Natalie Dormer is mad about her latest gig, “Picnic at Hanging Rock.” Partly because she gets to go mad in the new Amazon limited series based on Joan Lindsay’s iconic Australian novel of the same name.
The former “Game of Thrones” star leads the cast of the Larysa Kondracki-run adaptation as Mrs. Hester Appleyard, the enigmatic headmistress of Appleyard College, a boarding school that she established for young ladies isolated in Australian bushland. The story centers around the mysterious disappearances of three schoolgirls and one teacher on Valentine’s Day in 1900 and the subsequent investigation, covering its impact on students, families and staff at Appleyard College and the nearby town.
“It’s not so much the actual thing of what happened to them, it’s the ripple effect to this community and all these different personalities on what that event does to people. You know, that’s the drama,” Dormer said. “It’s like there is this unfortunate event and then the mystery that drives everyone insane, and then it drives everyone insane in their individual ways so their inner demons and fears come out.”
Dormer’s Hester is in the middle of all of it. “She is haunted by the girls and [Miss] McGraw when they disappear. And it’s her unraveling and losing control of this entire empire that she’s built up. And that’s delicious as an actor to play. It’s someone losing their grasp of their reality,” said the actress.
Starring alongside Dormer as the three students who mysteriously vanish are Samara Weaving (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “The Babysitter”) as Irma Leopold, a Rothschild heiress; Madeleine Madden (“Tomorrow When The War Began,” “High Life”) as Marion Quade, daughter of a high court Justice; and Lily Sullivan (“Camp,” “Jungle”) as Miranda Reid, the rebellious tomboy who grew up with four brothers on a cattle station.
Other cast members include Lola Bessis (“Swim Little Fish Swim”), Yael Stone (“Orange Is The New Black”), Anna McGahan (“Underbelly”), Sibylla Budd (“The Secret Life of Us”), Ruby Rees (“Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries”) and Inez Curro (“Little Heart”).
“Picnic at Hanging Rock” drops Friday on Amazon Prime.