If you’ve watched Bridesmaids as many times as I have, you likely need no introduction to actor Rebel Wilson’s comedic chops; she’s capable of delivering the most anodyne lines in a way that threatens to elicit drink-spilling laughter. But this winter, she’s expanding her repertoire with a dramatic role in Celyn Jones’s film The Almond and the Seahorse, which features Wilson and Charlotte Gainsbourg as two women doing their best to cope with their respective partners’ traumatic brain injuries.
Recently, Vogue spoke to Wilson about making the quantum leap from comedy to emotionally raw drama, why she opted to welcome her first child via surrogate, and the rom-com-worthy story of how she met her girlfriend. Read the full interview below.
Vogue: First off, how are you doing today?
Rebel Wilson: I’m great. I’m in my office in West Hollywood right now. My baby’s only three weeks old, so—
Oh my God, congratulations!
Thank you so much! It’s definitely a massive change, but I do have help. My mum is here, and sometimes I do still feel pretty out of it, but that is so helpful.
What have the last three weeks been like for you?
Well, I feel so lucky, because I have such great help and such a wonderful partner in my girlfriend Ramona [Agruma, a fashion and jewelry designer]. Still, this morning, I was like, do I have breakfast, or do I put on makeup? Because I don’t have time to do both. [Laughs.] The baby is so low-key, though; I just love cuddling her. She’s not doing much but pooping, eating, and sleeping, but I love playing her classic Disney songs and showing her baby flashcards.
What was it like taking on such an emotionally intense role in The Almond and the Seahorse?
It really is such a different role, because I’ve been doing the glossy Hollywood comedies. When I came to America, I was like, I’m going to be the female Jonah Hill and totally just crush it! But I actually started as a serious actress in Australia. I wanted to be the next Dame Judi Dench, but nobody in Hollywood really saw me for those roles, so when The Almond and the Seahorse came around, I was like, oh my God, it’s such a gutsy and challenging role. I felt like I had to do it to get back those acting muscles. Comedy isn’t hard [laughs], because you’re just mucking around with your friends and having fun a lot of the time, but prep for this movie was kind of torturous. It was a real acting challenge, but it was so exciting to dip my toe back into that.
Is there anything you did in particular in order to get yourself ready for the role?
Well, we filmed in kind of a depressing pandemic time. It was March of 2021, so I had to be locked down for two weeks by myself in a hotel when I arrived in London. In real life, I was also trying have a baby, and towards the end of the shoot I got the terrible news that the egg harvest hadn’t survived. My character was going through painful stuff, but so was I, and remembering that helped me to really form who Sarah was. Before making this film, I didn’t realize how common it was to have a traumatic brain injury, and I think it could have a really powerful impact on people to see that experience reflected onscreen.
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I’m so sorry to hear about the egg harvest. Was there any part of the IVF process you wish you’d known more about before undergoing it yourself?
Well, I always wanted to prioritize my career, and I wanted kids my way, but I really did always want to become a mother. I’ve been through the process five times now, and the odds are not great when you are over 40, but the process of the technology was really amazing to me. I decided to go down the surrogate route because I only really had one healthy embryo; it was a hard decision, but I wanted to give myself the best odds. It’s not hugely painful, but you do get quite emotional and have to give yourself shots and get bruises on your stomach, and you feel a bit rubbish for a week afterward. The emotional journey of it was harder for me, but now I have a baby, and my daughter’s going to have a great life because of all that work.
How did you meet your girlfriend? I was obsessed with your Instagram hard launch!
We met through a mutual friend, Pete Sheridan, who’s quite a famous actor in Australia. For five years, he never introduced us, because I was dating guys and I guess he just never thought about it, but then I was telling him that my dating life wasn’t feeling quite right, and he was like, “You should meet my friend Ramona.” A month later, he e-introduced us and we started texting and talking on the phone and really developed an old-fashioned connection. Then I flew to meet her in person! In The Almond and the Seahorse, I have a scene where I kiss Charlotte Gainsbourg, and that was actually my first kiss with a woman. I mean, it was acting, obviously, but I do wonder if I would have been as open in real life if it weren’t for that…