Mother-daughter duo passes Top of the Lake test

17th August 2017 7:00 AM
Alice Englert, Jane Campion and Nicole Kidman pose for a photograph at the Top of the Lake: China Girl Australian premiere in Sydney. Alice Englert, Jane Campion and Nicole Kidman pose for a photograph at the Top of the Lake: China Girl Australian premiere in Sydney. PAUL MILLER

WHEN Alice Englert said "mum" on the set of Top of the Lake, she could have been referring to any one of three women.

The actress and filmmaker joins the cast of her mother Jane Campion's acclaimed drama for season two, titled China Girl.

The 22-year-old says she knew there would be risks working directly under her mum, an Oscar-winner who made her TV debut with season one of Top of the Lake four years ago.

Actors Nicole Kidman, Alice Englert, director Ariel Kleiman, actress Elisabeth Moss, director Jane Campion and actors Gwendoline Christie and David Dencik pose for photographers during the photo call for the film Top Of The Lake: China Girl at the 70th international film festival, Cannes, southern France.
Actors Nicole Kidman, Alice Englert, director Ariel Kleiman, actress Elisabeth Moss, director Jane Campion and actors Gwendoline Christie and David Dencik pose for photographers during the photo call for the film Top Of The Lake: China Girl at the 70th international film festival, Cannes, southern France. Alastair Grant



"Jane and I are really quite chuffed that we made it through," Alice tells The Guide.

"We were having dinner toward the end of the shoot and suddenly we realised here we were eating and talking and still okay.

"We knew that what we wanted to do in working together was unusual and there was a certain amount of risk involved. It was exciting because it felt like we had enough energy and a feeling about what we could pull off to do it anyway.

Alice Englert in a scene from Top of the Lake: China Girl.
Alice Englert in a scene from Top of the Lake: China Girl. Lisa Tomasetti



"I was so excited about the work and what we could do that I managed to stay in that space and not get distracted with how big of a fail I could have, alternatively, pulled off."

Season two is set in Bondi, where Detective Robin Griffin (Golden Globe winner Elisabeth Moss) has returned home to try to rebuild her life and make contact with the daughter she gave up at birth.

Alice plays Mary, Robin's biological daughter and the adopted daughter of Pyke (Ewen Leslie) and Julia (Nicole Kidman).

"Elisabeth was extremely welcoming from the get go and that brought a lot of focus to what I was doing," she says.

"On the first instalment we shared a cigarette and Mary and Robin do the same in the second episode (when they meet).

Elisabeth Moss and Alice Englert in a scene from season two of Top of the Lake.
Elisabeth Moss and Alice Englert in a scene from season two of Top of the Lake. Lisa Tomasetti



"When we had first met she'd seen something in me that reminded her of Robin. Whatever she saw was very deep inside of me and apparently when Jane announced she was going to chuck me into the mix I'm the only one Elisabeth could have imagined, which is an intense thing to say. That means a lot to me."

Alice also drew inspiration from her other on-set mum Nicole, whose character Julia has a volatile relationship with the rebellious Mary.

When viewers first meet Mary, 17, she is preparing to introduce her much older boyfriend Alexander (David Dencik) to her parents, who are going through a divorce.

Alice Englert in a scene from Top of the Lake: China Girl.
Alice Englert in a scene from Top of the Lake: China Girl. Lisa Tomasetti



"Nicole really does what she wants in the sense that she really tries to do work that is interesting to her. I've been watching her and appreciating that about her forever in my life," she says.

"Mary thinks Julia might understand her the most and that's why they push each other."

But what no one knows is Alexander may be connected to a crime Robin is investigating. When the body of an Asian girl washes up on Bondi Beach, there appears to be little hope of finding the killer until Robin realises "China Girl" didn't die alone.

Top of the Lake: China Girl premieres on BBC First on Sunday at 8.30pm.