Zoe Terakes proudly represents her community on stage and screen
Sophie Hawkshaw (L) and Zoe Terakes in ‘Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt)’.
Since Zoe Terakes came out, the proudly gay actor has not been offered any screen roles as straight characters – but that has not hindered the 19-year-old’s flourishing career.
There is no such discrimination in the theatre world and Zoe is currently performing in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge at the Ensemble Theatre, directed by Iain Sinclair.
She made her stage debut as Catherine, a college student who is romantically involved with Italian immigrant Rodolpho, in the Old Fitz Theatre production of the play while she was studying for the HSC.
Miller’s play has been a talisman for her as she appeared in the Melbourne Theatre Company production, also directed by Sinclair, earlier this year.
Terakes is gratified by the growing acceptance of LGBTQI actors and storylines but she tells IF: “In the screen industry there is still a sliver of people who say, ‘Now that we know you are gay we could not possibly believe that you could be in love with a man.’
“That’s why doing plays is so wonderful because nobody cares. I’m working and I’m playing roles that I love and care about and representing the community that I belong to and I fight for.”
In year 11 she did drama classes but had not seriously considered acting as a career until a teacher recommended she see an agent, who urged her to audition for a role in the ABC’s legal drama Janet King.
Taking that cue, she did so, forgot her lines but must have shown enough latent talent to be asked back and won the role of Pearl, a homeless teenager embroiled in a sexual assault case with Senior Crown Prosecutor Janet King (Marta Dusseldorp).
“It was amazing and terrifying and turned my world upside down,” she says. Working with Dusseldorp, Andrea Demetriades and Anita Hegh – “some of my favourite people in the world” – was a thrill.
Sinclair invited her to audition for A View fron the Bridge at the Old Fitz, which was premiering that November, but when she told her mum the response was “Absolutely not, that’s when your exams are on.”
Naughtily she auditioned anyway, got the role and told her mum afterwards, and both parents were very supportive.
Zoe Terakes (C) on the set of Janet King with Anita Hegh (L) and Marta Dusseldorp.
She got to work with Dusseldorp again in writer-director Monica Zanetti’s debut feature Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt), adapted from Zanetti’s play which was staged at The Depot Theatre in Marrickville, her second feature credit after Jonnie Leahy’s 2014 drama Skip Deep.
Newcomer Sophie Hawkshaw plays Ellie, who is 18 and struggling to find the courage to ask classmate Abbie (Terakes) to the formal. Luckily her aunt Tara (Julia Billington), a lesbian who died in the 80s, shows up in the form of a Fairy Godmother to dish out advice, whether Ellie wants it or not.
Dusseldorp is Ellie’s mother and Rachel House is her aunt Patty. At least 50 per cent of the cast and a high proportion of the creative team identify as LGBTQI.
The producers are Cobbstar Studios’ MahVeen Shahraki and Patrick James with Brian Cobb from Cobbstar Studios (Patricia Moore, The Horizons) as executive producer.
Remarkably, principal photography took just two weeks. Asked how that was doable, she replies: “Female filmmakers, that’s how. We were like a family.”
Cobb and Zanetti plan to screen the film late this month for local distributors and for international sales agents whom they met at the Cannes market.
“It was quite mind blowing how many sales agents are genuinely interested in the film and have pursued us for screeners since we returned,” Cobb tells IF.
In See-Saw Films’ upcoming Foxtel drama The End, created and written by Samantha Strauss and directed by Jessica M. Thompson and Jonathan Brough, she plays a character named Scarlett.
Frances O’Connor stars as Dr Kate Brennan, a senior registrar specialising in palliative care who is strenuously opposed to euthanasia. On the other side of the world her mother Edie Henley (Harriet Walter) is just as passionate about her right to die. Kate has little choice but to bring Edie out from England and place her in a nearby retirement village – Edie’s worst nightmare.
Meanwhile Kate’s children played by Morgan Davies and Ingrid Torelli are trying to work out who they are and who they want to be. The narrative follows Kate and Edie’s stumbling, fractious journey towards rebuilding their relationship.
Unable to reveal much about her character or the show, she says Scarlett is a close friend of Davies’ character, adding: “This is some of the best writing I’ve seen in Australian TV for a while.”
She plays a lesbian vampire slayer in the upcoming online comedy series Bondi Slayer, directed by Jessica Grace Smith and scripted by Victoria Beck.
Asked about her ambitions, she says: “I look at Marta, Caroline Brazier and Kate Box, who are masters and queens of stage and screen, and that’s my dream.”