For rising star Liv Hewson, taking a starring role in Homecoming Queens was a very easy decision:
“I really fell in love with the project quite quickly and knew when I auditioned for it that the writing was something very special. I never had any second thoughts about wanting to be involved. It was like an immediate attraction for me,” Hewson told SBS on the phone from LA, which she now calls home.
In the short-run comedy Homecoming Queens, Hewson appears as Chloe, a young post-mastectomy breast cancer survivor. She is reunited with her best friend Michelle, who is going through her own medical crisis after losing her hair due to alopecia.
“I was really drawn to the opportunity to explore the alienation that chronic illness brings to people. Especially when you’re young.
“The idea of playing with ideas about being in your early 20s, finding yourself, and at the same time having to deal with your own mortality and having a relationship with your body that’s more intimate is something that … I hadn’t seen anything that explored those topics in a grounded and intimate way - especially written by people who have had such experience with it,” Hewson explained.
The series is from the writing team of Michelle Law and Chloë Reeson. While they are both quick to point out that the show is not autobiographical, it is informed heavily by their own medical experiences.
22 year-old Liv Hewson grew up in Canberra, but has made a name for herself internationally as the star of the Netflix series Santa Clarita Diet, where she appears alongside Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant. In that series she plays the daughter of an undead zombie woman who lives as a relatively functional person.
Tonally, Homecoming Queens and Santa Clarita Diet are quite different, but each have a perspective on the form and function human body. While the Netflix series is a body horror comedy, Homecoming Queens is incredibly grounded in the way it depicts the very real emotional toil of facing an illness.
“They’re two projects that definitely deal with one’s relationship to the body in very different ways. One is more intimate and harrowing, while the other is more absurd and gory,” Hewson said.
The main characters in Homecoming Queens are both battling the issue of being defined by their illness. While Michelle is hiding from the world, fearful of people discovering her hair has gone, Hewson’s character Chloë is determined not to let the cancer prevent her from living a fulfilling life. She works in a bra store and works through a 'reverse bucket list', including working up the nerve to pursue a girl she is into, and exploring some casual drug taking. For Hewson, it’s a role that pushes more boundaries than her previous on-screen work has entailed.
“I was asked recently about the fact I show my body more in Homecoming Queens than I have in other things and whether that was difficult to do. I never thought twice about it. For me it was just part of the story and part of the world we were building, the experience we were communicating.
“I was totally comfortable with all the material in the show and enthusiastic about doing everything we had to do in the show. It was a super comfy experience for me all-round. That’s definitely a credit to how well-written the show is and the environment that the director, Corrie Chen, built on the set. It was totally comfy,” Hewson said.
Some audiences may recognise Hewson from previous roles, such as Top of The Lake, the Marvel superhero show Inhumans, and the film Before I Fall. It was with Dramaworld, however, that Hewson had a starring role. In that series she played a western girl who, obsessed with Korean drama series, found herself in the world of her favourite TV show.
Filming the series was an eye-opening experience for the actress: “When I was sent the material for auditions for Dramaworld, I didn’t know much about the international fandom surrounding Korean dramas. I had never spent any time in Asia before, so when I flew over to film Dramaworld in Seoul, the cast and crew and I became very good friends. That was the first time I had an experience like that, which I treasure and hold dearly. In playing Claire, I was exposed to a genre of storytelling that I wasn’t very familiar with, and a relationship internationally with a culture I wasn’t familiar with. It was a real learning experience for me in the best possible way. I’m very grateful to Dramaworld for what I learned making it."
With Homecoming Queens, Hewson will no doubt gain many new fans. Many will find her on Twitter where she has been fairly vocal about her passions. As her following on the social media platform grows, Hewson is mindful of how she approaches Twitter: “The best way to deal with it is to be yourself as genuinely as possible. I speak publicly about the things I am speaking privately about and there is no difference - the things I’m passionate about and dissecting with my friends and family, the things that are valuable to me, are the things that I publicly share and publicly promote. As long as that is consistent, there is nothing to stress about.”
Homecoming Queens, re-edited as a feature film, screens on SBS VICELAND this Thursday 3 May at 9pm. You can watch Homecoming Queens anytime at SBS On Demand: