In recent years, Mia Wasikowska has been known for taking on more dramatic projects, such as the thrillers Stoker and The Double in 2013, playing the tormented Madame Bovary in 2014, or getting entangled in Guillermo del Toro’s gothic horror Crimson Peak in 2015. Now, she’s trying her hand at comedy, portraying a Pioneer-era woman in the Western comedy Damsel.
“You always want to do something different to what you’ve done before,” Wasikowska tells EW. “I didn’t feel like I had done a comedy like this ever…I don’t often get offered those kinds of roles but I’d love to do more of that.”
In Damsel, the 28-year-old actress plays Penelope, who is the subject of a rescue mission embarked upon by Samuel, a goofy cowboy played by Robert Pattinson. For the first half of the film, Penelope is only referred to as part of Samuel’s quest to rescue his kidnapped fiancée as he talks about her kind, sweet nature. But once Penelope is introduced, the story takes an unexpected turn and she doesn’t really need rescuing. To reveal any more would be to give away spoilers in the film, but Wasikowska gets to exercise anger and ruthlessness in the context of a dark comedy.
Wasikowska says she was drawn to the character of Penelope because of how unexpected Penelope’s journey is. “It leads the audience and me, the first time I read it, down a certain path and then pulls the rug out from underneath you,” she explains. “And I love the commentary on expectations and the kind of self-serving nature of trying to save someone.”
She also liked the fact that Penelope was an independent woman. “She’s actually the one taking responsibility for herself whereas all the other characters are so desperate in trying to pull anything into their swirl of horror and I just liked that independent sense in her,” Wasikowska says. “The risk of it is that you come across as unkind, but she’s actually the kindest of the characters.”
Of course, one of Wasikowska’s most memorable characters is her titular role in Disney’s live-action Alice in Wonderland franchise. Though the actress says she doesn’t know of any plans for a third installment, she would “totally do it” if given the chance. Until that happens, check out the trailer for Damsel below, in theaters now.