In conversation with Bonnie Piesse
Bonnie Piesse will be starring in the much anticipated LucasFilms and Disney+ Limited Series ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’, set 10 years after the ‘Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith’. She will be returning to the Star Wars world as Beru Whitesun Lars, a Tatooinian woman who is the step aunt of Luke Skywalker and the wife of Owen Lars. ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ is scheduled to premiere on May 27 2022 and run for six episodes until June 22.
Bonnie, you’ll be joining a strong cast of actors from Star Wars and returning as Beru Whitesun Lars in the highly anticipated limited series ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’. How has your role in the Star Wars world impact your acting career?
It’s definitely opened doors as an actor and just in life in general. I feel so grateful to be a part of something that means so much to people all over the world and it’s an amazing experience to be coming back around as Beru and telling a whole other chapter of the story.
‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ begins 10 years after the dramatic events of ‘Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith’. Tell us more about the story of the series and what can we expect.
The series opens with Obi-Wan in a pretty dark place after everything that happened in ‘Revenge of the Sith’. We get to see him go on an incredible journey that ultimately leads him to what we saw in the original trilogy. I think you can expect a wild, exciting ride with many familiar faces and a beautiful humanity that Deborah Chow brought to the performances.
Before you were cast in ‘Star Wars: Attack of the Clones’ and ‘Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith’ you had roles in many Australian TV shows. Now experiencing both Australian and American film industries, what are the main differences between the two in your opinion?
Australia is producing some great quality TV shows and films, but it’s still quite a small world. So I’d say the biggest difference is that the US industry is just so massive in comparison, with so many projects happening all the time. In that way there’s more opportunity in the US for sure, but I do miss that really tight-knit vibe on the Aussie sets.
Your role in ‘Attack of the Clones’ actually brought you to LA and connected you with music producer Val Garay, who offered you a record deal after hearing your original music. As a singer and songwriter you released two solo EPs and had your music featured in numerous TV shows and films. What made you love and pursue music?
I grew up going to small folk festivals in Australia and really fell in love with the craft of songwriting while attending those. It was such an awesome, lively scene where everyone was really there to enjoy the music. I was also so inspired by artists like Jewel, Counting Crows and Jeff Buckley. Their music was so real, raw and honest and I found that writing my own songs was a great, cathartic outlet for my own struggles. So it was kind of therapeutic for me and I found it so beautiful that when I shared my songs, I was able to connect with people in a whole new way.
You picked up a guitar when you were in your teen years and started writing songs, which you entered in competitions and even won some prestigious songwriting awards. Where do you draw inspiration from for your songs? How would you describe the feeling of songwriting to people that have never written a song?
Back in the day I was really inspired by various songwriters and these days I’m actually more drawn to film scores and soundtracks. There’s something about film music that I find has a whole other depth of emotion. In terms of songwriting, I try to keep everything very fresh, raw and emotional. I don’t really like to sit down and force myself to write.! I try and catch the genuine inspiration when it comes.
There’s magic to the process, it’s like the song has a life of its own and it just comes through me and shows me what it wants to be. When I’m really in that zone, it’s so healing and meditative. I can get lost in it for hours and hours and feel so invigorated by it.
You grew up in Sydney, Australia, where you attended the Steiner (Waldorf) school, which was strongly nurtured in art and creativity. Would you say that this is somehow responsible for your career in music and acting?
I feel that my time at the Steiner school was incredibly nurturing for my creative expression. I have so many awesome memories of being surrounded by nature, creating all kinds of art and really having the freedom to explore that. The teachers were also really encouraging of me wanting to pursue acting or music as a career. I know that’s not always the case, so I feel really lucky to have had that kind of support.
When you were 14, a friend inspired you to get into acting and introduced you to a talent agent. You then landed your first acting role at 15. What are your memories on the beginnings of your career in the industry?
When I booked my first role in the Australian TV series ‘High Flyers’, I really couldn’t believe my luck. I was so excited to be working in a real, professional project. It was hard work too, with long hours and a very steep learning curve, but pretty quickly I fell in love with acting and being on set and everything it involved. I’m also really happy that I started out in Australia because it was a pretty down to earth vibe. I think starting out in Hollywood can be a whole different experience for kids.
What do you love most about Australia and what is the one thing that you miss most about it?
I’d have to say my favorite thing about Australia is the nature and its landscapes. It has everything from incredible beaches, lush rainforests and massive deserts, etc. And I really miss the cafe culture. There’s nothing like a good coffee and brunch in a lovely Aussie cafe. The culinary experience is really incredible and I haven’t quite found anything that compares in any other country.
One of the major journeys in your life was captured in the hit HBO’s docu-series ‘The Vow’. It reveals the emotional toll of unfolding events about ‘self help’ organization NXIVM, who’s leader, Keith Raniere was convicted of sex trafficking and racketering conspiracy, among other crimes. The series tells your story, where you and a number of whistleblowers escaped, fought to rescue others from the grips of the ‘cult’ and eventually helped bring about justice. Why do you believe the message of this story is so important in the world today?
I think it’s really important to bring more awareness to the fact that cults are everywhere. We’re all susceptible to abuse and coercion and the more we can understand how it happens, the more we can protect ourselves and take our power back from these abusive situations and people. While it was extremely vulnerable to share my story, it felt like the right thing to do and it’s been really moving to see how it’s helped other people on their journey to freeing themselves and taking their lives back.
You just wrapped filming on Amanda Raymond’s upcoming romantic comedy ‘My Favorite Girlfriend’. What can you tell us about this upcoming film?
I feel so honored to have been a part of ‘My Favorite Girlfriend’. It’s a love story that’s so full of heart, humor and goodness.
My character suffers from dissociative identity disorder and so I actually played 7 different characters. It was by far the hardest role I’ve ever done and stretched me to all kinds of places I had no idea I was capable of, but the cast and crew were amazing and I’m so proud of it. I think it’ll bring more awareness to DID and what it’s really like for people who suffer from it and the people in their lives. It really humanizes the whole struggle.
What does the rest of 2022 look like for you? Any exciting new films, shows or music that you can’t wait to work on?
I’ve just been attached to a project I really love, which hopefully I can talk about very soon, and I’m working on my next solo EP. My husband and I are also writing a mystery thriller which we hope to shoot in Portugal in 2023.
Photography: Patricia Imbarus
Casting: Timi Letonja
INTERVIEW BY JANA LETONJA