It’s back to the classroom for Peninsula Grammar’s 2017 Head of School Grace O’Sullivan after she landed the lead role of Olivia Lane in the new Neighbours spin-off, Erinsborough High, which is available for streaming on 10 Play. Kate Sears speaks to the 20-year-old actor about the uncertainty of life after high school, her time spent on the famous Neighbours set filming two episodes and what her future looks like after high school 2.0.
How and when did you first discover acting?
According to my parents I’ve always been performing, whether it was performing a dance, a tantrum or a musical item. In school I was kind of terrified by the idea of acting but also loved it. I’d always done little classes on the side and for work experience I went to NIDA so yeah, I was always fascinated by it. But I think that can be hard to admit sometimes and often you are shunned away from looking at it as a career given the high rate of unemployment and the difficult nature of the industry. But when you love acting it’s always there, just resting.
Could you describe your acting journey thus far?
My journey after school — and I think I speak on behalf of most students when I say this — has been full of uncertainty, confusion and change. I started off doing Arts/Law, a degree I thought I should be doing, eased off on the law, tried to get into drama school, did lots of acting classes and landed the role of the sister of the character I initially auditioned for (Lacy Lane) on Erinsborough High. But it’s really kind of been all over the place and I think we all need to remind ourselves that that’s OK. I finished school with a pretty clear plan of what I thought I should be doing, which has since gone completely out the window — which is life.
You play a popular Year 12 student who goes missing. How did you find playing this character?
I really enjoyed my experience on set and figuring out Olivia Lane. Her storyline was complex, hard and relevant. I felt really lucky to be able to play such a three-dimensional character and loved trying to figure out how she would respond to all that was going on. Neighbours itself is a really well-oiled machine. On set there is a brilliant mix of professionalism and camaraderie that brings everyone together and creates an environment in which both cast and crew can produce their best work. The main cast is tight-knit and I felt very welcomed throughout the whole process.
How would you describe the mini-series?
If you’re an avid Neighbours watcher, the mini-series is quite different, and rightly so. It was filmed in a completely different way so that it would appear darker and edgier. Little video diaries throughout break up the action and provide the characters with the chance to reflect on what’s occurring, giving the audience greater insight into what they’re going through. I’d also say it differs in that it’s more focused than Neighbours as it explores exclusively the lives of the students at Erinsborough High in three intertwining storylines. The show delves into some more mature themes, like the pressure of Year 12 exams, discovering sexuality and our reliance on friendships. It touches on numerous topics and as such we hoped that each viewer would be able to identify with it in some way.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I don’t have a super laid-out vision of where I’ll be in the future as I know how quickly things can change and how often they don’t go to plan. I have things I want to achieve and topics I’m very interested in and I can just hope they take me as far as I’d like. But I plan on finishing my studies at Monash, heading to France next year and immersing myself in the culture and language whilst continuing to learn about acting in whatever way I can, whether that be through classes, drama school or something else I find. I’ve been looking up some drama schools in Paris which could be interesting to try whilst I’m there. Better get good at my French first though.