Style. Class. Daring. Artistry. Talent. Beauty. Intelligence. Drive.

These are only a few of the words that describe Rhiana Griffith, a young Australian actress and artist who is on her way to amazing things in life. At the age of twenty-two, she has already created an impressive body of work including a successful modeling career, film and television appearances, numerous exhibitions in professional art galleries, and her first published book.

         
Rhiana Jade Griffith was born on April 16, 1985 in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, Australia, a few hours' drive north of Sydney. As a child she began modeling, doing runway work, magazine shoots, and catalogue ads for children's clothing. It wasn't long before she was winning awards for her work and, at the age of 13, she won the ModelQuest98 Grand Final for the 12-to-15-year-old division.

This level of success resulted in Rhiana being auditioned for acting roles in commercials and, ultimately, a television show. On February 20, 1998, viewers tuning in to the medical drama Children's Hospital got their first introduction to Rhiana, and their first glimpse of her phenomenal talent.

Rhiana played Kelly, a young burn victim who had been injured when her uncle's fishing boat exploded. Kelly was recovering nicely and adjusting to her uncomfortable burn suit, but was very troubled over her future, including whether she would ever get to go to the beach again (a not-unreasonable thing for a pubescent girl to worry about). For the part, Rhiana wore prosthetic scars on her throat and hands, and squeezed into the constrictive suit worn by real burn patients. Wearing that suit gave Rhiana a taste of what real burn victims experience during recovery.

"When I first put it on," Rhiana told the Newcastle Herald, "I couldn't handle it because it was so tight on the skin. I got used to it over time, but I'm glad I didn't have to wear the head piece."

Rhiana played opposite Peter Whitford (Strictly Ballroom), who portrayed her surgical specialist. Her performance on the show was so impressive that it won her more auditions. The Liz Mullinar Casting agency liked her realistic portrayal so well that they auditioned her for a part on the soap opera Home and Away. Rhiana was recalled twice and made it to the final four actresses. Although she didn't win the part, it did open a door that would lead to work later.


In the meantime, Rhiana auditioned for -- and won -- a part in Maurice Murphy's period romance 15 Amore. Set during World War II and based upon events from Murphy's own childhood, it's the story of a well-to-do family whose father is off fighting in the war. They have taken in four "servants," two Italian prisoners-of-war and two German Jew refugees. The older POW takes on a father-figure role with the children of the family, and he and their mother slowly fall in love. The younger POW, meanwhile, falls in love with one of the two refugees, to the horror of her class-conscious mother.

Rhiana played Mercia, the eldest of the family's children. The film starred Steve Bastoni and Lisa Hensley. It was at this time that the acting bug bit her hard.

"It's so innocent and romantic," Rhiana said later of the film. "That was the turning point for me, that's when I knew I wanted to be an actress. I fell in love with it."


From there, Rhiana landed a role that would garner her international attention. She was selected to play "Audrey" in a small science fiction film being made in Queensland, Pitch Black. Audrey was a young teenage runaway who survived a spaceship crash with a dozen other people, only to find herself trapped on a world where almost-perpetual daylight reigned, but monsters emerged in the darkness. Audrey would be forced to rely upon the aid of a dangerous felon, who, interestingly enough, she would idolize to the point of shaving her head to emulate him.

Shortly after Rhiana's arrival on the set, it was decided that her character needed more depth, and a major change was made. Her name was changed to Jack/Jackie, and the script was changed so that she would spend most of the film disguised as a boy. Rhiana promptly took to wearing masculine clothes both on and off the set, and emulating the walk and gestures of her male costars. She described her rule for herself as "no lips, no hips." Her performance was so convincing that many people had no idea the American boy on the screen was actually an Australian girl. And in fact, Rhiana had such an excellent grasp of American accents that, after a mere three days, it was clear that she didn't actually need further help from the dialect coach that had been brought in for her.

Rhiana forged many friendships on the Pitch Black set, most notably with the film's star, Vin Diesel, now a fixture of American action films. The two have remained firm friends, with Vin ensuring that she attended the Sydney premieres of his later movies and visiting with her whenever he was in the country.

"He's a gentle giant," Rhiana said of him. "He calls me his 'lil sis' and I can definitely say that he is so not intimidating. He's a very genuine person and I'm glad to have worked with him." (Vin, meanwhile, was deeply impressed by Rhiana's commitment to the film, and has called her "the most easygoing person on the set.")

In the wake of Pitch Black, Rhiana continued to audition for parts, and focused as well on school. Art and Music are her other passions, and she won a 1999 Junior School Art Award for her paintings, while also experimenting with musical composition. Parts were hard to come by for a young teen with a shaved head, so Rhiana needed to grow her hair back out before many auditions would open up again. She had fun playing with it as it grew out, dying it silver and purple at one point.


