By Sarah Stopforth
Photo by Kitty Turpin
Hoa Xuande and Brittany Morel are two of WAAPA’s brightest newcomers. Recipients of Best Actor and Best Actress at the 2015 West Australian Screen Academy Awards for their performances in To The End (Director: Jeremy Thomson), I asked them to come into the Dircksey office to talk about their first year at WAAPA, and what’s next for them.
How would you describe your first year at WAAPA?
Brittany Morel: Intense, amazing, and eye opening. Everything gets thrown at you.
Hoa Xuande: First year was my least favourite out of the three. I struggled in first year because there’s so much to deal with. You don’t get to do plays because they’re like “you don’t know anything, we’re going to hammer all this technique into you.” I struggled not being from Perth. It was difficult [the transition] then living with eighteen different people…
BM: We had so much time, like forty-five hours a week with everyone [the students].
HX: New course, new life, new place, new people. It was tough, but we got through.
BM: It was amazing because everything was new. I came out of school and one year at a different university. It was nice to have everyone in the same place, wanting to do what you wanted to do.
When did you start acting?
BM: The first play I ever did was in year eight. That was the first time where I was like, “Oh, I really like this.” I didn’t actually enjoy drama until year eleven. I had some massive personalities in my class and I was like “Oh no, I mustn’t be good because I don’t want to be huge, and out there.”
HX: Yes, we call them “Musical Theatre.” [laughs]
BM: Then it came to year eleven and I was like, “Actually I love this.” Ever since then, it’s what I do.
HX: I came to acting quite late. I didn’t do drama at school. I was involved in a school play, but it was because they needed “an Asian” and I was that. It was fine. I loved doing it. After school, I worked in a bar, and other stuff, to try and figure out what I wanted to do. I hung around people who were artsy, creatives who were writing short films, and actors and just sort of fell into it. I decided that this was something I was interested in. Then I auditioned for WAAPA, and here I am.
When did you know you wanted a career in acting?
BM: It was during year eleven at school. I was like, “I don’t think anything would make me happier than just being able to act for a living.” That was it. I couldn’t think of anything else.
HX: You know when you watch movies and you’re like “That would be really fun to do”. There were lots of different moments like that for me. Because I’m a bit older, putting myself through three years of university, again, was a hectic decision to make. I decided to look up WAAPA and was like, “I’m going to move on in life and train again for three years”.
Over your 3 years at WAAPA, what were your career ambitions?
BM: Mine changed throughout the three years. In first year I came in with the idea that I loved theatre. As we went along, I thought, with film you get to be on many different locations and around many different people. That’s when I decided, for the long run, I want to experience more film.
HX: I can’t speak for everyone who wants to be an actor, but I think that a lot of people who want to become actors have grown up watching TV or film or been exposed to YouTube. Watching this stuff on screen, you decide you want to become an actor. I can only speak for myself, but that’s how I wanted to be an actor. I remember watching Requiem for a Dream. That was the moment I decided. Ellen Burstein plays this mother and she’s heartbreaking. You watch that and it’s like “How are you doing that?!” I want to be able to do that. I want to become a great actor in order to tell those kinds of stories, to be able to affect people! It definitely affected me.
How did you find working together on To The End? Was this your first experience acting together?
HX: To The End was the first time that we got to intimately work together and have a deeper connection. It was an intimate film.
BM: Which I think is wonderful in third year. When you’ve had the two years experience to have history [together].
HX: [To The End] was a short film that was produced by the WA Screen Academy. Their students collaborate, write, direct and produce films and then they get us to act in them. To The End is a love story.
BM: It’s a teenage relationship with someone who decides they need to go away for a job and how they deal with it.
HX: They produced six short films last year. This was the ‘drama’ of the six.
What is your best advice for first year acting students?
HX: Don’t be a dickhead. Don’t be arrogant. Don’t come in and think you know everything. They’ll shut you down and it will be a hard three years. WAAPA is a small bubble in the bigger picture.
BM: Have fun and don’t take it too seriously. It’s university! It’s time to PLAY.
How did you get into Black Swan State Theatre Company?
BM: We did an audition for the bridging company.
HX: It’s a new Black Swan initiative to keep Western Australian actors in Perth. With showcase at WAAPA, we end up in Sydney. Then graduates stay there. The initiative is an attempt to keep WA talent in WA. The bridging company tries to bridge trained actors into professional theatre, so they don’t have to fly elsewhere to find work. Then emerging directors, writers and producers collaborate with emerging artists and actors, at a state level, through Black Swan. Hopefully this goes well and continues, so there are always opportunities for WA talent to stay. It’s great that Black Swan is doing something about it.
What have you been working on?
BM: We have been working on our Black Swan show! We had three weeks after finishing [WAAPA showcase] before coming back to Perth. It was good to jump straight back in and work with people that we’ve been working with for three years.
What were your goals upon starting your degree at WAAPA?
HX: Coming to WAAPA was one of the goals.
BM: Getting into WAAPA was a massive [goal].
HX: Just doing plays or films and doing the best you can for each of them was a goal that I’m proud of completing. Now we’ve got a network of seventeen actors that we can talk to all the time. Another goal was getting representation.
BM: That was a big one for me. I was reserved in high school. I wanted to see how much I could open up as an actor and how far we could actually go with acting, which I think has been reached, on and off, in different things.
What are you goals now?
HX: I’m going to grab my first Oscar next year. It’s happening, [laughs] I’ll beat Leo [DiCaprio] to it. In the meantime, I’ll just fill it out with other stuff.
Do you have any ambitions internationally? Any particular country you’d like to work in?
BM: I would love to work in Europe doing period pieces, like Downton Abbey.
HX: For me, I would love to establish a profile in Australia.
BM: Yeah, I agree, starting out here.
HX: When I think overseas, I’m aiming more towards the States. I know a lot of people say that, but for me I actually feel that’s where a lot of my opportunities would come from. That’s where I’m steering course. It’s probably going to take me a year or so. You have to develop your base first before you can go elsewhere. States is where I have my…
SS: Eye on the horizon!
HX: Yeah, that’s where it is.
You can see Hoa and Brittany performing with the Black Swan State Theatre Company.
To see what’s on, go to: bsstc.com.au