Work with GREAT teachers. Talent is one thing. You still need to be taught how to harness it. A great teacher will polish your talent. Marlon Brando was one of the most talented actors ever, he still worked with some of the worlds greatest teachers.
As a part of my interview series with popular culture stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing Serah Henesey. Serah is an Australian actress who relocated to Europe in her early twenties. After studying drama in London she went on to perform in film, TV & theater all over Europe. From period plays on stage in London, to a Syfy feature in Bulgaria, playing an agent in a cold war period espionage film in Eastern Europe, a horror film in the US, to a hugely successful sitcom in Turkey for 4 years, from serious action flicks to comedy-action spy spoofs with Jackie Chan & his stunt team she’s pretty much covered them all. She also dances, kick-boxes & performs a variety of stunts including wire-work. She most recently got nominated ‘Best Actress’ from a Film Festival in Toronto where she received press hailing her a ‘modern day Lucille Ball’.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I had no idea I was going to end up an actress! I was a science student! Who loved to dance. I did ballet, jazz ballet & gymnastics when I was young & got asked to be in a musical when i was 15/16ish. I had some dance numbers & 2 lines! So one day the theater director approached me & said (I never forget!) “you’re very brave on stage as a dancer, lets see you as an actor”. I was like ‘whaaat? yeah OK sure’… So I stayed on but again it was just a hobby. Then in my early 20s i moved to Europe- I have family there- & I ended up becoming a Beauty Queen & then I just got offers.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
Becoming famous in Europe was an interesting trip.. The sitcom I did there for 4 years went on to be a huge hit (think ‘Friends’ in the US) and I don’t think anything really prepares you for any of it. But i live a much more ‘regular’ life here in LA. I also host. A couple years ago i was hosting a film review show that aired in Europe. The idea was having one of their own celebrities interviewing American celebrities. So one day i’m on the red carpet outside the Chinese Theater doing interviews for whatever was premiering there. And all the other reporters (we got to know one another- they didn’t know whom i was) we’re all hanging out. At one point there was a huge commotion behind me. A bunch of tourists recognized me & got into a tug of war with security trying to get over so they could get selfies or autographs. All the other journalists on the red carpet (they thought i was just another journalist) started staring at me & asking me ‘who are you & why are these people trying to get selfies with you’ ??? It was a funny moment. I had some explaining to do…
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’ll give you a more recent one… So when i first came to the US i already had 1000s of hours of TV & Film under my belt & was a ‘name’ actress. Funny thing is- i knew how to act, i didn’t know how to audition. I made it early on in my career & just got offers, i never really had to audition for anything. When i first came out here I was friendly with the head of Casting at ABC & she got me some ‘auditions’ :))) my first one was on the 2nd day i got here, i wasn’t even over my jet lag yet. It was a HUUGGE Casting Director. I was working on the scene & it was a father-daughter scene in which my character was having it out with her dad. It was a sad scene. I kept crying every time i practiced it in my hotel room. The day of the audition I got in an accident on the way to the Casting Directors office. It was an Asian lady driver who got out of the car & yelled at me for a good hour on the side of the road. By the time i got to the audition i was a nervous mess & I had the added stress of wanting to impress- or not let down- my friend who had gotten me the audition. So i’m sitting in the audition room & can hear what all the other actresses are doing in there. And they’re getting ‘angry’ with the dad. I was like ‘whaaat?’ maybe I got it wrong?? And again- i’m not thinking clearly, i’m a nervous mess, i’m new in the US & i doubted myself. So i went in & ‘yelled’ at my dad, I got ‘angry’ — I thought these American actresses must know better, they’ve been here longer than me. I finish the scene & the Casting Director turns to me & says ‘well actually — this was meant to be a sad scene’ !!!! I almost cried. What did i learn from that? To ALWAYS go with your gut instinct.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m developing a show for Netflix. Also working on something the President of the Film Festival I got nominated from wrote. She’s an award winning script writer herself & a feature film script she wrote won a bunch of awards. She got asked to turn it into a TV show, which she did… She reached out to me a year after i was nominated if i’d be interested in one of the roles. It’s an awesome script & i’m excited to be a part of it.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Morgan Freeman. I had a small part in a movie we did together in Bulgaria. I mean come on- He’s the voice of God!!!! Just a lovely person to work with & watch working. He’s amazing. He would tell stories (and he’s hella funny) so sometimes you forget your in the presence of God’s voice hahahaaa
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I’m a workaholic myself. So I have to keep reminding myself to sleep properly, eat properly, exercise my body & relax my mind. I think finding a spiritual practice is important to stay healthy. Whether that is yoga, or meditation or even various outdoor exercises that connect you with nature (hiking, surfing, etc) is all good!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Education, education, education!!! I think is the most important asset of any country but mostly young girls in 3rd world countries (i’ve worked in some of them) teaching them a trade or craft in which they can use to support themselves- whether that be sewing, knitting, painting- whatever it is to keep them safe, fed & out of harms way. Some sort of organization that then took those things crafted by the girls & sold the merchandise which came back to benefit the girls & keep them in school.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1- choose your friends & acquaintances wisely. Not every person is worthy of your trust or friendship.
2- surround yourself with a good team & mentors. Make sure your agent, publicist, manager are good people & have your best interests at heart.
3- don’t believe your own press, good or bad. Keep your head down, work hard, learn to disassociate from the noise going off around you. Do not get distracted with ‘critics’. Some people are going to love your movie, some are going to hate it. You can’t please everyone. If you made an effort to the best of your abilities & you ‘stretched’ as an actor, or grew/learned from that experience, then that is your asset.
4- work with GREAT teachers. Talent is one thing. You still need to be taught how to harness it. A great teacher will polish your talent. Marlon Brando was one of the most talented actors ever, he still worked with some of the worlds greatest teachers.
5- take care of you. This profession can feel like a rat race at times. Make sure you take care of you, your eating, sleeping & take time out.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
”Life is for the Brave’
I’ve always been fearless. I find ‘fears’ weird. A lot of people question why i’d leave the comforts of a country i was already successful in, to come here & start from scratch. Everyone said it was impossible, i wasn’t 22 anymore, i wasn’t white, i wasn’t ethnic, i wasn’t this that or the other. But here i am. ‘Impossible’ doesn’t exist in my mind.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I unfortunately don’t have any. I didn’t get much help along the way. I was thrown in the deep end of the ocean with a bunch of sharks & had to learn to swim & not get eaten in the process. And i’m thankful for it all too. Just made me stronger 🙂
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
I’ve got a list!!!! Lolololol
The head of Scripted Department at Fx. I have a GREAT show for you :)))
Jeff Bezos. I have a GREAT show for you :))) & i’d love to discuss a charity that provides safety & education for young girls in 3rd would countries while supplying products for you :)))
Bruce Springsteen because i love you :)))
Keanu Reeves because i think you’re beautiful- inside & out :)))
The Dalai Lama because i’d love to learn from you :)))