Australian actress Nicole Pastor drops by on Close-up Culture to tell us about her journey in the industry so far and the projects she is currently working on.
Q: What are your earliest memories of performing and taking an interest in acting?
A: I was born to perform! From the age of four, I began dancing lessons at the local community hall. My love of performing continued through classes at various schools of dance. I also studied an Entertainment Certificate and was involved in a number of productions in front and behind the camera.
And, of course, growing up there were always the shopping centre and fete performances! I was always putting on shows at home and would choreograph my sisters. Mum even has a patch of worn carpet where I always danced, sung and performed – the lounge room was my stage!
As I was always the drama queen, it was inevitable that I would choose this path!
Q: What was your entry point to the industry and did you have any reservations about following down the acting path?
A: I have always wanted to be and do everything. Watching movies would inspire me to want to try new things. For instance, watching Legally Blonde made me want to be a lawyer, and Josie And The Pussycats made me want to start a band!
Doing something that everyone else does, or what others expected, didn’t sit with me. I believe I had a somewhat restless spirit, as I would always seek the ‘different’, put my hand up to try new things, and generally walk a different path.
I love and seek variety, and I believe one of my strengths would be that I can easily adapt to new experiences. As I have always had a hunger to learn and develop my craft, pursuing acting and performing seemed a natural progression.
Before I knew it, I found myself in an ad that would feature in public restrooms – quite the introduction to the world of advertising! Other commercial work would follow, including opportunities as a background extra on various TV series, and then being the stand-in for Jessica Marais on the set of the telemovie Carlotta.
This was the start, and all I knew was that this was what I wanted to do. I was just unsure of how to do it. My family were supportive and encouraging for which I am grateful.
Q: One of your early projects was the TV series ‘Deadly Women’, which airs regularly over here in the UK. What was it like being involved in a true-crime show and playing real life murderer Samantha Bachynski?
A: That’s cool – the UK is definitely a place I would love to work from.
This opportunity was fun. I love horror movies, so nothing surprises me! However, it is actually quite scary knowing that these are true stories about real people. Samantha was only 19 years old. She was naïve and lonely and looking for a relationship. It would have been interesting to know what her life would have been like if she hadn’t met Patrick, who became her boyfriend and had such an influence over her.
It is so interesting to learn about human behaviour and why and how people do the things they do, the choices they make. Though she had done some pretty insane things, as Samantha is a real person, it was important for me to do the research and gain some understanding and to portray her without judgement, as best as I could.
Some scenes were challenging – emotionally. I tend to take on other people’s energies, so shaking it off, learning to detach myself from the character once we wrapped the scene, was important.
Q: Which of the early projects in your career was the most important learning experience for you?
A: Through the Carlotta experience, I got to observe not only the production process but also the actors. Being on a set everyday was inspiring and motivating, and made me think: ‘I want to do that’. I learned invaluable lessons from observing the performance and acting techniques from some of Australia’s great talents, which was awesome.
Q: You are currently working with Bay Rock Films as a lead in an ensemble web series, ‘Therapy Life’. What interested you about the project?
A: I absolutely loved working with the director Kacey Baker. The opportunity to work with him was a pleasure. The script was hilarious! It can be hard to find a well-written comedic script. It deals with mental health and everyday issues and is disguised as a dark comedy, which critics have likened to The Office (US) and Arrested Development.
Seriously though, having the opportunity to talk openly about mental health is very important to me because the more we talk about it the less of a stigma there is. I try to look after my own well-being and am wanting to be an advocate to help others to do the same because there is hope.
I wanted to get into comedy as I am a huge fan of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wigg, Steve Martin and Gene Wilder (just to name a few!). I have a broad and somewhat dark sense of humour, so I am not easily offended nor do I take myself too seriously.
In this series, I play a therapist called Kimberley. She is a strong independent woman who needs to be more mature than she looks in order to be taken seriously – which I can relate to, haha!
I was really fortunate to be a lead in this series and work alongside such talented and funny actors. Kacey provided a safe space for us to ‘play’ and enjoy the process.
Q: You are also set to star in Bay Rock Film’s forthcoming feature film, Hellavator. Can you reveal anything about that and your role yet?
A: Well, I can’t say too much at the moment. But it is exciting to have a role in an upcoming horror movie and I am super stoked to have been given the opportunity to work with Kacey Baker again.
Q: You’ll also be starring in Izaak Love’s debut feature, ‘Muscle & Bone’. What do you typically look for in the people you collaborate on projects with?
A: Yes! I am very much looking forward to being a part of and supporting Izaak’s debut feature film. His first directorial experience was a short film called I Never Really Left, which he wrote, directed and stared in. This year it screened at both the Fargo Film Festival, and at the West End Film Festival, which is just amazing for him and his team.
I am so thrilled to be offered this opportunity to work with Izaak on bringing his vision for Muscle & Bone to life. Izaak is passionate, driven and very down to earth – qualities that I am drawn to. He also has a great sense of humour, which obviously is a bonus!
Q: Your character in ‘Muscle & Bone’ is a young single mum with addiction problems. How does she fit into this story and how did you approach playing her?
A: It is a small but memorable role. Kind of like Margot Robbie in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, or Kristen Stewart in Into the Wild.
Muscle & Bone is a coming-of-age drama, a multi-character story told over one intense night set in Western Sydney. This story will tackle a number of issues and themes, from drug use, underage drinking, sex, racism and homophobia, through the portrayal of strong characters.
Nikki, my character, is a 19 year old wild and free-spirited girl. A single mum with addiction problems. Nikki plays an integral part of the narrative.
I have just started talking to Izaak about developing her look, her backstory, and understanding what may have impacted on who she is today. Pre-production begins soon and that’s all I can say for now!
Q: I recently spoke to an actress who mentioned Meryl Streep’s performance in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ as something to aspire to. Is there a film, actor, or performance that you aspire to or return to for inspiration?
A: I would have to say Nicole Kidman, Hilary Swank, and Jennifer Lawrence. Their body of work and the diversity of the roles they have portrayed is something that inspires me. To watch them bring characters to life and tell their stories in a way that moves the audience emotionally, is something that I aspire to.
Q: We’ve seen a number of Australian actors make an impact in the US over the years. Does that move appeal to you? If so, how do you prepare to be ready for that step?
A: I think that the level of success achieved by Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman and Jackie Weaver are excellent pathways for me to follow and develop by objectives to working abroad.
I appreciate that this pathway will be challenging. I am not one to shy away from hard work, which is why I look for opportunities to hone my skills – whether this finds me in front or behind the camera.
Q: And lastly, do you have any ambitions or plans to share with us?
A: Working with my amazingly supportive Australian agent to secure a reputable overseas agent and manager as I have my sights set on the US and UK. Of course, it would be great to work here in Australia if there were more opportunities for new talent #availableforhire, haha!
I would like to pursue roles that represent characters that are strong, flawed, complicated and vulnerable. To work my way to securing an ongoing role in a mainstream television series in Canada, the US or UK – as well as feature films. I would want to travel back and forth as I have six beautiful fur babies that I would miss!
I am grateful for the opportunities and experiences that have shaped me and led me to where I am today. With the continued support from my fiancé and family, I feel confident to travel the road ahead.