Geraldine Viswanathan’s first audition was for the Hunter School of the Performing Arts in her native Australia when she was just 5 years old. “I have no recollection of it, but apparently I did have to pretend to walk a dog,” she says on today’s episode of the Variety and iHeart podcast “The Big Ticket.” “I nailed it and I got in.”
Almost two decades later, with a couple of Aussie television shows under her belt, Viswanathan is still nailing it, having caught Hollywood’s attention with her breakout role in the 2018 comedy “Blockers,” with John Cena and Leslie Mann. Her performance in last year’s “Hala,” in which she played the title role of a rebellious American Muslim, drew Viswanathan praise in a Variety review, which commended her as the “real deal,” with her on-screen work proving “her range, and hopefully, longevity.” Now 24, she stars alongside Daniel Radcliffe and Steve Buscemi in the TBS anthology series “Miracle Workers.”
Her latest film, “Bad Education,” is her most high-profile project to date. Viswanathan plays a high school newspaper reporter (she’s a composite of two real students) who discovers that her Long Island school district superintendent (Hugh Jackman) and members of his staff have been scamming the public school system.
“I first met with [screenwriter] Mike Makowsky, and we just got on so great. … And then I read the script, and it was like the fastest I’ve ever read a script. It’s just so sharp,” Viswanathan says. “I just loved the pace of it.”
Viswanathan was introduced to Jackman at a table read. “I was very star-struck, but then he immediately put me at ease,” she says. “He’s just the friendliest and loveliest. We’re both from Australia, so it was kind of like an instant ‘Hey!’”
The Oscar nominee, who would sometimes “break out into a tap routine” between takes, also taught Viswanathan how to play backgammon. “But I definitely would have moments, especially during one of our [scenes] together, where I’d be like, ‘OK, he’s acting, and now I have to do it as well?’” she says, joking.
In the pipeline for Viswanathan is “The Broken Heart Gallery,” a romantic comedy from first-time director Natalie Krinsky and producer Selena Gomez. Viswanathan stars as a woman in New York City trying to overcome her latest failed relationship by curating an art show of objects associated with her past romances and breakups. Viswanathan can relate to that: “I have so many boxes of little memory things,” she says. “I love living in the past. It’s nice there. I’d say I have a few breakup boxes.”
Currently, Viswanathan is following stay-at-home orders with some friends in a house in upstate New York. “I’m trying to cook, but it’s nothing ambitious,” she says, citing an unsuccessful crack at ravioli.
She’s also thinking about using the unexpected free time to finally watch the “Harry Potter” franchise, after admitting to Radcliffe that she’s never seen any of the films beyond a failed attempt when she was a child. “I was traumatized by one of the movies,” Viswanathan says. “A troll stuck a wand up his nose, and it freaked me out, and I left the theater.”
Listen to the full interview below. You can also find “The Big Ticket” at iHeartRadio or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.