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If I had to sum up Yvonne Strahovski in one sentence, I’d say she’s the über-cool action hero, minus the corny acting. In her breakout role as the ass-kicking CIA agent Sarah Walker in Chuck, she gave hope to every computer geek in America that they too might meet and fall in love with a hot blonde who knows kung fu. She also made death by poison seem like a favorable way to go as the lethal Hannah McKay in Dexter. Next she’ll play a scientist alongside Aaron Eckhart in I, Frankenstein, out Jan. 24. Malibu Magazine recently caught up with the Australian gem to get the low down on Comic-Con, Broadway and how to make a perfect cup of coffee.
I just read that there’s some speculation that Dexter may not be gone forever. If the show returned, what do you think we’d find your character doing?
Well, she has Harrison now, so that’s a big responsibility, and if she hasn’t poisoned him already, she would be looking after him and really trying to be a good mom, because I think she really loved Harrison. The other alternative is she has poisoned Harrison and is doing bad things, and she’s gone dark.
There seems to be a running theme of good and bad, and the gray area between the two in a lot of your work.
I think that’s just a product of circumstance. I choose my roles based on various things but mainly the character, and if it’s something new or something I haven’t done, or something I can make into something interesting and different for me.
Can you talk a bit about Stuart Beattie’s interpretation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? How has he reimagined the classic tale?
It’s sort of launching off the end of Mary Shelley’s novel. We fast-forward 200 years from the end of Mary Shelley’s book. It’s a tale about the creature, Frankenstein, having still survived into the present day because he’s immortal and how he has come to be this way and his search for answers. And within that you meet my character, Dr. Terra Wade, who is an electro-physiologist. She’s a scientist, and she’s the modern-day Victor Frankenstein researching how to bring things back to life for medical purposes. She doesn’t believe in the myth of the creature Frankenstein, and she doesn’t believe in gargoyles and demons, but yet these things are all alive in her world, and she sort of discovers them throughout the movie.
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Did you ever read comic books growing up?
I was never really a comic book fan. I’ve sort of been recently, and by recently I mean through the Chuck years. I’ve been thrown into that sort of comic world, and you know now I’m a Comic-Con regular because of it. But I do remember when I was younger I loved — I don’t know if this was just an Australian thing or not — but I used to watch the cartoon He-Man with She-Ra. I never really did the comic book, but I loved the cartoon.
Speaking of Comic-Con, you’ve gone several times, are there any alter egos you are secretly wishing you could dress up as?
Ones that exist in real life? I have a couple in my head that I wouldn’t mind playing. But I would probably just throw on a Wookie costume from Star Wars and head in.
How would you describe your personal style on a day-to-day basis?
My personal style is very carefree and without a lot of effort because I can’t be bothered really. I’m sort of the shorts-and-T-shirt girl or the jeans-and-T-shirt girl. I’m happiest when I’m in comfortable clothing that I can run around in and do cartwheels in and then, you know, go straight for a bathing suit and a wetsuit and go surfing.
Theater was your first introduction to acting. And I know you just performed in Golden Boy. Are you interested in doing another Broadway play?
Yeah. That was an extraordinary experience. I had my own theater company in Sydney for a long time, but I hadn’t done theater in about seven years before my Broadway debut. I didn’t ever think that I would go back to theater, but doing that made me rediscover the power and the beauty and the creative energy of it. It’s really something else. It’s probably one of the rare and only times that an actor is fully in control, for an extended period of time, of what he or she is doing. On camera, you stop and start, and there are different shots for different pieces of different scenes. Live theater is one take, and that’s it. So, there’s something very extraordinary and difficult and challenging and terrifying about it all, but it makes it all very rewarding in the end.
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You’ve had so much success in TV, film and even Broadway. Is there anything about the business that still makes you nervous?
Well, yeah. I feel like, as actors, it’s kind of the equivalent of having a job interview all the time and starting a new job all the time. I think that [everyone], to some degree, has some kind of nervousness surrounding that. It’s like the first day of school, when everyone gets a little nervous. What are the people going to be like? Is everyone going to be nice? You know, are people going to be on the same page as me creatively? There are all those natural, normal nervous things that happen. Are people going to make fun of my lunch box? All that stuff.
What’s your favorite vacation destination?
Oh, well I like to change it up a lot. I mean I don’t ever really go to the same place twice because I like to explore different places. The last town that I was in was Exmouth in western Australia. I had never explored the coast of western Australia, and I went there with a girlfriend, and it was extraordinary. We rented a car and drove from Exmouth down to Perth, and it was just beautiful: so much amazing, amazing wildlife everywhere — from kangaroos, snakes and emus and sharks and dolphins. And we just had a great big marine adventure, and we swam with whale sharks and all sorts of things.
What’s this I hear about Australian coffee putting even the best American brew to shame? Is that really true?
You know, it’s not about the brew so much as it is about the way that the milk and everything is made. Because there’s a whole technique. We like to fluff the milk, make it very creamy, and pour it a certain way, but a latte has the perfect amount of froth on it. We don’t call it foam because foam implies that it’s airy and uneven and bubbly, which is often what you get here unfortunately. But in Australia it is … you know, we take pride in that frothing process to make it even and creamy. And we also have things called flat whites, which America doesn’t have.
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What is that?
So, a latte should have a little head of froth on it where a cappuccino should have a big one. And then a flat white is super flat so it doesn’t have a layer of froth on the top.
Have you found a place in L.A. or anywhere in the states that’s a runner up?
I was actually at some little cafeteria at the Dana Point Marina, if I’m remembering correctly. There’s a little cafeteria there, and I was shocked! They creamed, they frothed the milk just perfectly, and it was exactly how an Australian coffee would’ve been served.
Where’s your favorite spot to catch some waves?
My favorite place at the moment is in San Onofre. The San Onofre State Beach. It’s kind of more for long boarding, but it’s awesome on a great day. Ah, I love it, and I’m craving a trip actually. I think I’m going to go next week.
interview Sarah Nipper
photographer Brian Bowen Smith
stylist Cristina Ehrlich
photographer assistants Lee Wall, Jason Michaelson, Kyle Holmquist
stylist assistant Liana Levi
hair Adam Campbell
hair assistant Cory Nartatez
makeup Jennifer Pitt
production assistant Amanda White