Gemma Ward believes in ghosts. It’s not the sort of question you’d usually ask in an interview, but seeing as her new play, 2:22: A Ghost Story, is a supernatural thriller, it only seems fair to put the question to her.
“I have never had any ghost experiences [but] I have very close friends who both saw the same ghost in my apartment in New York,” she admitted to marie claire Australia.
“And my mum has seen a ghost, and her mum (my grandma), and her sister, all saw the same ghost. I’ve heard crazy stories and I do believe those people, but I’m terrified of seeing one myself.”
The model has been hard at work preparing for the role of Jenny, a new mother who is convinced her home is haunted, and that the ghost is targeting her child. Jenny’s husband, Sam (played by Remy Hii), on the other hand, is a steadfast sceptic.
The play opens in Melbourne later this year, and marks a new phase in the supermodel-turned-actress’ career.
“No modelling job has five-week rehearsals, so it’s definitely a little more intellectually strenuous,” Ward said of the transition from fashion to acting.
“But I feel good going into this knowing I’ve done The Ugly One in Perth,” she said, referring to her theatre debut in 2011, when she was just 23.
“I didn’t stuff up any lines, I didn’t miss a day, everything went smoothly,” she laughed.
“I kind of know what I’m walking into, but yeah, this is a little bit of a bigger scale.”
It’s not the first time Ward has flexed her acting skills. Along with The Ugly One, she has a string of on-screen appearances to her name, including Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Great Gatsby, and While The Men Are Away, a drama series which is set to air this year.
And although many of us know her for her modelling first, acting is something Ward says has been in her blood for far longer.
“I’ve been acting since I was seven, I begged my mum to get me an agent,” she recalled.
“Then, when I was in New York, I studied Shakespeare and Chekhov at Stella Adler [Studio Of Acting].
“It’s kind of nice to synthesise all these things that I’ve dipped in and out of that now I can tap into.”
The play, which will run for four weeks at Melbourne’s Her Majesty Theatre, will also star Daniel MacPherson as Ben and Ruby Rose as Lauren. It’s the first time the story is being told in Australia, after playing on the West End in 2021, and in LA the following year.
“I feel like I’m definitely more grateful, and I’m a lot more professional maybe,” she said.
“Every season of your life comes with different amounts of energy or reflection or perspective. Right now, I feel quite energised, because my youngest daughter’s three, and I always feel like once you stop breastfeeding and you’re out of nappies… it’s a little bit freeing.”
Her experience as mum to Naia, 10, Jet, 7, and Kirra, 3, is one she says puts her in good stead to play the role of Jenny, a new mother.
“You can’t not have ‘sense’ memory of what it’s like to have a baby; the frustrations and the protective instinct, and the love,” she said.
2:22: A Ghost Story Will play at Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre from 25 July. Book tickets here.