NIDA graduate Peta Sergeant finds plenty of Satisfaction in the role of Heather, writes Erica Thompson
PETA Sergeant had more riding on her first drama audition than most actors. The Malaysian-born, Brisbaneraised star was desperate to get into the Queensland University of Technology’s drama program because the love of her life, an older boy she’d pursued and lost in high school, had gone there.
‘‘He was the first boy I ever kissed and I loved him so much and he broke my heart and I always kind of thought if I get into QUT we’ll get back together,’’ she says.
‘‘My drama teacher said you might get in, you might not and because you’ve never had an audition before you should just have a test run somewhere else.’’
Sergeant, who began her senior school studies with dreams of becoming a marine biologist, chose a tough pond in which to wet her feet — the National Institute of Dramatic Art.
‘‘I literally got off the bus from Schoolies and did my NIDA audition,’’ she says. ‘‘I was kind of prepared, but not really at all. I didn’t think I would even make the first cut because I only had two monologues — you’re supposed to have three.’’
A month later she heard she had been accepted into Australia’s most renowned acting school.
‘‘The ironic thing, which just feels so destined, is I didn’t even get into QUT — I didn’t even make the first cut, but I got into NIDA,’’ she says.
‘‘The morning of my QUT audition I woke up and I had acute tonsillitis and I couldn’t talk. I went to the audition and they said, ‘Well, this is it. You can’t come back after this because this is the last day, so see you later’. I was heartbroken. It was like it was the end of my life.’’
Though NIDA turned out to be a good consolation, Sergeant, 28, admits she struggled for years with being an actor.
‘‘I was 20 when I came out of NIDA so I was pretty young and was not quite sure where my head was at and not quite sure if I really wanted to be an actor,’’ she says.
DESPITE landing television roles and even producing a play fresh out of drama school, Sergeant abandoned the industry and travelled for 18 months.
Her overseas travels proved an eye-opener, but they weren’t always a picnic. Sergeant was often short of cash and once, in Italy, had no accommodation.
‘‘Basically I’d miscalculated all my money and when I got there I just became a vagrant until this family picked me up and took me in.
‘‘I was actually sleeping on the beach and starving for about 10 days. I tell people and they’re like, ‘Why didn’t you just reverse-charge home?’ It never even occurred to me. I don’t know why. I guess it’s just how my DNA is. That’s kind of how I’ve always been. I like to be a pioneer, I suppose, just do it on my own.’’
It’s a trait she shares with her character, Heather, in the critically acclaimed pay-TV series Satisfaction.
In the second series, the writers focus on peeling back the personal rather than the physical layers of the women.
Heather, a lesbian escort, is still reeling from a miscarriage and the breakdown of her relationship and doing ‘‘a terrible job of dealing with it’’, Sergeant says.
‘‘She’s really not taking anything that seriously because she’s afraid if she thinks too much about it, all of this stuff is just going to come like a big tsunami,’’ she says.
Peta Sergeant’s character is experiencing a tough time in the second series of Satisfaction.