The prospect of kissing Nicole Kidman on camera would be enough to make even Hollywood veterans feel a tingle of nerves.
But for 25-year-old rising star Matilda de Angelis, there was no such fear when she read the script for their intimate encounter in primetime drama The Undoing.
‘Kissing Nicole was the least of the things I was intimidated by. I know I’m a good kisser, so I don’t care about that,’ she said matter-of-factly in an interview with W Magazine.
This sense of self-confidence is no doubt what helped Matilda land the role opposite industry heavyweights Kidman and Hugh Grant in the HBO/Sky Atlantic series, despite being a relative newcomer to the acting scene.
She only landed her first professional role five years ago and has since appeared in a string of Italian projects since, including Tutto può succedere, The Prize, The Big Other and Youtopia.
The Undoing marks not only Matilda’s first US production but also her first English-speaking role. The actress, who lives in Rome, spent months learning English before jetting off to New York – her first time in the city – to film the series last year.
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Breakout role: Italian actress Matilda de Angelis stars opposite Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman in The Undoing. It marks her first US production and her first English-speaking role. Pictured, Matilda cuts an elegant figure in a sherbet pink gown at the 2018 Venice Film Festival
Self-confidence: The role of Elena Alves required Matilda to kiss Nicole Kidman and appear on screen completely naked but she said she wasn’t nervous about the prospect of either
‘It was the first time I visited New York in my life,’ she told W. ‘I was very excited; New York is perhaps the most iconic city in the world. It was so exciting for me to walk around and get lost in the city. I kept thinking, “Oh, here was that scene from that movie!” It was my favorite game.’
The actress’s introduction to the industry sounds like a fairytale. After being encouraged by a friend, Matilda turned up to an open casting call in Rome to audition for a director who was looking for a non-professional actress with a ‘specific accent from a specific region in Italy’.
Matilda, who grew up in a town near Bologna, in the north of the country, fit the bill and was cast in the role.
She was staying in her hometown when she recorded a taped audition for The Undoing, after her agent sent her information about an upcoming HBO show.
‘After reading the scene I was pretty much sure I wasn’t going to get the role, because it was such a big scene and I was doing it on my own,’ she told Interview magazine. ‘So I thought, “okay I’ll just try, and I’ll do my best”. When they told me I actually got the part, I could not believe it.’
Making an entrance: In one scene in the first episode, Elena (de Angelis) approaches Grace (Kidman) in the gym locker room while completely naked
Unexpected: The characters also share a brief kiss in a lift after a school fundraising event
Shaking things up: Elena raises eyebrows when she takes her infant to a school fundraising meeting with Grace (Kidman) and her WASP-y friends and proceeds to breastfeed
Mysterious murder: Elena is found dead after being murdered in her Harlem apartment, setting the scene for a whodunnit
Hollywood heavyweights: Matilda stars opposite Kidman and Grant in The Undoing
Matilda stars as Elena Alves, a young mother who causes a stir when she arrives at the gates of an Upper East Side private school and meets Grace (Kidman) and her circle of WASP-y friends.
Grace and her husband Jonathan (Grant) enjoy all the trappings of New York City wealth – a chauffeur driven car, a beautiful brownstone, and a designer wardrobe that would make celebrities green with envy. To top it off, the pair have a seemingly perfect marriage and family life with their young son.
But their life is turned on its head by Elena. She first invites herself to Grace’s school fundraising meeting – where she proceeds to breastfeed despite the disapproving looks of the other mothers – before cornering Grace at her gym changing room to have a brief chat, while standing completely naked.
The prospect of stripping off on camera didn’t worry Matilda.
Bright future: The actress recently graced the cover of Italy’s Grazia magazine and wrapped another project about Leonardo da Vinci, costarring Freddie Highmore and Poldark’s Aidan Turner. Pictured, at an event in Rome in October 2019 and another engagement that month
Big dreams: Matilda, pictured in 2018, hopes to land more English-speaking roles
‘Whether it’s my eyes, or my mouth, or my boobs or my vagina, my body is just another tool to express myself,’ she told Interview magazine. ‘It’s still me. As long as the goal is to communicate something complex, then nakedness can be a powerful way to express and persuade.’
A later scene sees the characters share a brief, unexpected kiss in a lift as Elena flees the school fundraiser in distress.
But by the end of the episode Elena had been found bludgeoned to death in her art studio.
In the second episode, which aired over the last two nights in the US and the UK, Grace’s husband Jonathan (Grant) becomes the prime suspect after it emerges the pair had some sort of relationship after meeting when he treated her son for cancer.
She filed a formal complaint with his hospital that led to him being dismissed; he claims it was a consensual affair during which she became ‘obsessed’ with him and his life.
Although Elena is no longer alive, she maintains a grip on the show in the form of eerie flashbacks that hint at how she met her fate.
The intrigue, the work of Big Little Lies writer David E. Kelley, has gripped viewers and has already opened doors for Matilda.
The actress recently graced the cover of Italy’s Grazia magazine and wrapped another project about Leonardo da Vinci, costarring Freddie Highmore and Poldark’s Aidan Turner.