Acting in The Wizards of Aus

In today’s blog post, we have yet another very special guestBest known for her role as Priya Kapoor on iconic Network Ten television series Neighbours, Menik Gooneratne has had a film and television career spanning over a decade, encompassing both Australian and international productions, including working with Nicole Kidman on the upcoming feature Lion. Today she talks to us about her experiences on The Wizards of Aus. Enjoy!

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How I came to be involved in Wizards was one of those rare worlds-aligning-stars-colliding-Tom-Hanks-Meg-Ryan scenarios. By that, I mean I got sent an email. From someone I’d never met. Asking if I’d like to be part of their show.

After my initial disappointment in discovering the sender was neither Tom Hanks nor Meg Ryan, I read the script. It had me at “The”. Terry Pratchett is one of my favourite authors and it delighted me so to read a script that was very much in a similar vein. It was so absurdly funny it had me laughing so hard I almost wet myself.

Okay, I lie. I DID wet myself….I’ve had a baby so unfortunately this seems to be a thing I do now.

That’s my first bit of advice for you – FOR THE LOVE OF DRY CLOTHING DO YOUR PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISES.

What? Oh, you only want me to talk about actoring? Sure, let’s move on then.

So my love of Terry Pratchett and weak lady muscles aside, I found the script irresistibly zany. I thought the manner in which it commented on Australia’s attitudes toward immigration very very clever. I loved the character of Kylie and what she stood for.  I could relate to her on a number of levels. So right from the beginning this production felt like the perfect fit for me (shall I be douchey and call it Fate? Yes, yes I will). It was fate.

My audition consisted of a chat over coffee with Michael. He even paid. Nice lad. And then I was left to my own devices to prepare. We didn’t have the opportunity for a rehearsal period, which meant the next time I saw everyone was my first day on set.

So my second first bit of advice is – DO YOUR RESEARCH.

I had never worked with Michael or anyone else from the LateNite team so I had absolutely no idea what it was going to be like. So the first thing I did was Google the shit out of them.

The Internet is amazing. Do be careful of what search words you type in though. My first google search of “Late Nite Shanks” led me to believe I was embarking on some sort of homage to nocturnal meat consumption…

But I digress. Watching all of Michael’s online content was super handy in giving me a pretty good idea of his style and what the look, feel, pacing & tone for Wizards would most probably be like.

As an actor you generally have no control over the people you end up working with on a show. You rock up hoping that at least one person is nice and will let you sit with them at lunch. I really lucked out on Wizards. Everyone was lovely. And so bloody good at what they did! But even in the most encouraging environments there are always challenges.

Limited time was one major challenge. With so much to shoot Wizards moved at a lightning pace. My first day was a baptism of fire. We were running so behind on the shots that when the time to shoot my scenes we had less than an hour of daylight left. Great. So not only were there the usual “Don’t fuck it up Menik” first day nerves there were the additional “Oh shit, no really, there’s no time to fuck up so don’t….crap how do I walk in a straight line again?” nerves too.

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That brings me to my second tip – BE PREPARED.

I know all actors go about their actoring differently but I find the more prepared I am before a shoot the happier I am with the outcome (and the more fun I have). So I rehearsed & work-shopped independently and walked to set with my shoes full of feet and my head full of ideas. It took away the stress of shooting to such a tight schedule because I felt match fit & ready to play.

That being said Wizards was an incredibly easy production to be involved in because Michael was a dream director. He had such a precise vision of what he wanted, and such a clear way of articulating it, that it made my job easy. Even amongst the chaos of directing & starring & commandeering the whole show, he still made the time to bounce ideas with me & talk things through which made the whole experience so wonderfully collaborative.

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My third tip is – DON’T SELL YOURSELF SHORT.

I don’t know about other people but I have this annoying habit of getting part way through a gig then suddenly having a crisis of confidence that I’m not doing a good enough job.

My favourite days of filming were when we shot the Town Hall stuff – epic group scenes with lots of insane characters and lots of ridiculously funny comedians playing said insane characters. I watched as one after the other these guys and gals just slayed it & had us all in hysterics.

Thankfully my bladder held out on this occasion but it got me worried about how unfunny my contribution thus far had been. Luckily that feeling didn’t last but it made me realise that often as an actor when you land a good role you just feel so freaking grateful they picked you, that you forget it’s a two way street. They didn’t hand you the role out of pity – you got it because you had a quality that no one else had. So boys & girls, don’t be a dingus like me and compare yourself to your cast mates – be true to your flavour and trust that your qualities are essential to the mix.

Geez… I’ve really waffled on haven’t I? Okay I’ll stop now.

Oh! One more thing.

If you ever get the chance to work with the LateNite team, DO IT you lucky son of a bitch. You’ll never meet a more talented bunch of nutjobs. Especially that Michael guy. He’s a little bit magic.

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