Sergeant first-class

NIDA grad­u­ate Peta Sergeant finds plenty of Sat­is­fac­tion in the role of Heather, writes Erica Thomp­son

Herald Sun - Switched On - - News -

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.

Heather weight:

Peta Sergeant’s char­ac­ter is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a tough time in the sec­ond se­ries of Sat­is­fac­tion.

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