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From Pitch Black to Dreamkatcher, Radha Mitchell doesn't scare easily

For our new podcast series I'm So Obsessed, the actress talks about being terrified and impressed as a kid watching cult films like Cat People and why she's obsessed with her robot vacuum.

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Mitchell at the Olympus Has Fallen premiere in 2013.
Michael Tran/FilmMagic/Getty Images

This story is part of I'm So Obsessed (subscribe here), our podcast featuring interviews with actors, artists, celebrities and creative types about their work, career and current obsessions.

Pitch Black. Visitors. Silent Hill. Rogue. Surrogates. The Crazies. The Darkness. Dreamkatcher

Those movies have two things in common. First, they're a mix of horror and thriller. And second, they all star Radha Mitchell. 

The Australian actress hasn't only taken on roles in creepy flicks -- though fans may know her for playing the tough pilot marooned on a planet in space in the 2000 sci-fi cult classic Pitch Black, with Vin Diesel.  She's also appeared in comedies, dramas and action films, including Finding Neverland, Feast of Love, Looking for Grace, Fugly!! and Olympus has Fallen, and starred as the title character in Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda.

But it's the scary stuff that drew me to the conversation with her, a catalog of work that has led some to dub her the "queen of scream." In 2006's Silent Hill, based on Konami's video game classic, she plays a desperate mother looking to help her adopted daughter, who suffers from sleepwalking and nightmares. In Surrogates, based on the comic book series, she gives us an unsettling look at a future with robots. Mitchell plays an FBI agent alongside partner, Bruce Willis, in world in which people stay at home and send out remote-controlled android versions of themselves to interact with everyone else. What could go wrong there?

And in her newest film, Dreamkatcher, she plays the stepmom to a young boy who may be possessed by an evil spirit intent on killing her. 

"The first movie I remember was Cat People and then I remember The Hunger -- in fact I saw those movies as a double feature, sort of accidentally, because I don't think I was supposed to be there. I guess my mom couldn't find a babysitter," she tells me in our Zoom interview from her home in Los Angeles. "Those movies left an indelible impression basically because they terrified me,, but also because they had so much style and the acting was great. They were kind of cool."

Whatever the role, Mitchell comes across as a strong woman up against unusual (OK, crazy ridiculous) circumstances. Which is why our wide-ranging conversation about how she spends her free time left me laughing. She's passionate about painting abstracts and growing papayas, apples and oranges because she's an advocate for people growing their own food at home. And she's obsessed with her robot vacuum, which she's named Little Robot.

"Little Robot has been so overused that I think he's having a digestive problem right now and it's maybe time go to the doctor," she says with a laugh. Her other favorite machine: a home composter. "You pour your food scraps into and it dehydrates them and turns them into like compostable powder. So I never have to throw any of my compost into the trash so all my trash is recyclable."

Listen to my entire conversation with Mitchell. And we hope you'll subscribe to I'm So Obsessed on your favorite podcast app and join us as we catch up with other artists, actors and creators to learn about their work, their career and their current obsession.