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Kiwi director Roseanne Liang is set to direct a Hollywood blockbuster

The Kiwi director has been picked to direct a Hollywood blockbuster starring Angelina Jolie and Halle Berry

When Kiwi director Roseanne Liang first calls “action” on Maude v Maude, starring Angelina Jolie and Halle Berry, there’ll be one characteristic carrying her through helming the dream gig – simply “mucking in”. While the style icons have naturally made Roseanne consider “upping my fashion game”, she’ll be more focused on getting down and dirty to make the greatest film possible.

And that should come as no surprise to Angelina, given early Zoom meetings with Roseanne took place from the gritty set of Roseanne’s series Creamerie.

“It grounded me because we were shooting in a boat shed – hot, sweaty, dusty, smelly – and that’s the best way to think about making movies too because while people think we’re lounging on fancy sets, it’s hard, physical rigour,” explains Roseanne, 45.

“That’s no different whether I’m doing low-budget New Zealand television or a Hollywood blockbuster with two of the most wonderful female action actors in history. I’ll just be mucking in with them.”

Having grown up loving movies, directing’s a dream job for the talent, but one her mum didn’t envision when she told young Roseanne the world was her oyster if she got straights As.

Roseanne’s Hong Kong-born parents imagined her pursuing medicine, engineering or law. Conscious of how hard her dad had worked to put her through private school, she considered her love for speech and drama a hobby and focused on getting good grades.

Roseanne’s family, including parents Christina and Dr Allen Liang, her sons and husband Stephen on the set of Shadow In The Cloud.

Obsessed with Pixar films, she pursued a conjoint degree in computer science but began dabbling in filmmaking, at which point her two sisters were in medical school, relieving some self-imposed academic pressure.

But with no female Kiwi-Asian filmmakers to look up to, it was the ambition and self-belief instilled by her parents that drove Roseanne to succeed. The challenges of her bi-cultural upbringing – such as facing being disowned by her parents for falling for a Pākehā boy (now-husband, Stephen Harris) – inspired Roseanne’s 2015 doco Banana In A Nutshell, which was adapted into hit rom-com My Wedding And Other Secrets.

By 2017, Roseanne was being pursued by five Hollywood management companies after her short film Do No Harm garnered attention. “That was a pinch-me moment. I felt like an ‘it girl’, with everybody wanting to talk to me!”

Signing with prestigious talent agency WME, Roseanne met with studios that could help her chase her dream of making films. She directed Chloë Grace Moretz in Shadow In The Cloud and developed Creamerie, which just launched season two.

“It’s amazing how a quirky show like Creamerie could find an audience in New Zealand, Australia and America. I never thought Kiwi TV could be like this!”

With her Creamerie leading ladies (from left) Ally Xue, Perlina Lau and JJ Fong.

The mum-of-two’s also been in Canada working on Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender.

And while she thought landing Maude v Maude would make her feel intimidated, it just felt right.

“These are women I’ve grown up watching who have chosen me, so there’s this shadow of impostor syndrome, but all roads led to this moment, so I felt like there was no doubt to be had.”

Roseanne’s favourite Angelina movie is Salt – “I told her that!” – and she loves Halle in Bruised. “They’re exceptionally talented, but also moral, ethical people who use their power for good. They could’ve picked anyone.”

Ange wanted to work with the Kiwi director.

So, why did they pick Roseanne? “I think they saw I was ready. I’m not going to let them down, just like I know they’ll work their asses off to make this the best action movie. That’s what you forget when you see them on red carpets – that they’re work horses. They care so deeply about the craft. The glamour’s part of them, but they’ve got another facet that’s down and dirty – mucking in!”

The film’s start will be dependent on a resolution in strikes held by the SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and Writers Guild of America (WGA), but Roseanne remains hopeful.

And as she navigates a thriving career, Roseanne’s grateful to Stephen and their parents for helping with childcare. “I’m always trying to be a better working mum and be present, even if I’m not in New Zealand. My kids are older now, but there’s new challenges. Hopefully, I’ll get some working-mum tips from Halle and Ange!”

While her adolescent son and daughter don’t know who Angelina and Halle are, they’re excited for Avatar: The Last Airbender, and are proud to say their mum’s a filmmaker and dad’s a game developer.

Roseanne couldn’t live out her dreams without the support of “best friend” Stephen, 46, and says their love grows through increasing stints apart.

“Something we started doing, because we were never awake at the same time, was before bed, record audio messages down-loading our day, which we called the ‘home podcast’. These new love languages that come up when I’m away bring us closer.”

Meanwhile, Roseanne’s one step closer to her professional “peak” of directing films like Mission Impossible.

“Sometimes I sing Miley Cyrus’ The Climb at karaoke because the climb’s delightful. It’s not that I don’t want to reach the peak, but I’m having such a great time climbing, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.”

Season two of Creamerie is streaming now on TVNZ+.

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