Culture / People

All the world’s a stage for Mel Jarnson

Actress Mel Jarnson talks New Years resolutions, crying over fried rice, and how Middle Earth inspired her acting career

As we speak, Mel Jarnson is packing her suitcase. She’s only been in Bangkok for about 24 hours, but she’s already preparing for an imminent flight across to London, two days before Christmas. “I’ve just got like, three suitcases that I’m playing Tetris with at the moment,” she laughs.

Her travel essentials? “I always have to bring a camera and a tripod for auditions,” says Jarnson. “There’s also this specific shampoo that I use from Klorane.”


Left: MIU MIU top; PASPALEY earrings, necklace and bracelets. Right: ALEX PERRY bodysuit; PASPALEY earrings, necklace and ring.


Jarnson has always been on the move. A ‘global citizen’ by just about every measure, the half Thai and half Australian actress grew up in between Belgium, Thailand, India and Australia, and speaks French, Thai and English with ease. While she’s spent much of the last decade residing in Sydney, with a blossoming acting career in front of her, it’s hard to imagine she’ll ever be tied down to a single place.

“We moved countries a lot,” Jarnson says. “Acting was always a nice consistency because, moving countries every three-four years, that was kind of the only thing that didn’t change: I had theatre. I had drama. I acted in some capacity during school or after school. That was a nice comfort.”

Perhaps born from a desire to travel to places she couldn’t get to by plane, Jarnson credits her passion for acting to her first time watching Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings films. “I was four years old,” she explains to me. “We were living in Brussels at the time, and I thought that The Lord of the Rings was a documentary. My poor mum had to painstakingly explain that it's not real, but I think I figured that if Middle Earth didn’t exist, then the next best thing was to pretend like I was in Middle Earth.”


Left: BOTTEGA VENETA top; PASPALEY earrings (also worn on collar), necklace, bracelets and rings. Right: MATTEAU dress and swimsuit; PASPALEY earrings, necklace and bracelets.


Pretty quickly, Jarnson’s acting career picked up steam – you might recognise her as Nitara in 2021’s Mortal Kombat, or from last year’s Blacklight, starring Liam Neeson. She’s also fresh off the back of her most recent project, an Australian television series called C*A*U*G*H*T, where Jarnson was billed alongside Sean Penn – working with whom she says was “such a highlight”. “Watching him so effortlessly create magic was so special,” she reminisces.

But now, Jarnson seems just about ready to take on any role – though she confides that she’d secretly love to play someone just a little more awkward.

“Honestly that’s my dream – I would love to play someone awkward! I’m really, really uncoordinated,” she laughs. “I think I’ve just decided that I need to stop playing people that are meant to be really cool – I’m not. When I play someone confident, I have to use a movement coach. I literally have to get taught how to walk properly!”

Her first-take ritual? “Guaranteed, my first take on every single project I do, I stack it. It’s a given.”


Paspaley Mel Jarnson

Left: ALEX PERRY dress; PASPALEY earrings. Right: FENDI top; ERES swimsuit; PASPALEY earrings and necklace.


Having spent the last eight years residing and working in Australia, Jarnson has made a home for herself in Sydney. “It’s the only place I’ve stayed in for more than four consecutive years in my whole life,” she says. “I moved to Sydney for university and that’s where I stuck. It’s just so beautiful.”

She tells me, somewhat bashfully, that her favourite place to visit is The Galleries, a shopping precinct in the city. “I don’t know why, but it’s my favourite place in Sydney. I go all the time – I go to Kinokuniya, and nice little hidden cafes around, like Chinatown Country Club. I don’t buy anything, it just reminds me of Bangkok. I should give a more picturesque answer, but that’s honestly it.”

In typical Sydney fashion, Jarnson shot her RUSSH cover shoot splashing around the beach on a 38 degree December day, adorned in pearls from Australian luxury jewellery company, Paspaley. “It was a good day,” she said. “I haven’t shot in the water in a couple of years.”

“The styling was so different from what I’ve usually done. Everything was kind of perfect, you know? And the jewellery! I loved how our stylist – she’s so talented – put pearls in the button holes of my shirt! She just put the pearls in the most creative places. I loved that. It was really pretty – like little Paspaley brooches!”


Paspaley Mel Jarnson

Left: GIORGIO ARMANI bodysuit; PASPALEY earrings, necklace and bracelets. Right: STRATEAS CARLUCCI dress; PASPALEY earring and ring.


Jarnson’s personal jewellery philosophy is minimalistic at heart. Her first sentimental piece of jewellery, coincidentally, also a pearl piece – her grandmother’s pearl necklace. “That one’s really sentimental to me,” she muses. These days, she tells me she’s “hugely into silver” and is drawn to more “quirky jewellery”. 

“I’ve got these horse hooves where the hooves are gold and the legs are silver. They’re gorgeous. Then I’ve got this cute little snake that wraps around. I just love good, minimalist jewellery that has some kind of quirkiness to it. I loved the moons from the shoot that we did – the Paspaley crescents – that’s something I’m obsessed with.”

Unsurprisingly, Jarnson recounts that she was on the move yet again post-shoot, headed straight to the airport to board a flight to Bangkok, where she’s been for the last 24 hours spending time with family – and of course, indulging in some of the local cuisine. 

“The hardest thing for me is actually the food,” she laughs. “I miss the food so badly, it’s so stupid. I don’t think I realised how much I missed good Thai food until I came back home and had fried rice and I started crying.”

“But I do really miss my parents here. I’ve been living overseas for the better part of a decade, so when I visit Bangkok, I never get used to being with my parents again,” she says. “I literally have only been back for one night on this trip, but I was in Bangkok last week, and I was still running toward my dad in the airport like a kid.”

Paspaley Mel Jarnson

Left: GUCCI top; PASPALEY earring and necklace. Right: MATTEAU dress and swimsuit; PASPALEY earrings, necklace and bracelets.


When I ask her what the best advice she’s ever received was, she quickly darts out to ask her mum in the next room: “Mum! What’s the best advice you’ve ever given me?” Her mother's muffled reply follows soon after: “Wear sunblock!” Jarnson laughs.

On a more serious note, Jarnson reflects that her best career advice received is probably to ‘Do the work’. “People are going to doubt you and everything, then that’s not going to matter,” she says. “At the start, especially for acting, there’s going to be a lot of doubt. I felt insecure about that, but then I really felt that shift when I did the work and the prep. Maybe I was just so busy doing the work that I didn’t notice if there was any judgement, or maybe there just wasn’t any because I was obviously working so hard. You’re always going to feel like you’re not good enough for a project. That’s the nature of acting because you’re pretending, you know? So you’re always going to feel like a fraud, but if you’re prepared in the most minute details, then you kind of feel bulletproof when you walk on set. You’re still going to be nervous, but you’re not going to freeze up.”

Other than spending more time with family, I probe whether she has any other New Year's resolutions or intentions?

“I need to just pack less, you know?” she laughs. “I have no space for shoes right now! I’ve travelled so much this year – I’ve lived out of a suitcase for six months – at this point I should’ve figured it out. Terrible packing, I don’t have an excuse for it.”

FASHION Charlotte Agnew
TALENT Mel Jarnson @ The Collective Management
HAIR Rory Rice @ M.A.P
MAKEUP Isabella Schimid @ Assembly Agency

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Feature image: Left: GIORGIO ARMANI bodysuit; PASPALEY earrings, necklace and bracelets. Right: SAINT LAURENT dress; PASPALEY earrings, necklaces (also worn on shoulder), bracelets and rings.