In 2000 she scored another internationally-seen acting role, in a new, emerging medium: Internet webcasts. She was cast as the lead female in a short film called Desperately Seeking Brandi, created as a tie-in to the 2000 Sydney Olympic games for the Nike website. Her character, Bea, chronicled her best mate Billy's attempts to meet American soccer star Brandi Chastain, through a series of comic mishaps to an eventual cameo by Brandi herself. More than 80,000 websurfers from around the world watched the video series and saw Rhiana demonstrate her great skill as a comic actress.

She also demonstrated her flair for comedy when she appeared on the Australian TV show Backberner, also in 2000, as "Kristy Taylor."

From there, in 2001, Rhiana was cast in another short film, Search. This was Hannah Hilliard's second film after her award-winning Blame, and was made using money from awards that Blame had won. Rhiana played May, a fifteen-year-old girl on a quest for a reunion with her biological father. Her fixation on the newly-married man she tracks down wreaks havoc upon his life. Search has been touring the film festivals, both throughout Australia and internationally, and has won high acclaim.

Of especial appeal to audiences was the way that May was the aggressor in the movie, taking charge and having a powerful impact upon the film's lead male (played by Peter Fenton). Rhiana had jokingly commented during the publicity tours for Pitch Black that she'd love to play an "evil" character. And while May was disruptive but definitely not evil, Rhiana was about to get her chance to play a genuine villain.


It was after Search wrapped that Rhiana won a role on Home and Away, some four years after her first auditions. In 2002 news began circulating among the Home and Away fan sites that a new character, a girl named Aimee, would be appearing on the show soon, played by Rhiana. Not much was known about Aimee except that she would apparently shake things up for a couple on the show, and many sites speculated -- wrongly -- that she was going to get between "Josh" and "Dani."

Rhiana's character, Aimee Cooper, debuted as a girl staying in the town's Drop-In Centre for street kids. Many of the starring characters volunteered there, including Noah Lawson, who recommended her as an employee for the town's diner. Aimee began working at the diner but almost immediately embarked upon a tempestuous relationship with a coworker, Alex. Their romance quickly went sour and resulted in her quitting the job. At that point Noah felt guilty for her circumstances, and he and his girlfriend Haylee tried to help her. But Aimee had become infatuated with Noah and wanted him for herself, and it soon became apparent to the audience that she would do anything to get him. The resulting drama had fans on the edges of their seats, before Aimee's intentions were finally unmasked and she fled town in humiliation.

The episodes aired from early June to mid-July 2002 in Australia. They have been making their way through other markets, including New Zealand and England.

The Australian spring of 2002 saw Rhiana appearing as a guest star in yet another TV show, this time in a prime-time crime drama, White Collar Blue. Her episode, which aired on October 14, 2002, had her playing Lilly Derwent, a teenage girl who was attacked by a serial killer but managed to escape him. Again Rhiana wowed audiences with her realism, as she depicted a girl struggling to communicate with the police through a Rohypnol haze, and later did a tearful scene in which the police talk her into helping bring her assailant to justice. White Collar Blue was a critical, but not commercial, success, winning numerous awards for writing and acting, and was canceled after its second season.


In late 2002 / early 2003, Rhiana headed for Los Angeles. A sequel to Pitch Black called The Chronicles of Riddick was finally in the works, and one of the characters -- named Kyra -- was rumored to be a continuation of her role as Jack/Jackie in the first film. Although for whatever reason, there was no guarantee that Rhiana would get the part, the studio had decided to let her audition for it. To qualify, Rhiana had to train in the martial arts, studying with Renhshi Peter Kirkwood. He taught her a freestyle form called Kaizen Ryu, a combination of kick boxing, sparring, and karate training.

Despite Rhiana having Vin Diesel's backing and massive fan support, the studio decided that another actress would play Kyra.

However, perhaps in response to fan protests, the studio did decide that they wanted Rhiana to reprise her role in another medium, and she was cast in the anime tie-in to the film, providing the face and voice of Jack in that story. The anime, entitled The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury, would be released on DVD on June 15, to coincide with the release of the movie.

In the meantime, Rhiana appeared in musician Ben Lee's music video "Running With Scissors," playing the role of a disinterested waitress who gets knocked over by Lee's exuberant offstage antics.


Not one to let her time be wasted in L.A., Rhiana had spent her free time between auditions and meetings on her other major love, painting. Her work was so extraordinary that Diesel wanted some of it, and at least one of her paintings now hangs in his home. The rest went back to Australia with her and, in December of 2003, it was announced that she would be showing her first collection of work in the Newcastle-area Tighes Hill Art Gallery.

The 59-piece collection, entitled Chrysalis ("so named for the challenging transitional year from which [she has] so positively emerged," she told the Newcastle Herald), opened on January 17, 2004 at the gallery, as its first exhibition of the season. Rhiana's older brother Damien performed a poetry reading as part of opening events. The pieces ranged in price from $150 to $3,400 AU, and were described by gallery director Diana Middleby as abstract works that also contained figures, faces, fine drawing detail work, and the inclusion of exquisite decorative elements such as gold leaf.

