Tips for young actors from Alison Whyte
Alison Whyte in ‘The Kettering Incident’ (Photo: Ben King).
Celebrating 30 years in the acting profession, Alison Whyte is happy to offer advice to young or other aspiring actors.
Perhaps best known for her roles in Network 10’s Playing for Keeps, Foxtel’s The Kettering Incident and Satisfaction and Jocelyn Moorhouse’s The Dressmaker, the VCA graduate proffers these tips:
– Learn to live with rejection and remain optimistic: “It’s easy to get pessimistic if you are unemployed. Isolate one problem and know that it won’t affect the rest of your life.”
– Look after yourself mentally when you are playing roles that require grieving or other deep emotions.
– Don’t think about working overseas until you have a solid list of credits under your belt.
On the subject of mental health, in June Whyte finished performing in the Malthouse Theatre production of Nick Enright and Justin Monjo’s five-hour adaptation of Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet.
“My character Oriel Lamb carries around with her a lot of grief and I found it really exhausting,” she tells IF. “When the curtain comes down you have to find ways to get rid of it.”
On a much lighter note, in the upcoming second series of Screentime’s Playing for Keeps, her character Dianne Marrello keeps sparring with her daughter-in-law Tahlia (Olympia Vallance). She enjoyed renewing her collaboration with the director Ian Watson, with whom she worked on Satisfaction and Good Guys, Bad Guys.
“Dianne is a rich, powerful, smart woman and she doesn’t think Tahlia is good enough for her son (Jackson Gallagher),” she says.
Paul Moloney, who is producing the series with Kerrie Mainwaring, gave Alison her first screen gig when he cast her in Kelly, a kids’ series for 10 from Jonathan M. Shiff Productions about the adventures of a former police dog.
Her latest film is Below, Maziar Lahooti’s debut feature set in a refugee detention centre, produced by Good Thing Productions’ Nick Batzias, Veronica Gleeson and Kate Neylon.
She plays Cheryl, whose son Dougie (Ryan Corr) is recruited to work in the centre. He discovers a ‘Fight Club’-style underground operation where detainees are blackmailed into fighting, which awakens his dormant conscience. Anthony LaPaglia plays Terry, Dougie’s stepfather who is the centre’s security manager.
“It’s terrific and packs a real punch. Maz has made a really interesting film, he’s very energetic and he tells the story in a pretty wacky and different way. It was a lovely role and great fun,” she says.
“Cheryl envisions a fabulous future with Terry and thinks he will straighten out Dougie, but that’s not what happens.”
Alison Whyte in ‘The Testament of Mary.” (Photo: Sydney Theatre Company).
Another demanding gig was the Sydney Theatre Company production of Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary. Playing Jesus’ mother, she delivered a one hour 35 minutes monologue. Tóibín wrote to her recommending she ask the stage manager to take her out for a drink afterwards.
Her extensive TV credits include Glitch, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Tangle, City Homicide, Marshall Law, Sea Change, Neighbours, G.P. and Frontline.
In October she and Nathaniel Dean will shoot Handyman, a short film intended to lead to a TV series, written and directed by Nick Clifford. She will play a suicidal middle-aged woman who is about to kill herself when Dean’s handyman knocks on the door.
Reflecting on her career, she says: “I’ve been pretty lucky. Sometimes I decide not to go for parts because they are so dull. I have auditioned for some American roles. There is some great stuff coming out of the US, like Netflix Originals, but there is so much American crap.
“I am an actor and I will keep on telling stories for as long as I live.”