Artist profile: Rhys Mitchell

Written by: Fiona Gruber
Sleeping in a walk-in wardrobe might not be everyone’s idea of the Hollywood dream but for Rhys Mitchell, a bit of deprivation on the road to success is par for the course.
The Australian actor, filmmaker and musician is describing his almost three years in the US and his cramped digs on arrival. Currently back home due to COVID 19, he’s missing the “anything is possible” attitude that prevails in Los Angeles.
“You fall for the enthusiasm,” he says. “And although it’s a strange city to navigate, I love L. A. and have never felt more myself.”
Rhys, son of actors Di and Mark (Con the Fruiterer) Mitchell, is one of five children and grew up in a creative household where everyone who dropped by was in film or TV. “Comedy was a currency in my house”, he says.
He made a name for himself starring in hit series such as Upper Middle Bogan, Barracuda and Glitch but the US beckoned and after landing a leading role in Shark Lords made by American pay TV channel FX, in 2018, Rhys scored a part in The Happy Worker. The film is an off-centre movie with David Lynch as executive producer. It’s not an easy film to describe, says Rhys, but centres on a Utopian community whose sole purpose is digging a giant hole.
“It’s partly about friendship and the nature of work”, he says.
Alongside making music – his band Mouth Tooth is a duo with Max Turner – Rhys’s passion is about working behind the camera.
After gaining a first class degree in film and TV studies, he’s spent the past decade developing projects with various groups of friends, as a writer, director and producer.
He wrote and acted in We Keep on Dancing, a short film set in a car repair garage, about a widower who brings his dead wife’s car in for repair. Directed by Jessica Barclay Lawton, it won Best Live Action Narrative under 15 minutes at the 2013 Palm Springs International Short Film Festival.
More recently, he directed Max Gimblett Original Mind, a 50-minute documentary about an NZ-American artist and Buddhist based in New York. He sold that to Amazon Prime but making film and TV is an arduous journey, he says, and so far it’s definitely not been a path to a fortune.
When I speak with Rhys, he’s just completed three auditions and is busy writing. He could throw himself back into acting in Australia he says, especially with the relocation of several current or forthcoming American productions to Queensland. But he’s also aching to get back to L.A. and hopes that he can revive a stalled project developing a pilot for a major comedy network (he says he’s not allowed to name it).
The series he’s written, “a light-hearted, hard, funny comedy” is with established American writing and directing duo Lucia Aniello and Paul W Downs and, much as he likes being closer to family and old friends, he’s sorely missing the elements that attracted him to LA.
“I’m an extrovert and I feed off other people,” he says, and in LA it’s normal to be ambitious and have a well-honed work ethic.
“I developed strength of character over there, “ he says; “It’s an inspiring place.”