Actress Angourie Rice had to get past Jennifer Garner’s inherent sweetness to embody her stubborn stepdaughter Bailey Michaels in the Apple TV+ television adaptation of “The Last Thing He Told Me” by Laura Dave.
The story follows Hannah Hall (Jennifer Garner) and Rice’s character Bailey as they face the mysterious disappearance of Hannah’s husband and Bailey’s dad Owen Michaels (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) right as his his tech employer comes under investigation for fraud.
Bailey didn’t fully accept Hannah when Hannah married Owen, and she still hasn’t warmed up to her stepmom, but Owen’s disappearance forces them to work together to figure out why he left and where he could have gone. The dynamic was very different from how the two actresses would normally interact.
“Jennifer is the sweetest, kindest scene partner. She is so generous and giving and honestly, I think that helped. It does make it hard when you just want to, after a take, say ‘I’m so sorry,'” Rice told TheWrap. “But I think building that trust and that connection actually helps because then you get the freedom to explore that conflict and to explore those uncomfortable moments.”
Bailey has always been close with her dad after the death of her mother in a car accident when she was young. In the typical prickly teenager style, she does not exactly show the same affection for Hannah as she does to her dad. Bailey realizes that Hannah is now her main guardian in the absence of her father, which presents a challenge to her in her relationship with her stepmom.
“I’m always interested in characters who have a big change in their lives and characters who change over time. We see that with Bailey. She has a big catalyst at the beginning of her story that propel[s] her into a big time of change,” Rice said. “And so for finding that there were a few things that I drew on from my experiences with my parents or my sister or growing up and traveling and childhood memories and things like that. That’s where I found her.”
Rice connected to Bailey’s love of singing and acting partly because her own mom is also very musical.
“What was really interesting to me is the first episode when we see Bailey before she knows that her dad has disappeared, and we see that she’s really into musical theater. In pre-production, we spoke about what that means to Bailey,” Rice told TheWrap. “‘Why is she so into musical theater and singing?’ Does that come from one of the only stories she knows about her mum? Maybe she just knows that her mom liked to sing and that’s where she kind of held on and drew from that.”
At the end of the show’s first episode, Rice belts out a theater ballad at rehearsal. According to music supervisor Frankie Pine, there was also a scene with Bailey singing and playing piano, but it got cut. Rice will show off her voice more fully in the upcoming “Mean Girls” musical.
The first two episodes of “The Last Thing He Told Me” are now available to stream on Apple TV+.