Rhiana Jade Griffith was born on April 16, 1985 in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, Australia. As a child she began modeling, doing runway work, magazine shoots, and catalogue ads for children’s clothing. At the age of 13, she won the ModelQuest98 Grand Final for the 12-to-15-year-old division.
Rhiana’s modeling successes resulted in her 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’s phenomenal talent. She played Kelly, a young burn victim who had been injured when her uncle’s fishing boat exploded, opposite Peter Whitford (Strictly Ballroom) who portrayed her surgical specialist.
Next Rhiana 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 a complex tale of love, honor, and class warfare carried out in the Outback. Rhiana played Mercia, the eldest of the McClelland children. It was at this time that she decided she wanted to pursue an acting career.
From there, Rhiana was cast as “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 whom she would idolize and emulate, to the point of shaving her head. 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.
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.
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. Rhiana demonstrated her great skill as a comic actress, which was further underscored when she appeared on the Australian comedy show “Backberner,” also in 2000.
In 2001, Rhiana was cast in another short film, “Search,” Hannah Hilliard’s second film after her award-winning “Blame.” 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.
From there, in May 2002, Rhiana won a role on Home and Away, playing a young woman with a psychotic fixation on one of the soap opera’s lead males. Part Fatal Attraction, part Single White Female, Aimee Cooper’s obsession riveted fans and left them on the edges of their seats. In October 2002, Rhiana next appeared as a guest star the prime-time Aussie crime drama, “White Collar Blue.” She played Lilly Derwent, a teenage girl who was attacked by a serial killer but managed to escape him, unknowingly reopening a decade-old series of unsolved murders.
2003 was a quiet year for Rhiana, although she appeared in Ben Lee’s music video “Running With Scissors.” Following the bizarre recasting of her role in Pitch Black, she concentrated on painting and completing school. In December of 2003, however, two announcements came out that left her fans very excited: First, perhaps in response to fan protests over the “Kyra” casting debacle, she would be reprising the role of Jack in an anime tie-in to The Chronicles of Riddick. Second, she would be having her first gallery art show in January 2004. The 59-piece collection, called Chrysalis, was an enormous hit, virtually selling out by the end of its two-week run in the gallery, with paintings even going to buyers outside of Australia.
Rhiana then did a little bit of modeling again, in the spring of 2004, first posing for a portrait that was entered into the Archibald portraiture competition, and then returning to the catwalk for a showing of international designer Lisa Ho’s work. Soon after, she had her second major art show, this time in Sydney, and acted in a short independent film called “A Whole New You,” directed by Jodi Dwyer.
With the release of The Chronicles of Riddick, and Dark Fury, in June 2004, thousands of people swarmed her fan club’s website trying to find out why she was shut out of the sequel that should have been hers by right. We may never know, but we do know that it’s only a matter of time before this bright young star takes over the whole sky.
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