Bella Heathcote, who stars in Netflix’s new thriller series “Pieces of Her,” knows how the story ends. But that didn’t stop her from wanting to binge the whole show like the rest of us.
“We were given the first four episodes, and then there was a break before we got the other four,” says Heathcote. “I remember getting to the end of the fourth episode and I was like, I just want to know what happens next — even though obviously I know,” she adds. “It’s the first show I’ve been in that I’ve been able to watch and really enjoy — that I’ve been able to go along for the ride.”
The 34-year-old actress got her start on screen in the Australian soap opera “Neighbours,” and in recent years has starred in projects including the horror film “Relic,” Amazon alt-history series “The Man in the High Castle,” and “Fifty Shades Darker.” Heathcote encountered the script for “Pieces of Her” during pilot season in Los Angeles, and was cast in the lead role opposite Toni Collette in early 2020.
The series is adapted from a 2018 book by pop-thriller writer Karin Slaughter. And although the series deviates from the source material, the premise remains the same: a woman in her early 30s, adrift and living at home, uncovers her mother’s hidden identity after a shocking and violent incident in the first episode.
“’Pieces of Her’ was the best [script] by a country mile,” says Heathcote, adding that she ended up turning down screen tests for several other projects so that she could stay in the running for the part. “I was like, this gamble might not pay off, maybe I won’t get it. But I just wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t take a stab at it.”
In addition to gravitating toward the fast pace of the plot, Heathcote was also captivated by the mother-daughter relationship and her character’s interior arc.
“I related to Andy in that sense of just feeling a bit lost. I certainly had those periods in my life where I felt a bit lost and like I’m not doing what I’m meant to be doing,” she says. “There’s this saying, ‘esteem-able acts grow your self-esteem.’ I can really see that in Andy’s arc. She starts off a bit of a mess and then throughout the season she grows up.”
Slated to shoot in Vancouver in 2020, production was paused for a year and eventually moved to Sydney. Heathcote and Collette, both Australian, were already there, and the show’s female-led production company, Made Up Stories, had recently filmed “Nine Perfect Strangers” on the country’s coast.
In the year between getting cast and finally getting on set, Heathcote engaged in “every pandemic cliché” from baking banana bread to making pottery, taking drawing classes and dialect and vocal work. She also wrote an autobiographical screenplay, which she describes as “incredibly cathartic” and hopes to direct it down the line.
Heathcote, who’s been in Australia for two months, is heading back to California soon to start a new journey. She has several projects on the horizon for later this spring, but “first I’m going to do part of the Pacific Crest Trail,” she says. Heathcote will be hiking the first part of the trail with her husband, an architect who’s based in Australia; both are avid hikers. In addition to offering the pair an opportunity to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature, the trail also has something in common with “Pieces of Her” — executive producer Bruna Papandrea also produced “Wild,” which put the PCT on the pop culture map.
“I’m going to start somewhere in California and hike for a month, depending,” she says, noting that the exact duration is subject to change. “If work stuff doesn’t pan out, I guess I’ll just keep going.”