Middle Kids’ Hannah Joy on her starring role in ‘Christmess’: “It’s a beautiful story”

She also revealed that Middle Kids are on the cusp of heading “into the deep abyss of making a record”

Middle Kids frontwoman Hannah Joy has opened up about her starring role in Christmess, the festive comedy film in which she’ll make her formal acting debut.

In a new interview with triple j, the Sydney-native singer, songwriter and now-actress explained that she was spurred to join the film because of its “beautiful story”, saying: “That’s the thing that really pulled in in from the outset.”

Joy will star in Christmess as Joy, a “young, sharp tongued, gay musician” who happens to be a recovering drug addict. The character lives in a halfway house (a type of rehab facility) with Chris, a once-famous actor (played by Steve Le Marquand) who takes a job as a local mall Santa.

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There, Chris unexpectedly comes across his estranged daughter (Nicole Pastor), and with the support of Joy and his sponsor Nick (Darren Gilshenan), goes about earning his daughter’s forgiveness in time for Christmas. Gushing over the concept, Joy told triple j that the film’s narrative “really captures the beautiful Australian spirit of the battler that’s trying to give it a go”.

Her role in Christmess is notable because, aside from in Middle Kids’ own music videos, Joy had never acted before. She was approached for the role by director Heath Davis, who called himself an “unabashed” fan of Middle Kids. “All I knew of her was the music,” he told triple j, calling Joy “a natural performer”.

Noting that he wrote the role with Joy in mind, Davis continued: “Something inside me gave me the confidence to think she would connect to the material on an emotional and cerebral level and I’m thankful she did. It was a huge creative risk because had she said ‘No’, we were pretty stuffed… She’s the best creative risk I’ve ever taken. And, best of all, now a dear friend.”

To prepare for the production, Joy enrolled in an acting course at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA). Touching on that, Davis said: “I’m still in awe of her commitment and work ethic especially as she had no intentions of ever acting. But she’s a natural storyteller.”

Joy cited Middle Kids’ downtime during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason she was onboard with Davis’ pitch. She candidly said that she “probably wouldn’t have even considered it” if Middle Kids were on tour when the offer came through, because she “just wouldn’t have had the space”.

“I was honestly bored and semi-depressed in COVID,” she added, “and I thought, ‘This could be good for my creativity and it’ll be a challenge – let’s do it’.” Joy was particularly inspired by last year’s Licourice Pizza – the retro drama that gave Alana Haim her own acting debut – saying she watched it “to try and do some reconnaissance”.

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Christmess will also feature new music by Joy, triple j revealed, with Davis describing her soundtrack and score contributions as “amazing and a real departure from the band”.

As for whether those songs will ever have a life outside of the film, Joy said: “I don’t know what the future of the songs will be. It’s not really a Middle Kids thing. I don’t know if I’ll release it as my own thing, but it was such a cool experience to write songs inspired by a particular part of the narrative; songs from my character’s perspective.”

Joy did point out, though, that Middle Kids are on the cusp of heading “into the deep abyss of making a record”, teasing: “We’ve got the music and now we’ve just got to put it all together. We’re pretty excited.”

She confirmed that Middle Kids’ forthcoming third album – the follow-up to last year’s ‘Today We’re The Greatest’ – will be produced by Jonathan Gilmore, who they sought out because of his work with The 1975.

Christmess is yet to receive a release date, but is currently being filmed in the Western Sydney suburb of Campbelltown.

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