of different sides of the city and the people. … But the scope of it, the sheer amount of characters in this is, is huge.