Elliot’s Low-Down with Michala Banas

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By Elliot Murphy

Michala Banas was born in Wellington, New Zealand and got an early start in the acting industry in her first commercial at the age of 18 months. Later at the age of 5 Michala made her film debut in Dangerous Orphans and when coming to Australia made her television debut in Mirror, Mirror in 1995. Michala Banas made her big appearance in 2001 in the drama series Always greener as Marissa Taylor and has done many greater shows since then. McLeod’s Daughters, Winners and Losers, Neighbours, and most recently Upper Middle Bogan’s which have all helped to make her the great actress she is today. Michala is also an accomplished singer after releasing a single in 2003 of the song (Kissin the wind) which made the top 30 on the Australian Recording Industry Association single charts.

Elliot: What or Whom was it that inspired you to want to become an actress?

Michala: Because I grew up with my father in the industry, I spent so much time in the theatre, or rehearsal rooms, or on a set. I loved that world as a child, and so I think my passion for acting just came naturally. I’ve been inspired by a lot of people over the years, but I don’t actually think there was one person or thing that spurred me on to become an actor when I was a kid.

Elliot: What was it like as a kid growing up in New Zealand?

Michala: I will always feel huge love for and a connection to New Zealand, it was a great place to grow up. My two older brothers and I grew up with my Dad. When I was really little, he was running a theatre in Wellington, so I spent a lot of time there, and I loved it. On one hand, we had a pretty average childhood- going to school, playing with friends, riding bikes, exploring etc, but on the other hand, I was also working as an actor when I was really young. Sometimes I was on set filming a movie or commercial. So I suppose I didn’t have what is considered a normal childhood, but it was what I knew, and I had nothing to compare it to, so it felt normal to me.

Elliot: How did it feel when you were told you got the role for the character Anna Hanna in Dangerous Orphans?

Michala: That was over 30 years ago, so I can’t really remember the specific moment I was told, but I would have been excited. I loved acting, even when I was very young, so any opportunity I was given to work, I relished. I do remember that I loved making that movie though. It was such fun, and the cast and crew were very sweet to me. I recall shooting a bunch of scenes on the beach one day, and it was the height of winter in Wellington, so it was windy and freezing. The beautiful woman playing my mother (Jennifer Ward-Leyland) gave me chewable vitamin C tablets so I wouldn’t get a cold. It’s funny the little things you do remember.

Elliot: You have been in a lot of memorable shows such as Round the twist, Always Greener, McLeod’s Daughters, Winners and Losers, Upper Middle Bogan and many more, what has been your favourite role?

Michala: I’ve honestly loved them all for different reasons. It’s hard to pick a favourite. That’s like trying to pick ONE favourite movie or book. I can say that I have absolutely LOVED playing Amber Wheeler. She is a great character, and Upper Middle Bogan is an absolute blast to make. I’m really looking forward to shooting season three soon.

Elliot: When you’re not acting, what do you like to do for fun?

Michala: Like most people, I love spending time with my friends. It can be hard when I’m filming to get enough time with them, so I really try to make the most of them when I’m not working. I love music. Listening to it, writing it, playing it. I love going to the movies, and I adore being near the water. Summer or winter, a walk along the beach is the best.

Elliot: If you never got into acting what do you think you would have become instead?

Michala: I think I would still probably work in the entertainment industry. Maybe as a make-up artist. I love how transformational make up can be. It plays such a huge role in creating a character. I’d love to direct too. Being an actor means I get to investigate human behaviour, and good directors do that too.

Elliot: Even though it was temporary. How did it feel getting to be on one of the biggest dramas on Australian television as Libby in Neighbours?

Michala: It was a whirlwind! I only had a few days to get 11 years worth of someone else’s character work into my head. I never tried to replicate Kym Valentines Libby, but I wanted to at least get the essence her. The shoot was fun for me though. I worked with some really amazing and lovely people, including my close friend Brett Tucker, so I had a ball. It was a heavy shooting schedule and lots of hard work. I learnt a lot, and the experience was a full one.

Elliot: If you could write a series or TV movie what would it be about?

Michala: Maybe something about a young Jedi knight helping to destroy the Death star or something. Has somebody thought of that already though?….

Elliot: What did you have to go through to learn how to be the character of an Upper Middle Bogan?

Michala: Amber came pretty naturally to me. As much as she is a gutter-mouthed bogan, she is also fiercely loyal and caring. She just doesn’t show it the way most do. I think that people like her so much not only because she gets the best lines in the show, but because of what is at her core. All the hard work regarding preparation for this role was done with exceptional writing. Robyn Butler wrote such brilliant scripts and had such clear ideas about Amber, my job was easy. She leapt off the page. I just had to get out of the way and play.

Elliot: If someone came up to you and asked for some insight into what it takes to be an actor, what would you say to them?

Michala: So many things!

I’d start with Love. You have to absolutely love it.

Be prepared to work hard at it, both when you have a job and when you don’t.

Try not to take rejection too personally.

Always be pleasant to work with.

Don’t sit around and wait for a job- Create your own work.

Get to know yourself. Well. And really take care of your heart, soul, spirit and mind. That way, you can safely bring all your ‘stuff’ to a character and not fall apart.

Take risks. Do things that scare you.

You also need to be able to handle the fact that the work is sporadic, and be OK with a lack of stable income too.

Remember that it should be FUN. Even when you work on something heavy or dark, you should be enjoying doing it.

 

Michala Banas, who is a very hard and dedicated actress with a great sense of humour, was so nice to allow us to get to know her a lot more.

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