Katie Robertson – SAC actor to lead on an ABC show

Crushing on Katie!!

KATIE ROBERTSON is one of those people that are so delightful, fun and sweet that when you hear how her acting career has taken off, you can’t help but be completely happy for her! As amazing as her story is how it all unfolded, there’s no doubt that Katie being so pro active and following her heart played a big role in being in the right place at the right time!

From starting her very own professional Theatre Company LOUD MOUTH THEATRE COMPANY (with a full season slated and all) to 2016 being the biggest Breakthrough Acting year of her life, with not one but two roles on Australian Television!! First a Support Role in the highly esteemed Kettering Incident and the second a Lead Role in ABC’s comedy hit Rosehaven.

We couldn’t of been happier or prouder to hear how Katie is rocking it and how exactly it all came about!

How did The Kettering Incident come you way?

I still pinch myself! I mean, it is crazy to me that a project of this scale and this calibre just happened to be made in my hometown, and they happened to want to audition local actors and there happened to be a role that was suited to me in it. I mean that chain of events – I can’t make sense of.

It’s definitely luck and right place right time stuff, but it also feels like it has a bit of magic in it. I’d followed my heart back home to Tassie to be there for my Dad who was having Health issues at the time and then low and behold The Kettering Incident is filming and casting out of Tassie!

What was your process around the audition?

I remember the first time I read the sides for Sandra I instantly just knew her. And that feeling was really powerful. Normally I do a heck of a lot of preparation for auditions and I think that comes from me trying to alleviate nerves. But with Sandra I did an unbelievably small amount of work compared to what I normally do. I read it and I sort of gently talked it over with a colleague and friend maybe one or two times, then ‘rehearsed it’ aloud once and that was it. I just left it and trusted this weird feeling I had in my gut and let that do all the work. It was like pulling out a chair and sitting in it and that was all I felt I had to do. I went through two call backs and a table read before they told me I had the role and that feeling stayed with me the whole time. Certainly the closer I got to getting the role, the more nerves and anxiety I had surrounding it, but I remember the producer told the casting director to ‘tell her to just keep doing exactly what she’s doing’ so I did.

What was it like to be on your first professional set?

Terrifying. Completely terrifying. It’s no lie that the second the excitement and the squealing and the joy upon getting the role wears off it is instantly replaced with fear and insecurity.

I was lucky in many ways in that there were a few other locals who I knew that had gotten roles as well, so we were all in it together. They took us all out to set on one of the first days of filming and let us hang around and watch what was happening. I remember this day vividly. We drove onto this old wood chipping mill, turned a corner and saw big lights and smoke and a crane, and cameras and trucks and people everywhere – it was surreal. We stood and watched Damien Garvey and Sacha Horler do a scene who are both stalwarts of the industry – we must’ve looked like deer in headlights. It was everything that I had always imagined it would be, so in one way it felt oddly familiar but on the other hand it felt like an of out of body experience.

So how did you get from terrified to knowing you belonged on the set?

About a week after getting the role I was told I had my very first rehearsal with the director Rowan Woods and Elizabeth Debicki. I was really intimidated and nervous and all those things you’d expect. I walked into the room a ball of anxiety and then we started talking about the scenes we were working on and I had this wonderful moment where I realised ‘I know how to do this’. I had been dissecting scripts, and talking about character and breaking down scenes in class and different rehearsals for years and I’m good at that! That’s what I do! So every anxiety instantly evaporated and I just did the work. And that’s what I always come back to, if I’m ever feeling anxious or nervous or intimidated, I just come back to the work.

So really the answer to this question is; You (Marti) and Chum. You and Chum prepared me to feel as comfortable as I did through years of taking your classes. All the work that I did each week, being allowed to make mistakes, being pushed to dig deep, learning script analysis and going through the process of making a scene work, hearing about other people’s stories and experiences on set, learning the language of ‘beats’ and ‘objectives’ and ‘the moment before’ meant that when I was in that rehearsal room it became an even playing field. We were just three people trying to tell a story and I already had all the tools to be able to do my job.

What did you learn from working with the other Actors?

As it was my first big job, I went into it with the idea of being a sponge. I was surrounded by acting royalty, talented professionals who have been working in the industry for decades. I wanted to watch and absorb as much as I could from them. What struck me the most was how differently everyone approached their time on set. Really, when you’re on set, such a minuscule part of your day is the moments between ‘action’ and ‘cut’.

For the most part I noticed that ‘being on set’ is a huge part of the job that you can really only learn by doing. I was watching how these experienced actors ‘be on set’ and they differed hugely. Some people needed to keep to themselves in their trailer, rehearsing and getting in the right head space and then on set would need quiet time and a closed set for blocking and would need to disengage in the moments before action. Others would have the crew and cast crying with laughter moments before action was called and you were doing a serious scene. I felt really new and lacked confidence so I would just take the lead of whoever was around me, if they were silent and introspective I would be too, but if they were jokey and chatty I would join in. It was great to be able to see all of these ‘methods’ and personalities at work but what I couldn’t see at the time was that I was also being quite passive and undermining myself.

One day I was giving this ‘I’m just being a sponge because I have no experience’ spiel to Matt Le Nevez (Offspring, Brock) and he stopped me and said “Really? No experience. Nothing at all?” It was a really important moment for me because he essentially pulled me up on my bullshit and made me accountable to myself. It’s something that I’ve had to work really hard on since – backing myself. I do have experience, and I do have a lot to offer and it was time that I stopped emulating how other people worked and started figuring out what works best for me and how I want to ‘be on set’.

That’s such a great realization, one that I think we can all learn from.  Then came the comedy Rosehaven!  How was the audition process different from the last one?

