australia's next gen actors on diversity and home

To be Australian in 2017 means a lot of different things. With one in four members of our population born overseas, it increasingly doesn’t mirror the sun-bleached stereotype we’ve clung to for decades. Despite this, turn on the TV or head to the...

by Darren Luk
31 May 2017, 3:25am

Remy Hii

What does being Australian mean to you?
I see every Australian as being an immigrant of some sort. Unless you are a First Nations/Indigenous person, we have all come from somewhere. My mum's English, my dad's Chinese, but all our families and ancestors have travelled and brought stories and culture to this land and created something. To me, being an Australian lies in this shared experience, we also have the privilege of living in a country so young its identity is still malleable - not yet set in clay.

How did growing up in a diverse family influence you?
It taught me tolerance. It taught me to listen, and to be open to others who are different. Growing up across many cultures and always traveling for my father's work gave me this hunger to keep learning and experiencing new things. That knack for observation and the need to experience everything probably laid the path for becoming an actor later in life.

What are you looking forward to?
I'm really passionate about Sisters (a new TV show). It has such a great cast and creative team behind it, and the lead actress Maria Angelico is a revelation.

What skill do you want to pick up this year?
I want to learn how to develop my own photographic film. I was recently quoted $100+ for three rolls of film. I would have laughed if I weren't choking on my own tears.

Best lesson you've learned so far?
It's always about the work. It's not about your ego, your fame, how well someone else is doing in their career or chosen field — focus on the work at hand. Do the best you can. The rest will follow.


Madeleine Madden

What does being Australian mean to you?
That's such a big question. It constantly changes. I just try to be as open minded, inclusive and accepting as I can be. At the moment I just try to do my thing and hope that I do some good along the way.

How did growing up in a diverse family influence you?
I often wonder, what kind of person I'd be if I didn't grow up in the family I've been raised in. Being Aboriginal immediately makes you a target for racism. I've been forced to deal with a harsher reality than most people, which has made me stronger. My family are strong and heavily involved in the arts and very political. I've always been surrounded by artistic and stimulating people who've encouraged me to be opinionated and expressive. I'm a proud black woman of this country, and I owe it to my family.

What's been your career highlight so far?
Ready For This was such a career highlight for me. To be apart of such a groundbreaking show for especially Indigenous kids but also non-indigenous kids. Kids are so impressionable; they soak everything like a sponge.

Who are you inspired by?
Michelle Obama. She took on one of the hardest jobs, being the first lady, a mother and maintaining her integrity and sense of self. But she did it with balls! She had two glass ceilings to break through. Being a woman and being a black woman. She's shown so many black women around the world that you really can be anything you want to be.

What are you looking forward to?
I'm currently shooting Picnic at Hanging Rock, down in Melbourne. It's going to be fantastic. I never thought I'd do a period piece like this because of my background, it's a real first. We've got the best team working on it and there's a real energy, especially amongst the cast and it's just electric. It's a really female orientated and empowering piece even though it's set in a really oppressive era. Now more than ever, we need a show like this.

Lastly, what's one thing you want to see change in the world right now?
Our treatment of the planet. We've only got one and we have to look after her.


Keiynan Lonsdale

What does being Australian mean to you?
To work hard for what you want but also to not take yourself too seriously. I feel like that's why people are generally pretty fond of Aussies.

How did growing up in a diverse family influence you?
Dad is Nigerian and Mum is Aussie/Irish so from day one I've been surrounded by family and friends of all ethnicities, it's all I've ever known. I think it definitely played a part in how I see the world and people in general.

What's been your career highlight so far?
I've been lucky to have worked on some really incredible projects, but the most surreal experience, and I guess a real game changer, was The Divergent Series. It was my first job in the U.S and such a scary and exciting process.

What's the toughest thing about being an actor?
It's different for everyone. The main thing I struggle with, especially being in my 20s, is figuring out my identity while my job requires me to be someone else every day. It's about balance and I'm learning that.

