7 Questions with… The Rising star Clara Rugaard: ‘Everyone was ignoring Neve – I was feeling really sad’

Clara Rugaard – The Rising’s murdered teen Neve Kelly – talks about filming Sky’s supernatural thriller, learning motocross and what it’s like to come face to face with your own corpse.

By Rhys Lewis Published: 22 April 2022 - 10.37am
Clara Rugaard in The Rising

Stream every episode of The Rising on Sky Max with NOW from 22 April.

The Rising is a whodunnit with a difference. Like much of the genre, the eight-part supernatural drama begins with a murder, but unlike most series, in The Rising the victim is at the heart of the action – and trying to uncover her own killer.

We meet the ghost of Neve Kelly in the opening scene of episode 1 as she emerges from the cold lake in which her body has been dumped.

It’s through Neve that we meet her family and friends as they come to terms with her disappearance and death, before she starts to look back over her short life and unravel the mystery of her premature demise.

Danish actress Clara Rugaard plays tragic Neve in an almost ever-present role that sees her character engage with co-stars in flashback scenes while remaining isolated and unable to communicate as the 'ghost' Neve. She spoke to BT.com about the challenges of the role, her favourite scenes and adopting Neve’s own twin hobbies.

The Rising: All you need to know about Sky's supernatural thriller

1. In the trailer for The Rising, Neve says ‘I won’t be somebody’s victim’. Is that the key line for you? 

The Rising

Yes, it is. One of the reasons why I think this show is unique and interesting is because it does the beautiful thing of reimagining the ‘dead girl’ story and gives the victim a voice. It’s all through the victim’s perspective and through Neve’s eyes. The drive and the force is coming from her. “That’s not how my story is going to end”. I think that that’s clever and really cool. 

2. What is missing from Neve’s life before her death?

I think that Neve is essentially a big fish in a very small pond, and I think that thought is terrifying. It’s that whole creature of habit thing. This is what she’s known. The people that she loves are there, but she wants more. There’s this internal struggle that Neve carries with her throughout the show.

3. What was it like stepping into the lake? 

The Rising

Ooh, bit nippy. I mean it was fun. It’s fun to complain in the moment because it was freezing and my lips were blue but you come away with such amazing experiences. I would never have done that had I not had to. It was invigorating. I do take cold showers from time to time now after that because of the whole Wim Hof idea. But it was freezing.

4. How did you approach playing Neve in scenes where no one else can see her?

Honestly it was quite wild. We had started shooting and on week two I was feeling really sad. I couldn’t really figure out why and then I was like, “Oh, it’s because I’m being ignored. I am literally being ignored by everyone”. I was really fighting my corner trying to be seen and heard as Neve and I was getting nothing back. It was quite strange having to navigate that. I feel for Neve. It’s tough.

5. Do you have a favourite scene? 

The Rising

The mortuary scene was very strange – the two Neves – especially because I had to be the one Neve and then the other.

I remember reading that scene and feeling just hollow after it and really quite shaken up. The whole visual of it and the idea of you coming across your own body and taking your own hand and consoling yourself, it’s just so powerful. It was quite a tough scene to shoot.

Playing dead, I’ve done it a few times now but it’s not as easy as people would think, especially when there are close-ups of the dead face. If there are lights on you and, on your eyes, even though they are close it’s so hard not to flinch. It was fun to shoot but strange.

6. Neve is into both painting and motocross. Do you share those passions?

The Rising

I paint from time to time – definitely not as good as Neve or Maria (Kelly, her mother in the show, played by Emily Taaffe), or the art department for that matter. During the pandemic it was one of the things that I took up again as many people probably did.

Motocross was so much fun. It was my first time on a motorbike. As much as I would love to say that I was really good I spent a whole week learning and we took baby steps.

We started off on an electric bike and then worked our way up to the big boys. Those bikes are incredibly heavy. I took personal training sessions to try and build up muscle around my shoulders and my arms because I really didn’t have much of that before. If you’re a motocross rider you really do have to have a strong upper body to keep those bikes steady.

7. What do you hope audiences take from The Rising?

I remember reading the script and reading Neve, I don’t think I’d ever seen characters that were so complex and raw and tangible in a high concept supernatural crime drama. The contrast was just really interesting. It grounds it so much and I think that is also what makes it so relatable even in a world that is quite out there and hard to imagine. I hope that they will vouch for all these people.

Stream every episode of The Rising on Sky Max with NOW from 22 April.