The exhibition concluded on February 1, 2004, as an enormous success. It was the gallery's first solo artist exhibition, and the gallery had been kept open for it during a point in the year where normally they closed their doors. This paid off, however, because virtually every painting in the exhibition was purchased. The Rhiana Griffith Fan Club itself got involved, publicizing the exhibition online, resulting in inquiries from -- and sales to -- buyers outside of Australia.


It wasn't just Rhiana's beautiful pictures that had captured the attention of the Tighes Hill Gallery. Her inner and outer beauty and dynamic personality made a tremendous impression upon Robyn Stanton-Werkhoven, a renowned artist and co-owner of the gallery. Robyn was preparing to enter into the annual, prestigious Archibald Prize competition for portraiture, and she decided Rhiana would be a perfect subject for her portrait. Although her entry was not chosen for the prize (more than six hundred entries were received by the competition) it was still a huge mark of distinction and an honor for Rhiana, who admires Robyn's work and compares it to that of Frida Kahlo (one of her favorite artists).

Early April saw Rhiana returning to the catwalk for a charity showing of major designer Lisa Ho's work. In a radio interview not long afterward, Rhiana commented that going back to modeling for the show was rather like the "riding a bicycle" metaphor, but she is still far more comfortable with acting and getting to display more than mere physical beauty.

Shortly after Rhiana's 19th birthday, her second professional gallery show was announced. A Month in Kaos, a "representation of life's chaotic pace," opened in Sydney's Surry Hills Cafe 249 Art Gallery, running from May 1, 2004 to May 30, 2004.


June 2004 saw the release of The Chronicles of Riddick, to disappointing box office both in the US and around the world. Many critics made strong mention of how disappointed they were by Rhiana's absence from the film. They weren't the only ones; the RGFC received a huge volume of traffic during that month as literally thousands of fans flooded the site looking for information about why she hadn't been cast. Interestingly enough, while critics and moviegoers were fairly dismissive of the film itself, both the anime tie-in (in which Rhiana did appear) and the video game earned both praise and high sales, perhaps shaping the direction that the franchise might take in the future.

Meanwhile, Rhiana continued to audition for film and television parts, and won her next role in a small, independent short film. The film, A Whole New You, was being made for New Film Media, a video production company that wanted to showcase its services. Clocking in at three and a half minutes and directed by veteran commercial director Jody Dwyer, the short film is a comically sympathetic look at the life of a lonely office worker who decides to give himself a makeover. Rhiana was cast as the company receptionist who alternately finds him annoying, or fails to notice him at all.

A Whole New You turned out to be so clever that it was accepted into the 2004 Portland International Short-Short Film Festival (affectionately called PISS Fest) and made its world premiere there. Rhiana was back on the big screen again, and looking radiant. The film was one of the favorites of the festival, which was held on September 24 and 25. It is available for viewing on the New Film Media website, as well.

Rhiana, meanwhile, was in front of the cameras again, this time for a TV show. She had been cast as a guest star on the Australian medical drama All Saints, portraying Cindy, a young prostitute who was attacked by one of her clients. Her attack resulted in the ambulance team noticing that some of the girls working at the brothel were very young and probably underage, sparking an investigation. Rhiana wowed audiences with her mixture of tough cynicism and wounded vulnerability. The episode aired on October 12 in Australia.


Even as viewers were preparing to tune in to see Rhiana on the small screen, her portrait was back in action. Robyn Stanton-Werkhoven had entered it in the Portia Geach Memorial portraiture exhibition, and it was one of the entries chosen for display. On October 31, the exhibition hosted a talk called "Painting That Well-Known Face," in which Robyn and three other painters discussed their experiences and advice regarding painting celebrities. Along with the four painters, Rhiana spoke as well, giving her perspective as the subject of such a painting.

2005 opened spectacularly for Rhiana, as she and her older brother Damien launched a joint exhibition combining her paintings and his poetry. "Sibling Revelry" opened at the Tighes Hill Gallery on February 3, running through February 20. A limited edition book, collecting their works, was published to coincide with the show, and the siblings donated a share of the proceeds to UNICEF's fund for victims of the Boxing Day Tsunami.

The Tighes Hill Gallery's next exhibition was a Wearable Art festival featuring a variety of clothing designers, and Rhiana contributed a number of pieces to that show as well.

 


What looms on Rhiana's horizon? We've received word of several exciting projects. In the back of the Sibling Revelry book, it mentions that Rhiana is designing a line of wearable art clothing called "Push Play" that will be released in Sydney for their Winter 2005 fashion season. She's also working on a children's book starring her original fantasy characters called the Moples. And just when it seemed like Rhiana might be focusing exclusively on her art, we got word that she's been cast in the lead role of a psychological thriller! With all of these wondrous things on the way, we know it's only a matter of time before our favorite star takes over the whole sky.

This biography is written by Ardath Rekha and copyright © 2004 - 2005, the Rhiana Griffith Fan Club. It is not to be reused elsewhere without our written permission. Contact us for permission if you are interested in using all or part of it.

 
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