Ha! It really couldn’t have been more different. That ‘feeling of knowing’ was not present this time around. I had heard about this project a long time before it started casting and I had heard that there was possibly a role in it that I could maybe suit. So from the get go, I had had months of building it up in my head so the stakes were at an all-time high and I was overly invested even before I had an audition. Which was a dangerous place to be in and I knew it.

I sent off a self-tape first, then flew down for a call back. By the time I got into the call-back I would liken myself to a bottle of fizzy drink that had been shaken up and as I walked into the room the lid came off and the crazed, nervous energy was bursting out of me. I can’t really remember much about that call back, other than giggling, over shaking people’s hands and basically just being an all-round nervous ball of mess.Afterwards I went and sat in my car and felt overwhelmed with the crushing disappointment that I had blown it.

Thank you Katie Robertson! Thank you for being so delightfully you and just telling it how it is! I bet every professional Actor out there has gone through exactly what you have just described and yet we rarely hear about it!

I think it is important to note though that you can’t ever really be sure how you went in an audition and that you’re not always the best gauge of your performance.

Another thing I’d like to say about both of my auditions for Kettering and Rosehaven is that I am NOT AT ALL how these characters were described or indeed envisioned in the scripts. I think for Grace the big print said that she was a “thirty something, sporty looking woman” and stereotypically if you look at me, ‘sporty’ is definitely not the first thing that comes to mind. It was a similar thing for Sandra. They had a really different idea of who she was before I came in and showed them something different. It’s of credit to the directors and producers for having an open enough mind to even entertain me as a possibility, but it’s also a good thing to see happen, that when you know a character and you back yourself, other people can and will recognize that in you too. 

Was it any different playing a lead than being a support?

Good question. I actually think the difference lies more in Rosehaven being my second gig and I was able to apply a lot of what I learnt on Kettering in this job. I felt more confident going in and I also knew a lot more of what to expect about the way that things work (ON SET)

(Also)You can develop more of a rapport with the crew and cast because you spend more time on set, instead of flitting in and out once a week or so.

What is something you learnt about working professionally that you hadn’t anticipated?

Something that comes as a surprise particularly when you’ve been taking classes or doing theatre for a while is how quickly everything happens (In Television). The first few days on set I was really taken aback by it. They’ve called ‘cut’ and ‘moving on’ before I feel like I’ve even warmed up! You don’t have the luxury of being able to take the time to play and rework over and over so all of that has to come in your preparation. Which again, comes down to making the most of your time in classes and keeping on flexing that muscle because it’s that stuff that you fill your toolkit with in class that means you can walk onto a set with the confidence to do your job in the small space of time that you’re given.

When you’re employed full time (not having to make money any other way but Acting) you get the most wonderful gift of being able to focus absolutely everything you have into the role. You can immerse yourself. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that much fulfillment and joy than I did during those two months I was filming Rosehaven; I barely socialized, I just worked. And if I wasn’t working I was reading, or researching, or rehearsing, or surrounding myself with inspiration for the character. It was the most liberating feeling and I was blissfully happy because I was working, doing what I love.

What made you start your theatre company?

I was sitting with a couple of close friends, also actors who had both trained interstate, lived away from Tasmania but found themselves drawn back home too and we decided we wanted to put on our own show. We wanted to perform David Ives’ ‘Venus In Fur’ and before we knew it we had almost by accident created a theatre company and from there it really just snowballed. What we realised was that collectively we had a lot of experience between us that we had gathered from our times away, and that now was the time to feed that back into the place where we first started.

 We were sick of waiting for roles to come up in productions that we could audition for, and that feeling of realising that we had the knowledge and capabilities to create and control that for ourselves was a really big turning point for me. When I look back on this moment in my life I remember the feeling of being really invigorated, like that fire in my belly was raging because I was feeding it so much good stuff and after all this time in Sydney I finally felt like I was in control of my career. In Feb last year our company (Loud Mouth Theatre Company) launched a 2016 season and that was a real moment of pride for me.

Congratulations!! That’s Huge!! What is next for you?

I’ve been doing a lot of screen in the past year, so I had a real hankering to get back on stage and doing The Bull,the Moon and the Coronet of Stars at the end of 2016 with my Theatre Company was so much fun and a dream come true. Right now though I’m back out there auditioning and collaborating with friends and just sort of re-fuelling my tank in preparation for whatever is going to crop up next!

What would you say to anyone out there wondering if they’re break is actually going to come their way.

I would tell them that it will come, but to let go of thinking or trying to plan how or when it’s going to come. I think it will happen at the absolute best time for it to happen for you, and it will happen in a way that you don’t expect it to. So I would say try to avoid the feeling like you’re just killing time before it happens, or turn away opportunities because you can’t see a clear path from it to your goal.

And also work really hard. And enjoy whatever it is that you are doing. I think I spent a lot of time looking forward to what my future could be instead of just relishing the present.

How do you stay inspired? Who or what inspires you?

It varies. I find inspiration in so many things and in so many people. Books, movies, plays, TV shows, music, podcasts.

A few years ago I was asked to take on a lead role in a Shakespeare, the catch was I had to learn the role in one week as I was replacing someone. The task seemed enormous but how could I turn down such a tempting challenge? So I immediately rang my friend and asked her in a moment of sheer panic “how am I going to do this?” and she said to me “not alone”.

It’s so obvious but it is also really important I think to remember that we can’t actually do this on our own. I have a really strong support network and cheer squad and I rely on them heavily and I know wouldn’t still be acting if it wasn’t for them. I have surrounded myself with an incredible group of people and I draw on them for inspiration as well as advice, motivation and consolation. Ultimately I think a lot of it comes down to gratitude. When you really sit and take stock of your life, and the things you have and the people you share it with you can’t help but be filled with inspiration.

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