Daniel Monks chats about his role in Rev’s opening night film ‘Sissy’

Sissy

Perth raised actor Daniel Monks is one of the stars of the upcoming Australian satirical horror film Sissy. The acclaimed film will open the Revelation Perth International Film Festival on Thursday, allowing Perth audiences an opportunity to see the film before its national release.

The film focusses on Cecilia (Sissy) and Emma, tween-age BFFs who were going to grow old together and never let anything come between them. That is, until Emma’s new friend Alex did just that. When Cecilia became the target of Alex’s bullying, her act of self-defence left Alex horrifically wounded and forced Cecilia and Emma apart.

Twelve years later, Cecilia is a successful social media influencer living the dream of an independent, modern millennial woman… until she runs into Emma for the first time in over a decade and her world is turned upside down.

Emma invites Cecilia away on her hens weekend at a remote cabin in the mountains, much to the dismay of maid of honour Alex, whose scarred face has only further cemented her grudge against ‘Sissy the sissy’ after all these years. Alex proceeds to make Cecilia’s weekend a living hell – until Cecilia snaps.

Created by co-writers and co-directors Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes, the film is a darkly comedic and unnervingly savage, Sissy is a satirical look at millennial self-victimisation in the social media age. 

In the film Daniel Monks plays Jamie, one of the close knit group of friends heading to the secluded getaway weekend where mayhem, murder and maiming take over the planned events.

Speaking to OUTinPerth from London, Monks shared that he’d wanted to work with close friend Barlow for many years, and the role of Jamie had been written for him specifically.

“Hannah Barlow and I have been friends for almost a decade now.” Monks shared. “We’ve always wanted to work together, and actually when they were developing the script, they wrote the character of Jamie for me, and really consulted with me throughout and really collaborated on the process to create it.

“I just thought it was a brilliant concept. I think that they’re incredible writers and it was just the kind of movie that I as a queer audience member I would most want to see in terms of horror, and it felt really interesting and fresh.

“In terms of the character of Jamie, it was really exciting, especially when they were developing it.” Monks said.

The writers took into account Monks’ disability, he has hemiplegia the result of an operation he underwent as a child to tackle a spinal tumor. Monks said while there are increasingly more roles of disabled actors they still fall into common tropes.

“I could see how in the industry I was kind of being pigeonholed into the very sweet, vulnerable, often maligned or abused or harassed disability trope, kind of like the Tiny Tim trope.

“There was something about this character that they presented to me, someone who is a disabled character, or character happens to be disabled, but is also hyper sexualized, and really crass, and could be really powerful but not necessarily likable or empathetic. There’s something really kind of liberating and exciting about playing that kind of character.”

Monks says he loves the film because it’s not just a horror film, but a queer film as well.

“It’s not only like a horror film, but it was like a horror comedy, like a really enjoyable, fun, exuberant queer film. That was a huge attraction for me.”

The film was shot around Canberra in 2020 and has been making it’s mark in recent months on the festival circuit. Since filming wrapped Monks career has also continued in leaps and bounds.

As we spoke he has just returned to rehearsals for the West End production of Chekhov’s The Seagull. The show features Monks alongside Game of Thrones stars Emilia Clarke and Indira Varma.

The production was delayed by the outbreak of Covid-19, closing just as it began previews and Monks shares it has been exciting to regroup and get ready for the play’s re-opening.

“It’s been a long time, we worked out from the day that we shut down in 2020, it’s been 805 days between that and the first day of rehearsal. It’s really surreal and beautiful, because we honestly didn’t know if it would come back. So the fact that we’re together, we’re doing it again, it’s kind of magic.”

Appearing in the play alongside some of Britain’s biggest names in acting was intimidating when Monks first signed up for the production, but he says they’re now a really close company.

“We’ve kind of all gone through this thing together, so it feels much less intimidating now. Indira Varma, who plays Arkadina, my mom, for the first 17 months of the pandemic we were playing Words With Friends every day, so I feel like we’ve lived through this experience together in a nice way.” Monks  said.

The play is one of several Monks has appeared in over the last few years. He’s had acclaimed turns in King Dick and a recent production of The Normal Heart. 

“Its just been really beautiful, amazing, and I feel, especially in the West End, like really welcomed.” Monks said of the new community that’s embraced him.

For a while Monks was constantly travelling back and forth between the UK and Australia, something which saw him stuck permanently in winter, but now he is spending most of his time based in London.

He’s also enjoying the experience of being in productions that run for months, where often in Australia theatrical productions might only run for a few weeks.

“I love it. I mean, I always feel like my best shows are always the final week of a run, and the longer the run, the better those final shows. I feel like it just gives me more time to explore and discover, have it go into your bones. So by the final week, it’s just kind of joyous.

“That’s what I love about theatre, you know, with screen work, it’s like, you do a couple of takes and it’s frozen forever and you never get another shot. With theatre, you always have the next night to keep exploring and keep diving into it.”

Sissy will open the Revelation Perth International Film Festival on Thursday 7th July. 

Graeme Watson 


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