Noomi Rapace Talks 'What Happened To Monday?

Swedish-born Noomi Rapace has been slowly but surely building up a career in American movies and making a real mark in the industry. Her facial gestures and looks can sometimes be filled up with an innumerable amount of emotions, and her physical prowess — she’s no slouch in the muscle department — builds considerable screen presence in itself. Lately, the 36-year-old actress has been working with genre fare, starring as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw in Ridley Scott’s “Alien” prequel “Prometheus,” leading the horror flick “Rupture,” and featured in the upcoming Netflix blockbuster “Bright.”

Her latest performance might be her most ambitious yet. In the Netflix-produced “What Happened to Monday?” Roomi portrays seven identical sisters living a secret life in the not so distant future. Why are they in hiding? Overpopulation in society and a famine epidemic have given government no other choice but to put forth a one-child per family policy. The Bureau is headed by Nicolette Cayman (Glenn Close), whose strict and authoritarian policy the sisters try to outwit.

The sisters are aptly titled after the days of the week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Each of them can go outside once a week as their common identity, but the real freedom comes in their isolated and hidden apartment where they can say and do what they want without being watched over.  Of course, a film such as this one would not have enough drama without a conflict arising, and it’s simple yet effective: Monday disappears. Where did she go? This mystery drives the movie and puts forth surprises that no review should reveal.

It could have all easily crumbled down through its ambitions, but “What Happened to Monday?” works thanks to Rapace’s tour-de-force performance. It didn’t come easy though. We spoke to her about it as she revealed the mental and physical hardships that came in playing the seven sisters.

What Happened To Monday Noomi RapaceThis is a rather strange and original concept. How did you end up doing the movie?
Well, it was rather strange because the director Tommy Wirkola phoned me, we were trying to work together for years, and he told me, “Noomi, I have this script and it’s seven brothers, but I would like to imagine it being seven sisters played by you because I can’t imagine anybody else doing it.” So he sent me the script, suggested me to the producers. I read the script and I was completely blown away. I spoke to him the next day and said, “Fuck, yeah.” It also terrified me, if this went well it’ll be amazing, but if it goes bad it’ll be all my fault. It was scary, but also amazing to be invited to this crazy process.

Did you take any inspirations for doing this role? This is pretty complex, layered stuff you try to pull off here.
Yeah, I was working with the writer for maybe a year to shape and differentiate each of the seven sisters and it was really fun for me to make them real, to make them have solid personalities. It was like the Spice Girls, you know, the cute one, the shy one etc. They needed to be clear enough so that it would be easy for the audience to separate them because we need them to be really strong and colorful but not be cliched. I was digging into myself a lot actually, I feel like different times in my life I was each of the sisters. When I was a teenager I was very much like Thursday, you know, really punky and like a rebel, I was Wednesday for a couple of years when I was doing martial arts and training all the time. I was super boyish and I was shy and introverted like Friday at some point as well. I’ve kind of been each one of them at different times in my life, so I think I was kind of looking into myself and just turning up the volume.

Were there challenges in pulling this off?
Oh my God, yeah. I was alone in the room most of the time and I was kind of directing the scenes with Tommy. There was a day where I had to play all seven of them and going in and out of each one was very hard, psychologically and emotionally, but the technical aspect of shooting a movie like this had never been done before. For example, every time the sisters had to hug each other that turned into a major shoot, it took us half a day [laughs]. This movie was easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I also made a playlist for each of the sisters, so that every time I had to play a different character I could listen to completely different music and distinguish them and I had different perfumes, they would smell differently. I was also working really close with the costume designer [Oana Paunescu] and makeup team to find the different looks. I didn’t have any social life whatsoever. I woke up at 4 am, went to the gym, I’d go on set at 6 am, then go back to the gym in the evening. That was happening for like 5 months.

How did you feel after the shoot?
I felt completely drained. It was like I had nothing left in me when I came back in London I couldn’t drive and my short term memory was gone. I couldn’t recharge myself for months. I think I turned down like nine movies or something, I was just in a place where I was like “I need to figure stuff out,” I don’t really know what I became. I was also having these fucked up nightmares, I was dreaming I had hundreds of rows of shoes in front of me and was trying to make a decision as to which shoes to put on, I started phoning people and asking “So, who am I today? Am I wearing sneakers, heels or boots?” I was panicking because I didn’t know which shoes to put on [laughs].

So, you weren’t only mentally drained, but you were mentally confused.
Oh yeah, totally. I was completely a mess. I was also injured and came back with stitches. It was a lengthy recovery on that film.

Is this your first foray with Netflix?
It is. Then I did David Ayer‘s “Bright.” It’s amazing working for Netflix, everything so far has been a blessing because they’re so supportive and I just feel like on “Bright,” I’ve been talking to David Ayer a lot and he had the freedom to do the movie he wanted. It was insanely expensive and huge. Netflix creates this very intimate feeling. It’s like a “new wave.” When “What Happened to Monday?” is released it will reach an audience of over 190 countries, which is insane. Young people today, they watch everything on their computer or phone, so it’s something we need to embrace.

“What Happened To Monday?” is now streaming on Netflix.