When asked about his growth as an actor over the years, Cooper van Grootel is confident but still unassuming. “I am extremely proud of my development as an actor and to see how far I have come over many years.”
Indeed, Cooper has forged a path in the industry that’s unheard of; switching between film and TV projects at a rapid-fire pace, and he’s still only the tender age of 17. Such is the degree to which Cooper is in demand in the film industry, this interview had to be scheduled in between takes on set where he is filming a yet-to-be-announced project.
Previous performances Cooper has delivered to critical acclaim include Brayden in the highly regarded mini-series Mystery Road, the second time Cooper had been hired by Rachel Perkins after the two had already worked together on award-winning feature film, Jasper Jones. A second casting by an acclaimed director like Rachel is a rare occurrence in the industry, and serves as proof for how Cooper is held in high-esteem within the industry.
Notably, Cooper’s time on both sets was spent being antagonistic towards main characters, reinforcing the view that Cooper’s journey to the top is unconventional. Most teen actors are typecast as the boy-next-door, but Cooper brings an authority and intensity to his screen performances that ensure he always stands out.
“I really like playing the bad guy,” Cooper exclaims. “It’s a lot of fun,” he adds with a laugh.
Adding to that, Cooper showered praise on his director.
“Working with Rachel Perkins was an honour and one of the highlights of my career so far.”
Jasper Jones received positive notices from around the world, including a review from Trespass which described it as “well scripted, shot, and acted…it streamlines a story without sacrificing complexity, and it is both entertaining and thoughtful while it’s at it.”
While on set, Cooper had to be racist towards a Vietnamese character, played by Jeffrey Lu, giving way to revelations around racial tension concerning one of the film’s leading characters.
“It can sometimes be hard to relate to characters with derogatory attitudes like the guy I played in Jasper Jones.”
He elaborates. “Moments like that in films though make a valuable point about characters being lonely and misunderstood in Australia.”
What’s unique about Cooper is his ability to simultaneously retain his position at the top of young Australian actors and an affable quality that guarantees audiences always fall in love with him.
In the film project Resonance, Cooper played a key role under the direction of inspiring filmmaker Jade Chamberlain.
When asked about Cooper’s screen presence and ability to take direction, Jade beamed. “I would recommend him to anyone as he is a great actor.”
Cooper also received extremely positive notices from industry professionals for his role in the chilling mini-series Monday Night Menace, co-starring fellow teen star Shannon Berry who recently starred in the #1 Sci-Fi movie on Amazon, Alpha Gateway and the big-budget SyFy show, Hunters. She was recently announced as part of the cast for Amazon’s The Wilds.
“Shannon Berry is a creative, strong-willed and a brilliant young actress who brings so much realism and energy to the screen,” Cooper generously and enthusiastically said, when asked about his co-star. Cooper’s humility is clear when he recognises how, even when he might be considered at the top of his field, he points to the creative lessons he continues to learn from his A-list co-stars.
“Shannon helped me push the boundaries, in very difficult scenes, and from this I learnt some much about myself as an actor.”
Monday Night Menace also gave Cooper the opportunity to work with innovative filmmaker Blake Hay.
“Blake Hay made us push boundaries with our acting,” Cooper quickly asserts.
Of course, Cooper is used to pushing himself as an actor. The blue-eyed youngster’s ability to continually stretch himself and push for a higher-standard in his abilities was reflected when Showcast, Australia’s leading casting network, awarding him the 2017 and 2016 awards for Outstanding Achievement in Acting.
“Winning the award from Showcast was a very humbling and delightful experience,” Cooper eloquently stated, adding that he was also especially grateful to CAA-represented producer Lauren Elliott and Mazair Lahooti for judging his work and making a decision about the prize.
“I can’t thank Showcast enough for giving me the award for my work,” Cooper reiterates.
There’s no doubt this gratitude will see Cooper continue to grow and jump between projects. In the meantime, he tells us he needs to get back to set.
“I’ve gotta go run lines!” he laughs.