Rachael Taylor marvels at her super hero destiny
RACHAEL Taylor has joined an elite group including the likes of Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr and Hugh Jackman.
She hasn't won an Oscar, but you could argue her initiation into this new club will have just as far-reaching benefits for her career.
The Aussie actress is now part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, an ever-widening, interconnected world of films and TV shows ripped from the pages of comic books and backed by a large, loyal fan base.
While Marvel's superheroes used to live on screen independently - think of the Spider-Man and X-Men films of the noughties - the company is now, smartly, linking all of its characters into a giant fictional web with the release of each new title.
Once relegated to children and nerds, Marvel's comics are now at the centre of a global box office and television empire.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron is the second highest grossing film of this year so far and the first Avengers film is still the fourth highest grossing film of all time.
"It was so flattering to be asked to be a part of that world," Taylor tells Weekend.
"The fans come before the performer, and I like working like that. That's the way it should be."
Taylor stars opposite Krysten Ritter in Jessica Jones, the second of Marvel's four TV series planned for Netflix.
In the series Jones, a former superhero who gained her powers from a tragic accident, is now trying to make it in New York as a private investigator.
It's not your typical superhero show.
Jessica Jones is much darker than most of its Marvel counterparts, dealing with subjects such as addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder and violence against women.
"Our show runner Melissa Rosenberg wanted to create a universe that was grounded and gritty and real," Taylor says.
"The superpower element is as much an allegory for how human beings operate and it's serving a broader narrative than just a superhero show."
Surly and perpetually hung-over, Ritter's Jones is an atypical heroine in need of as much help as she's able to provide to others.
"I couldn't imagine another actress who could embody the female warrior spirit that is required, and have the emotional gravitas and vulnerability that's required to play a character that's clearly been through some traumatic abuse," Taylor says.
"She has this amazing salty, sardonic wit and comedic ability that she absolutely infuses in places into the series. It's a really rare trifecta."
Taylor's character Trish Walker, a modern interpretation of one of Marvel's oldest female characters, Patsy Walker, is Jones's best friend and one of the few people privy to her traumatic past.
"There's a deep loyalty between the two of them, born out of circumstances that were not ideal," Taylor says.
"When I sat down with Melissa she said 'Look, I can promise you three things. One is that the female friendship between Trish and Jessica is the absolute anchor of this show'. Two and three was they would never be talking about shoes or a man, and that their relationship is enough of a life force for the show. Their lives are complicated and messy enough; we didn't need to pull on some of those traditional gender elements."
Trish is a former child star who is now a successful radio talk show host. But she too has her own traumatic past.
"Her mother was very much a stage mother and that took some really abusive iterations," Taylor says.
"Over the past decade she reinvented herself. She went to college; she's got her own money, a radio talk show and is living what looks like a very charmed life.
"But there's also a kind of burning ambition for Trish. She would love to have the strength Jessica has; she would love to make an impact on the world.
"I think there's some shades of bitterness that Jessica squanders her abilities. That doesn't play out in the series in a direct way, but it was something that was on the radar and that I put in the back of my actor brain and let it sit there."
The series is arguably Taylor's biggest to date. A rising star of the Aussie soap Headland, the Tasmanian native moved to Los Angeles to pursue roles in Grey's Anatomy, the short-lived Charlie's Angels TV reboot, 666 Park Avenue and Crisis (with Gillian Anderson) while returning home for choice projects like Red Dog and Any Questions for Ben.
Taylor has been travelling the world over the past few weeks on the sort of press tour usually reserved for blockbuster films.
Jessica Jones is one of Netflix's biggest shows of the year and with a global audience of more than 65 million subscribers, the online platform is nothing to sniff at.
While she can't comment on her character's possible transition into Hellcat, Patsy Walker's superhero alter ego from the 1970s, there is an action-packed future in the Marvel Universe for Taylor.
"I certainly felt not pressure, but a duty to not disappoint the fans," she says.
"I'm originating a character here as Patsy hasn't been brought to life on screen before.
"The show is based on a comic book called Alias and each of the characters has the thing they appear to be on the surface and this shadow personality underneath.
"One of the things I'm most excited about is the chance that this character could continue to evolve."
In the meantime, she's happy to let Ritter do the butt kicking.
"She's rad and a great example for me as well," she says.
"She nails it. I love watching my peers, girls my own age, going out and, as Maya Angelou said, grabbing life by the balls. I love seeing other women succeed."
Jessica Jones premieres on Netflix Australia on Friday.
The world of Jessica Jones
Jeri Hogarth - A whip-smart lawyer played by Carrie-Anne Moss who often calls on Jones's services.
Luke Cage - Another iconic Marvel character who will soon get his own show. Mike Colter plays the man known for his impenetrable skin.
Kilgrave - Former Doctor Who star David Tennant is excellent as the mysterious baddie who has the power to control anyone at his whim.
Malcolm - Aussie actor Eka Darville plays Jones's neighbour, a spaced-out junkie who becomes a useful sidekick.
Will Simpson - Wil Traval, another Aussie, plays a New York cop with ambiguous loyalties who becomes involved in the hunt for Kilgrave.