Canberra girl Liv Hewson starring with Drew Barrymore in Netflix series
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Canberra girl Liv Hewson starring with Drew Barrymore in Netflix series

Liv Hewson, Canberra born and bred, now starring as Drew Barrymore's daughter on the Netflix-original series, Santa Clarita Diet, is not afraid to throw around the occasional "mate" when necessary on her Twitter account.

She "sounds" Aussie on her Twitter account but down the line from LA, her kind-of-no-nonsense-Jodie-Foster-sounding acquired American accent is firmly in place.

Former Canberra girl Liv Hewson in Hollywood where she is making a name for herself,  working with big names from Drew Barrymore to Jane Campion.

Former Canberra girl Liv Hewson in Hollywood where she is making a name for herself, working with big names from Drew Barrymore to Jane Campion.Credit:Tommy Garcia

"I've always found an American accent pretty easy to fall into and I do think that's because of The Simpsons," she said.

"I come from a family where a lot of our favourite running jokes just rely on us quoting things.

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Liv Hewson deep in a book during her childhood in Canberra. Words, stories, language have always been important to her.

Liv Hewson deep in a book during her childhood in Canberra. Words, stories, language have always been important to her.

"We'd watch The Simpsons and Futurama together and we'd watch American films and obviously growing up listening to American music.

"I really like listening to accents and trying to mimic them just because I think it's fun. I'm really fascinated how people speak and how voices work, just from a mechanical perspective.

"So I think I just kind of learned 'American' as a child out of curiosity and now it's come in kind of handy."

That's for sure. Liv Hewson - all the way from that loungeroom in the leafy suburb of Hughes in the ACT - is now a star on the rise in Hollywood.

Liv Hewson as a little cutie in Canberra. She grew up in Hughes.

Liv Hewson as a little cutie in Canberra. She grew up in Hughes.

Just two years after she ventured to the United States in search of an acting career, Liv is living the dream.

Not only does she have a high-profile role on Santa Clarita Diet, alongside Hollywood royalty in Barrymore, her new movie, Before I Fall, has just been released in the US and Australia.

Skyler Gisondo, from left, Timothy Olyphant, Liv Hewson and Drew Barrymore arrive at the Los Angeles premiere of "Santa Clarita Diet".

Skyler Gisondo, from left, Timothy Olyphant, Liv Hewson and Drew Barrymore arrive at the Los Angeles premiere of "Santa Clarita Diet".Credit:Richard Shotwell

The 21-year-old also has a role in series two of Jane Campion's acclaimed television production Top of the Lake, which also happens to star none other than Nicole Kidman.

"That was incredible," she said. "I am really inspired by women, in particular, who are just powerhouses of positive work and mentorship and collaborative experience.

Drew Barrymore, left, and Liv Hewson at the LA premiere of Santa Clarita Diet. They play mother and daughter on the show.

Drew Barrymore, left, and Liv Hewson at the LA premiere of Santa Clarita Diet. They play mother and daughter on the show.Credit:Richard Shotwell

"And just ambition. I love seeing that and I love being around it."

For Liv, not only achieving an acting career, but doing so in such a stellar fashion, does not feel like an overnight success. She's been hard at it since her days in the Canberra Youth Theatre.

Liv Hewson credits the Canberra Youth Theatre for her start in acting.

Liv Hewson credits the Canberra Youth Theatre for her start in acting.Credit:Tommy Garcia

"I never really wanted to do anything else," she said.

"I was in my first school play at age nine, I think. I started working with Canberra Youth Theatre as a teenager and that's where I did most of my training, with theatre companies outside of school. But I was also studying theatre at school.

"I always knew I wanted to perform and I wanted to write and I wanted to tell stories. So I had no back-up whatsoever, which infuriated some of my teachers.

"But I was just a very headstrong young person I think, looking back at it."

Born in Canberra, Liv went to Garran Primary and Alfred Deakin High schools and Canberra College. Her mum Angela is a public servant and her dad, Tony, a psychologist. She has three brothers.

She appeared in some student films and attended acting classes and then went to Los Angeles at age 19 to attend an acting workshop.

"I knew how to pretend to be other people but I didn't know how the business of it worked, so that was a big turning point for me," she said.

"Then I found representation in America and Australia and started auditioning in both places and that's how the ball starting rolling."

