If, for whatever reason you don’t know Faustina Agolley by name, you are almost certainly familiar with her as a T.V personality. Agolley rose to prominence as the iconic host of Channel Ten’s Video Hits where she interviewed some of the biggest names in music, going on to host Sydney’s New Years’ celebrations in 2007 and 2008. She has worked as a D.J, media correspondent for The Voice, a guest on Spicks and Specks and Q&A as well as a Model alongside Miranda Kerr early in her career. With her role in Sydney Theatre Company’s The Father, she can now add acting to her monolithic resume as well.
“I was reluctant to start acting” she says revealing that she had already gotten significant offers in the film industry. “George Miller asked me to audition for Mad Max, this was kind of the first instalment of the most recent ones, which ended up falling over. He wanted to film in Australia and it was delayed and they filmed in Namibia”
While Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road would eventually hit cinemas in 2015 and sweep the Academy Awards the following year, Agolley was absent from the finished product. “I realised I didn’t have any formal training, and opportunities like this would always come up.”
Pushing herself after multiple turned down opportunities, Faustina got Training from Larry Moss, a renowned coach who has taught Leonardo DiCaprio, Helen Hunt and Hillary Swank.
“I sat in a master class in a studio by Venice Beach in L.A, and what I realised is that Larry, as well as other top acting coaches in Los Angeles teach students from theatre text” she tells me. “He kept saying if you want to be a great actor go to the theatre, be a theatre actor, do eight shows a week, you know? You’ve got to work at it every day you should be working on this eight hours a day, every single day.”
Agolley took Moss’s advice to heart, and eventually her hard work payed off with a very important email. “When you get an e-mail from Sydney Theatre Company, you respond” she says. “Sydney Theatre Company and Melbourne Theatre Company to a lesser degree are very busy, they don’t just see actors, you only get seen if you’re asked to audition.”
The audition led to her getting cast as age care worker Laura in The Father alongside Australian theatre icon John Bell, playing Laura’s patient Andre. “John Bell is a living legend and I struck the Jackpot,” Agolley says through a laugh. “I call him the evergreen… he’s absolutely wonderful, it was great to see him be the draftsperson and work with Damien [Ryan] our director, to see him create Andre, because he had his ideas and Damien would contribute and because of that our scenes blossomed.”
Taking the teachings of Moss and the inspiration of Bell, Agolley applied herself and did research to get into the mind of a carer. “I went to aged care facilities, I go now once a week in Sydney and will probably do the same in Melbourne and I was able to see the many facets of Andre’s personality represented in many of the residents in aged care facilities. I think for Laura it requires a great deal of compassion and understanding, and a great deal of mindfulness.” It became clear that authenticity and truthfulness became important to Agolley in her performance. “Most of the characters are family members but I’m the only carer that has professional experience, so I read a lot of books and talked to a lot of people before going into rehearsal.”
However, while tackling themes of aging was difficult ground to cover, Agolley said there was a choice to approach it with some levity. “I’m sure for many audiences it will trigger memories or perhaps experiences present day that they’re dealing with, because everybody at some point in their life has to deal with the aging of a family member.” It was decided between Damien Ryan and Agolley that Laura would be a bright, optimistic spot in the narrative. “The two minds were I could play this role as professional as possible serious, but what we realised in the rehearsal room is that because the play is quite intense because of the subject matter, Laura is perhaps the only lightness of the play, and there’s quite a bit of comedic opportunity as well… although Laura is an entirely an enlightened carer, she wants to give Andre joy and dignity in his life.”
With an entire acting career in front of her, Agolley was very open with her aspirations of where she wants to push herself. “I’d love to be different kinds of characters, David Wenham came to the play the other day, and lot of other actors in our realm kept saying ‘he’s a great character actor, he’s a great character actor’” and insisted I google his courtroom scene in Getting Squared. “He plays bogan and it’s so good! I hope to be a character actor, I don’t know if I could.”
As the interview came to a close I asked what she wanted audiences to feel, and Agolley believed that an audiences’ outcome was down to interpretation. “Everyone will find a different call of meaning from this play…I will leave that up to the audience.”
The Father is showing at the Arts Centre from 2 November to 16 December. Tickets are available through the MTC website: http://www.mtc.com.au/plays-and-tickets/season-2017/the-father/