How awesome was it booking Shortland Street so early on in your career?
I remember it so vividly, I was walking along Cuba street and my agent rang me and said “Are you somewhere you can sit down?” and I said “Not really” and I sort of leaned against a wall by the door of a shop opposite Farmers and she said “You’ve got the part on Shortland Street”
My knees went weak! I couldn’t believe it had happened. It was only my third audition for Shorty. I’d been shortlisted after my second audition which I was relieved I didn’t get because that character ended up dying after a year. Whereas I was there for seven years with about a six month break in my last year.
You mentioned to me that you hadn’t had a lot of formal training. However I assume there have been a lot of situations where you’ve learnt on the job. Is there any story that springs to mind?
Yeah absolutely. I suppose I should give some props to Victoria University, I did a Bachelor of Arts there and I did do a major in theatre and film so I did have some training. But the difference I’d say between the program there and Toi Whakaari for instance is that it’s not vocationally specific. Vic isn’t saying “We’re going to produce actors”. And after that I remember at least one of my friends went on to Toi which by that point was a three year degree course and I remember thinking, I don’t wanna be studying that long, and besides I knew at that point I wanted to do an honours year in English Literature anyway so after four years of study I just wanted to start doing things.
And luckily in Wellington you start doing work and meeting people and then more work keeps happening. And I got an agent as well which helps. And ya know I was doing devised theatre, fringe theatre all that kinda stuff in Wellington. I remember when I did my first professional theatre gig with Auckland Theatre Company which was once I was on Shortland Street that I would specifically ask for help from senior actors in the cast. For example we were performing in Sky City which is acoustically not the most friendly space for spoken work anyway, and they didn’t want to mic us. So there’s me coming from television, where there’s like a boom mic thirty centimetres away and never having had any formal voice training, to suddenly having to kick it with the likes of Paul Barrett onstage, so that was a sharp learning curve.
How long before Ideation has it been since you last did theatre?
Well four years basically. Ideation in 2018 and Plum in 2014. In between, I did do a show called White Rabbit, Red Rabbit in Palmerston North at Centre Point there which was so amazing just to be onstage. You get given the script up onstage by the stage manager and you open it in front of the audience for the first time. Luckily I’m a good sight reader so that wasn’t an issue. I’m also a really fast talker. The stage manager mentioned that the shows they did here in Christchurch range from 70-80 minutes. I ended up doing the show in a startlingly short amount of time, somewhere in the 60 minute mark. It was an interesting piece though because you’re trying to read it in a way that can be understood and still process the deep emotional stuff and I think I kinda hurried through that because of what it meant to me personally and the experiences I’ve had. I didn’t want to make the audience feel uncomfortable so I rushed through it, whereas others maybe wanted to give it more weight.
Are there any particular moments you’ve found rewarding about Ideation?
I’ve really enjoyed working with my mate Roy (Snow) and getting to work with Adam (Brookfield) who I knew of but hadn’t worked with before and it’s really nice to slip into a pattern and just know how to work together because you have that experience together. And it’s also been fun working with you and Shaan (Kesha) as sort of younger actors and kind of realising that I do know how to do this stuff! There’s always that doubt you know of the impostor syndrome as if someone’s going to find out you don’t know what you’re doing and then you sorta think “Oh hold on I do so some stuff” I don’t know everything and like I mentioned going over the basics is always valuable.
I realised however in the first week of rehearsals, I came in with my script-editing hat on and my energy level was probably much higher. Just in terms of the fact we got three weeks to rehearse the piece and it doesn’t have to be perfect first thing whereas I was thinking “I need this memorised in a week” but thankfully I didn’t which was an adjustment coming from TV writing pace. Shortland Street for example does work incredibly fast and if it’s a scene you’ve had the luxury of rehearsing you get fifteen minutes to shoot it and that’s mainly so that the camera and sound operators can make sure everything is working, so you can’t afford to fuck around. Hit your marks, know your lines and don’t piss people off. So in many ways that is really good training in making sure you a personally responsible for what you need to do.
I would love to play Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. I think it’s a great role, with great lines. She’s a fast talker too! She’s pretty much me!
I would also love to have to go at Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I love how you read a Tennessee Williams play and you can just feel the heat.
Agents. What are your thoughts?
They’re great in that having one suggests that you take your craft seriously and that you want to make a career out of this and for the same reason, every actor in New Zealand should join Equity. Also it’s nice to have someone to say “I think they’re worth this much money, and I’m gonna fight you for it.” I know I’d prefer not to do that! Putting it bluntly part of their job is getting you a gig and part of it is negotiating the terms, but they spend much more time trying to get you the gig. It’s a sign of professionalism and an agent doing their job well is great. But ya know, shop around, talk to people and see if you get the right vibe. Also talk to the agent one on one if you get the chance, see if you’re going to be working with them personally or a member of their team. Absolutely yeah, do it.
Any last advice?
Go to fringe shows, go to main stage shows. See a range of stuff. People you like, follow them on social media. Read plays, read novels, read everything. That is your best way of working that empathy muscle all the time. Just engage with the world, and with people. I’ve seen people get so caught up in their own method of acting that it becomes this internal spiral and that’s not how good work is created. You do a certain amount of work yourself but ultimately you have to give the work to the other actor and to the audience, whoever that may be and to do that you’ve got to be open to engage with the world and be changed by the world. If that means you sit and home rage crying about politics in the USA so be it. But there’s a lot of good in the world too. So be a good human being in the world and you will be hopefully, a better actor for it.