Firstly it has to be recognised that Hayley Magnus is tall; Brooke Shields, Julia Roberts kind of tall. It’s rare these days to see a tall actress. All limbs and serious charm, Hayley has an even rarer brand of wacky humour, one that seems to disarm her striking beauty and instantly makes you want to become her best friend. We caught Australian actress Hayley Magnus while she was in Melbourne, working on duties for the television series she currently stars in, The Wrong Girl (Channel 10) before she flew home to Los Angeles, where she currently resides with her lovely fiancée and a jungle of houseplants. We talked film, acting, LA and books (she’s a fan).
What book is on your bedside table at the moment?
In our house we have books and plants and not much else. It sounds healthy and wholesome but some more spoons would be really convenient. I’ve got many piles on the go but I just picked up Elephant by Raymond Carver and Eve’s Hollywood by Eve Babitz.
Who is your favourite female author and why?
Laurie Colwin is much underrated and one of my favourites. Her short stories are the best - charming and strange and like a much weirder Nancy Meyer movie.
For those who find themselves limited to the 140 character world we live in, can you recommend a great new book?
I do book reviews on my Instagram which are not good for the ‘likes’ but are great for overall image of being literate. I recently did a top five of 2016 and I would encourage anyone to give those a whirl. One on that list is Gay Talese, The Voyeur’s Motel. It's a journalistic account about a man who bought a motel to spy on guests, particularly their sex lives. If that's not going to get you into a book/make you feel uneasy staying in hotels I don’t know what will!
It’s been some years since your relocation from Sydney to LA, what do you love about living in the US? Do you feel like an Angeleno?
I wouldn’t say I feel like an Angeleno but there are plenty of parts around the city that I don’t need my google maps for anymore, does that count?
Can you describe the suburb you live in LA, and where are your go-to spots?
I live in Silver Lake. The lake isn’t silver it's just regular water coloured and it's technically not a lake, it's a reservoir but it's a more compelling name than Regular Reservoir. For food I like SQIRL, Pine & Crane, Madcapra, Kismit, and Honey Hi. Cook Book in Echo Park does a great Tahini cookie and sells some of my favourite fancy sardines (not advised to eat simultaneously). LA is big on iced drinks - coffee, tea, matcha etc which I love but I’m cutting down on my plastic use and it’s significantly less fun sans straw.
Best spot for a cocktail in LA?
I’m a big fan of a Dirty martini. I like them filthy. Disgusting even. I’ll go TAIX, a french restaurant and bar which has been around since the 1920s for one of those. I also went through a stage of Sophia’s from Stella which is a mescal and grapefruit cocktail that gets me really funny. For old Hollywood charm you can’t beat Musso & Franks where you can put your bottom where Cary Grants bottom was!
What compelled you to go into acting, and what do you love about performing?
My great grandmother took me to a pantomime of Noddy when I was about 4 and the whole time I was just thinking ‘how can I be where Mr Plod is?’. However, by the time I was about 7, I was obscenely precocious and wanted to differentiate myself from all the other kids wanting to be an movie star so I said I wanted to be a volcanologist. I was really into Dante's Peak at the time. I didn’t confess my true desires until a couple of years later, no one was very surprised. I love the idea of being someone else. I'm insufferable so it's great to take a break for a bit.
What is it about storytelling via film that you love most?
A film provides a vicarious opportunity that I'm sure creates a more empathetic person. It’s exposing an audience to different ideas, cultures, eras which I optimistically believe is a way to create more understanding and acceptance.
Can you name your dream role, and dream team? Who in the industry would you love to work with, that you admire?
Frances McDormand, Emma Thomson, Tilda Swinton, Sally Hawkins, Barbra Stanwick (bit hard because she is dead) - any of these would do. Do you think they read this blog?
How do you prepare for a role?
I’ll mine the script for clues and try to form a whole person. How do they move? How do they talk? What is their favourite colour? I’m most comfortable if I can imagine what the character would say if the script wasn’t there.
Being a woman in the entertainment industry, do you feel a certain movement politically or morally, being in the Trump-era world we live?
I don’t know if I notice that my industry is affected any more than any other industry- no one is immune. However I do think as public figures that some celebrities have a responsibility to speak out against the truly hideous behaviour of aforementioned world ‘Leader’. Understandingly lot of people pay more attention to celebrities than they do the NY Times so it’s a way to dispense ideas.
How do you approach your personal style?
Do you have a daily uniform, and what do you wear to an audition?
For auditions I lean towards what I imagine the character would wear without stepping out in head to toe Victorian glory.
Any pre-audition rituals?
Check teeth for inevitable leftovers.
Who’s the last person that you met where you seriously got star-struck?
I worked with Kate Winslet and didn’t say a single funny thing. Everything that came out of my mouth was like a lead ballon.
Can you name a film or television show you watched recently that you loved?
I loved film The Lobster and the HBO series High Maintenance.
For those who don’t know, you actually have a brilliant sense of humour that I think would lend itself to writing - do you ever dabble in writing or have ambition outside of acting?
I am pretty funny but I'm not as good of a writer as I pretend to be.
Finally, where can we catch you on screen? What projects do you have coming out next?
At the moment I'm on The Wrong Girl on Channel Ten with the series Shark Lords (FX) and the film Action Hero coming out soon.
Hayley wears the Odette Silk Dress.