The Undoing breakout star Matilda de Angelis

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The Undoing’s breakout star! How Italian Matilda de Angelis, 25, with no formal training and had never acted in English held her own against Nicole Kidman – 5 years after being plucked from obscurity for her first film role

  • Matilda de Angelis starred with Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman in The Undoing
  • The 25-year-old Italian actress only landed her first film role five years ago
  • She played Elena Alves, who is at the centre of the intrigue in the TV series  
  • Fans hailed her ‘exquisite performance’ and she is poised for stardom  

With Hollywood heavyweights Hugh Grant, Nicole Kidman and Donald Sutherland leading the cast, The Undoing was certainly not short of star power. 

But in the wake of this week’s series finale it is the relatively unknown Matilda de Angelis, who played murdered mistress Elena Alves, that has everyone talking.

The 25-year-old Italian actress captivated audiences with her ‘exquisite performance’ and ‘menacing beauty’ in what is being hailed as one of the ‘biggest breakthrough roles in recent years’. 

The role required Matilda to appear in the nude, share a sex scene with Grant, 60, and initiate a kiss with Kidman, 53, in a penthouse elevator. Her beaten, bloodied face also appeared in haunting flashbacks throughout the six-part series as viewers waited to discover who was responsible for her violent death.  

The prospect of such a complex, sexually-charged role would be enough to make even seasoned performers feel a tingle of nerves.  

But not so Matilda, who only started acting five years ago and has appeared in only a handful of Italian films and TV shows since.

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Breakout role: Italian actress Matilda de Angelis starred opposite Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman in The Undoing. It marks her first US production and her first English-speaking role. Pictured, Matilda cuts an elegant figure in a sherbet pink gown at the 2018 Venice Film Festival

Captivating: In the aftermath of this week's series finale it is the relatively unknown Matilda de Angelis, who played murdered mistress Elena Alves (pictured), that has everyone talking

Captivating: In the aftermath of this week’s series finale it is the relatively unknown Matilda de Angelis, who played murdered mistress Elena Alves (pictured), that has everyone talking 

Making an entrance: In one scene in the first episode, Elena (de Angelis) approached Grace (Kidman) in the gym locker room while completely naked

Making an entrance: In one scene in the first episode, Elena (de Angelis) approached Grace (Kidman) in the gym locker room while completely naked

‘Kissing Nicole was the least of the things I was intimidated by,’ she said in an interview with W Magazine. ‘I know I’m a good kisser, so I don’t care about that.

Meanwhile the idea of acting in the nude was ‘liberating’. ‘Whether it’s my eyes, or my mouth, or my boobs or my vagina, my body is just another tool to express myself. It’s still me,’ she told Interview. 

‘As long as the goal is to communicate something complex, then nakedness can be a powerful way to express and persuade.’ 

With such confidence and commanding on screen presence, it is difficult to believe The Undoing marks Matilda’s first major TV role. 

It was also her first time acting in English, her first time in New York (where the show was filmed) and her first on-screen kiss (with Oscar-winner Kidman, no less). 

Not bad for someone who only has a handful of credits under her belt.

Originally a singer who shared videos of her performances on social media, Matilda’s ‘discovery’ story sounds like something out of a fairytale. 

Encouraged by a friend, Matilda, who grew up in a town near Bologna, in the north of Italy, travelled to Rome for an open casting call to audition for a director who was looking for a non-professional actress with a ‘specific accent from a specific region in Italy’. Matilda fit the bill and was cast.  

Unexpected: The characters also shared a brief kiss in a lift after a school fundraising event

Unexpected: The characters also shared a brief kiss in a lift after a school fundraising event

Steamy embrace: Matilda and Grant's characters had sex in the moments before he killed her

Steamy embrace: Matilda and Grant’s characters had sex in the moments before he killed her

Shaking things up: Elena raised eyebrows when she takes her infant to a school fundraising meeting with Grace (Kidman) and her WASP-y friends and proceeds to breastfeed

Shaking things up: Elena raised eyebrows when she takes her infant to a school fundraising meeting with Grace (Kidman) and her WASP-y friends and proceeds to breastfeed 

She has appeared in a string of Italian film and TV projects since, including Tutto può succedere, The Prize, The Big Other and Youtopia, but nothing on even close to the scale of The Undoing. 

Matilda, who is now based in Rome, was staying in her hometown when she recorded a taped audition for The Undoing, after her agent sent her information about an upcoming HBO show.

‘After reading the scene I was pretty much sure I wasn’t going to get the role, because it was such a big scene and I was doing it on my own,’ she told Interview magazine.

‘So I thought, “okay I’ll just try, and I’ll do my best”. When they told me I actually got the part, I could not believe it.’

She signed up for English classes before jetting off to the States to join Grant and Kidman in New York.

‘It was the first time I visited New York in my life,’ she told W. ‘I was very excited; New York is perhaps the most iconic city in the world. It was so exciting for me to walk around and get lost in the city. I kept thinking, “Oh, here was that scene from that movie!” It was my favorite game.’ 

Matilda starred as Elena Alves, a young mother who caused a stir when she arrived at the gates of an Upper East Side private school and meets Grace Fraser (Kidman) and her circle of WASP-y friends.

Self-confidence: The role of Elena Alves required Matilda to kiss Nicole Kidman and appear on screen completely naked but she said she wasn't nervous about the prospect of either

Self-confidence: The role of Elena Alves required Matilda to kiss Nicole Kidman and appear on screen completely naked but she said she wasn’t nervous about the prospect of either

Bright future: The actress recently graced the cover of Italy's Grazia magazine and wrapped another project about Leonardo da Vinci, costarring Freddie Highmore and Poldark's Aidan Turner. Pictured, at an event in Rome in October 2018

Matilda in Rome in October 2019

Bright future: The actress recently graced the cover of Italy’s Grazia magazine and wrapped another project about Leonardo da Vinci, costarring Freddie Highmore and Poldark’s Aidan Turner. Pictured, at an event in Rome in October 2019 and another engagement that month

Unbeknownst to Grace, Elena was having an affair with her paediatric oncologist husband, Johnathan (Grant), which came to a violent end when he bludgeoned Elena to death in a violent late-night attack in her art studio.  

The rest of the programme dealt with the fallout from the crime and saw viewers question who was responsible for the killing. Johnathan admitted to the murder in the season finale, which aired in the US on Sunday and the UK the following night.  

Viewers have been bowled over by Matilda’s performance and the show has led to a string of high profile interviews.  

The actress recently graced the cover of Italy’s Grazia magazine and has spoken to W and Interview, among others. 

There are already exciting projects in the pipeline for the rising star. 

She recently wrapped a mini series about Leonardo da Vinci, co-starring Freddie Highmore and Poldark’s Aidan Turner and will appear in film Across the River and Into the Trees, opposite The Hunger Games star Josh Hutcherson and actor Liev Schreiber.

Big dreams: Matilda, pictured in 2018, hopes to land more English-speaking roles

Big dreams: Matilda, pictured in 2018, hopes to land more English-speaking roles

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