Frankie Adams' big screen debut in One Thousand Ropes

By Ethan Sills

Frankie Adams at the red carpet premiere of One Thousand Ropes in Berlin. Photo / Brigitte Dummer
Frankie Adams at the red carpet premiere of One Thousand Ropes in Berlin. Photo / Brigitte Dummer

When you spend five years in Ferndale, there's not much you don't end up dealing with.

For Frankie Adams, her time on Shortland Street saw her character Ula Levi go through everything from murder to kidnapping to unwanted pregnancies.

Yet those storylines are nothing compared to her latest gig, which sees the rising star tackle domestic violence in her toughest role yet.

• Listen to Newstalk ZB's interview with Frankie Adams here.

One Thousand Ropes, the latest for The Orator director Tusi Tamasese, sees Adams play Ilisa, the estranged daughter to Maea, a traditional Samoan midwife trying to make up for past sins.

Frankie Adams makes her feature film debut in One Thousand Ropes.
Frankie Adams makes her feature film debut in One Thousand Ropes.

Ilisa turns up on his doorstep, 38 weeks pregnant having fled her violent boyfriend, forcing Maea to confront his past, while Ilisa has to decide whether she trusts him or not.

"This film is about consequence," Adams explains. "What happens with Ilisa is she is starting to experience things she had seen in her childhood, and she's turned up and reuniting with her father [but] they are both dealing with their demons together."

It marks the second time Adams has played a pregnant woman, something she finds a bit strange.

"I must look really fertile or something," she says joking, though admits it can be difficult to get right.

"I've never had a baby [but] I know a lot of people who have so there was never any lack of research, I could talk to a lot of people about it."

It wasn't the only research she had to do. As Ilisa is a victim of domestic violence, Adams wanted to be accurate with her approach to the sensitive topic.

"I was careful who I spoke to. I did ask people who I know personally and they were surprisingly really open. They knew it was an important story to tell. I know that it is a common thing in New Zealand so I wanted to do it with truth and justice."

Although it can be tough to watch - the first time Ilisa appears on screen, she is unable to eat properly as her face is bruised and swollen - Adams is proud of the film.

"Tusi's very brave. It's not your slapstick obvious Samoan comedy. This is more a creating a conversation sort of film.

"It may be hard for some people, as there will be topics that people will relate to. We're here to tell a story and hopefully it's received well."

Filming One Thousand Ropes was full of firsts for Adams. Not only was it her first movie role, but she also recently attended her first film festival.

Film director Tusi Tamasese, actors Frankie Adams and Uelese Petaia attend the One Thousand Ropes press conference at the Berlin Film Festival. Photo / Getty
Film director Tusi Tamasese, actors Frankie Adams and Uelese Petaia attend the One Thousand Ropes press conference at the Berlin Film Festival. Photo / Getty

The film had its world premiere in Berlin in February, screening alongside the likes of Logan and T2: Trainspotting.

A Samoan language movie may not sound as if it would fit in European cinema, but Adams says the audience reaction was "really positive".

"It was amazing. It translated really well. You would have never noticed we were showing it to a bunch of Europeans," she says.

"It's very odd watching yourself on the big screen with a thousand other people. They were so quiet for the entire film so no one really knew how they really felt, but at the end they wanted a Q&A. They got kicked out of the cinema so they could play the next film and the audience booed as they wanted to stay."

It likely won't be long before Adams is back on the festival circuit. Her post-Shorty career is going amazingly, with a stint on Wentworth and a motion capture role in Luc Besson's new film, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, which stars Cara Delevingne and Rihanna.

She also scored a recurring part on US sci-fi series The Expanse, where she plays soldier Bobbie Draper.

"I was quite nervous as I knew Bobbie was a fan favourite in the books. Then I went to a few Comic-Cons and they had only released a few photos of me and there were hundreds of people there wanting to meet 'her'."

Though Adams is "very rarely" in New Zealand now due to the long shoots, she says she doesn't want to be a "US snob" and hopes to do more projects here.

"Though I love being overseas, I love being home. I remind myself that these are incredible experiences and I'm very fortunate to be able to do them. Coming home is more like a reward now."

However, don't expect a return to Ferndale any time soon.

"[Ula's] having too much fun overseas," Adams laughs. "I appreciate that show and everything it taught me but I don't think I'll ever be going back."

LOWDOWN:
Who: Frankie Adams
What: One Thousand Ropes
When: In cinemas next Thursday

- NZ Herald

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