She auditioned for Santa Clarita Diet from Australia.

"I made a tape, I recorded myself, and then uploaded it and sent it off and got flown in for a screen test and then I was cast," she said.

The show, which has been described as Desperate Housewives meets The Walking Dead has Barrymore starring as a working mother turned undead cannibal in a riff on suburban monotony and what it means to live a full life.

It's had mixed reviews, not least for all the gore up against the quirkiness. Liv, as Barrymores' daughter, is the important foil for her mother's new carpe diem attitude rather than just a drift in and drift out character. And the final episode of the first series, featuring a magnificent cameo by fellow Aussie Portia de Rossi, shows all the series can be as literally every line sings.

"I really like the show. I liked it the minute I read it," Liv said.

"I love the way it plays around with genre, I love the wit that it has and that at the heart of the story is a family making a mess of things but still very much loving each other and trying to batten down the hatches in the face of complete weirdness.

"I mean, I was always aware working on the show, I would watch this. Even if I had nothing to do with it, this is a show I would love to see. And that's a really exciting feeling to be part of a project that you have a genuine love for. And being able to set it free and let other people in the world also see it, is very special."

So what is it like working with Drew?

"Oh, she's wonderful. She's an incredible woman and an incredible actor and I loved working with her."

Her latest movie, Before I Fall, based on the novel by Lauren Oliver, was released in Australia on March 16.

"I play a very headstrong, very independent, very kind of armoured character in Before I Fall. I'm excited to show her off. "

Liv now splits her time between LA and Melbourne, depending on where she is filming. So what does she miss About Australia?

"I miss coffee," she said, wistfully.

"I miss Australian coffee.

"I mean, I love to travel. I'm very greedy about travelling, To work a job that allows me to travel makes me feel like I'm cheating somehow, like I'm getting away with something.

"When I'm away from home, I miss Australian birds - magpies and cockatoos. The loud screechy ones. I miss trees and the landscape. I miss the physicality of Australia.

"And of course there are people I miss when I'm away but it's kind of nice I'm doing this work in an age when I can pick up a phone and talk to people around the globe. You don't really lose people."

And Canberra is still very close to her heart. It was where she learnt to develop her creativity.

"Of course, Canberra Youth Theatre was instrumental in my development as an actor and I will happily tout that organisation for hours," she said.

"But I also think Canberra is a physically beautiful place and it's a very friendly place and it's very calm so that sense of stability and security very much informed me growing up and made me very adaptable.

"Especially as a teenager in Canberra, there's a necessity for you to go out and make your own fun because it's less bustling, less dense, less urbanised than a lot of Australian cities.

"So my friends and I would do things like write our own material or put on shows ourselves or just make art or just spend hours inventing stuff.

"If you want to make something happen in a place that is a little bit quieter, not in a bad way, but it's just a little bit more sedate, you have to get up and collaborate and do the work together.

"So that was actually really exciting and has informed my work ethic a lot."

And, it's surprising, that in such car-centric cities as Canberra and Los Angeles that she has yet to get her driver's licence.

"I have no idea how to drive at all. I am very lucky to grow up in the time of Uber," she said.

"Growing up in Canberra and not knowing how to drive, I learned how to navigate a lacklustre bus system.

"I mean all love to ACTION and I adore them but sometimes it does take a while to get places. So hacking public transport was something Canberra taught me."

She loves to read and Margaret Attwood remains her favourite author. She loves words and language. Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet is her favourite film.

"I read, I knit now and then. I love to just get out and walk. I love spending time outdoors. I love consuming stories as an audience member, seeing films and plays. I think I get lost in my head a lot which is a good thing sometimes."

She inevitably meets other Aussie actors. She recently met Hunger Games actress Stef Dawson for the first time, in LA, despite them growing up a few kilometres away from each other in Canberra, Stef in Farrer and Liv in Hughes.

A confident young woman with a genuine sweetness, Liv seems strong enough to survive the vicissitudes of Hollywood. Her talent will be her passport to an incredible life.

"I love the day-to-day grind of being an actor. I genuinely love showing up to work every day and trying stories on and exploring characters and ideas and doing it with other people who are passionate and driven and working as a team," she said.

"As far as TV and film, goes, I don't really mind. I think the goal for me is just to keep on keeping on. Keep at it. Keep doing it. And stay on track with it."

Megan Doherty is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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