What are you looking forward to?
I'm currently working on Season 3 of The Flash, the back half of the season is airing now. Dance Academy The Movie is in theatres which I'm super excited for, it was crazy fun for us to jump back into the characters we wrapped up five years ago! Other than that it's mostly music, I'm writing/recording every chance I get and I'm dropping my next single soon.

Best lesson you've learned so far?
To delete my social media. I obviously didn't listen, but I do take significant breaks from it! Especially when I realise I'm spending my life on my phone, and getting affected by the bullshit people try to throw at you online. I like being connected to everything, but it's not always healthy for the soul.


Alexandra Phillips

What does being Australian mean to you?
I think it's being a person who shows success when results speak for themselves versus talking about it. We're very humble and relaxed.

How did growing up in a diverse family influence you?
It offered a unique perspective to help come up with creative ideas. Having parents of different skin colours (Australian and Filipino) is something I'm very proud of.

What's the toughest thing about being an actor?
Sticking it out to be honest. There's so much time just waiting, so you really have to be in for the right reasons.

What's one of the most valuable things you've learnt so far?
That caring too much can paralyse action. Sometimes you just got to take action and let go of being a perfectionist. The only thing that matters is the present.


Arka Das

What does being Australian mean to you?
I think if you feel Australian, then you probably are.

How did growing up in a diverse family influence you?
It has influenced me in many ways and I am definitely starting to reap the benefits as I get older. I grew up within a community where I met lots of friends who are still some of my closest mates 10 years on. My dad also made sure I spoke my language at home (Bengali) and practiced reading and writing it, so I grew up bilingual. Even though it may have been tough balancing life during earlier years, growing up in a diverse family and community is definitely serving me well in life now.

What's been your career highlight so far?
Highlights in my short career, have been surprisingly aplenty. I got to work on an amazing film called Lion alongside Dev Patel, Rooney Mara and director Garth Davis. Not only because the film has done well, but tracking that amazing story from the beginning and then getting to be a part of it was personally a huge highlight.

Who are you inspired by?
I feel it's constantly changing for me. Jane Campion as a writer/director is a big one who I was lucky enough to be able to work with recently on series two of Top of the Lake. I am also inspired by a lot of Independent cinema coming out of India and South Asia at the moment shedding light on untold stories. However, from an acting point of view I have always been big fans of Benicio Del Toro and Denzel Washington's work.

Best lesson you've learned so far?
One of the best bits of advice I received was from a fellow actor and it's really a simple one. I was feeling lost about my career and wasn't sure if the path I was going on was the right one. He just referred me to the old 'there's more than one way to skin a cat' and that everyone's journey is different. I still check in with that sometimes when I feel a little off track.


Natasha Liu Bordizzo

What does being Australian mean to you?
It means you now call Australia home, regardless of where you're from, where your parents are from or how many generations have called it home.

How did growing up in a diverse family influence you?
Growing up with two parents from very different backgrounds (Italian and Chinese) gave me the perfect basis to have a very open-minded view of the world. Being from these backgrounds and growing up in the melting pot that is Australia resulted in me not feeling an inherent belonging to any race. I feel more like a citizen of the world, and as a result I love travel, floating from city to city and meeting new people from all over.

What's been your career highlight so far?
Michelle Yeoh becoming my mentor. She has only ever mentored two people in her life, me being the second. It's an honour and her advice is always exactly what I need to hear.

What's the toughest part about being an actor?
I think a lot of people watch films in their sweatpants at home and think they could be an actor, and you probably could! The tough part is trying to do so on three hours sleep, jet-lagged, cold, with an uncomfortable costume and no rehearsals. The tough part is keeping your focus for every take, twelve hours in, bringing the same strength and emotion to the surface every time. Everyone can imitate life and play with lines, but it's the depth and consistency of the work that will be what separates you.

What are you looking forward to?
I'm working on two upcoming films, Hotel Mumbai and The Greatest Showman. I'm excited to work more in Asia and tap into that international market too.

What's the best advice anybody has given you?
Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.



Text and photography Darren Luk

alexandra phillips
arka das
keiynan lonsdale
madeleine madden
natasha liu bordizzo
remy hii