hen Kassandra Clementi found out last year that she had landed a major role on popular TV drama UNREAL, which tracks the machinations that go into creating reality TV dating shows, she was giddy with excitement.
Having been a part of the topsy-turvy entertainment industry since she was in her teens, however, the Adelaide-born 28-year-old tempered her elation with a healthy dose of, well, reality.
“There are a lot of hoops to jump through once you get a job,” Clementi tells Stellar. “I remember being thrilled but also trying to inhibit the excitement slightly, so that if anything went awry, I wouldn’t have an existential crisis.”
Clementi needn’t have worried. Three days after learning the news, she was in Vancouver filming UNREAL, an experience that was both cold (“It was snowing!”) and rewarding (“I couldn’t think of anything else in the world that would make me as happy”).
Just don’t expect to watch her on any “real” reality TV shows anytime soon, and not only because UNREAL has given a good – albeit dramatically skewed – perspective on how the genre gets made. “I think I should stick in my own lane and leave reality TV to people who are good at that,” Clementi says. “And I just wouldn’t be particularly good. On a show like Masterchef, for instance, I’d inquire about making toast. They’d be like, ‘No, we need this fancy soufflé,’ and I’d be, ‘Cool, I’m just going to pass out now.’”
Clementi moved to the US when she was 20 to work on the TV show Single Ladies, also starring Queen Latifah, but living so far from home at such a young age was a difficult adjustment. “I was homesick,” she admits. “So I made an executive decision that I wanted to come home, but I also wanted a reason to come home. I was lucky enough to get a job on Home And Away.”
She had a “wonderful experience” working on the long-running soap drama, but in 2016, after three years in the role of precocious violinist Maddy Osborne, it was time to move on. “I felt like I explored that character and the experience of that show,” Clementi says. “I grew up. It got to a point where I was ready to go back to LA and see what it had in store.”
Even though she has found success again – aside from playing Crystal in UNREAL, she has just completed the film, Stuck Out Of Love – the journey has not always been easy. “I think if there was something out there for me that I thought would bring me as much joy as acting, I probably would have, at several points in my career, explored that,” Clementi says. “The knockbacks are a real slap in the face. There are times when it’s trying and really hard.”
But she is determined to persevere and has even written a script. “Who knows what the future holds?” she says. “I would love to end up producing and creating my own work, and directing.”
Back in Australia to promote her role as lifestyle brand Sunnylife’s first-ever ambassador,and to launch their summer 2018/19 campaign Paradise Found, Clementi is both baffled by, and grateful for, her good fortune.
During the campaign photo shoot on the beaches of far north Queensland, she recalls, “[The crew and I] all said to each other, ‘Pinch us! This is work? Can you believe this?’ Every summer for the rest of my life, I’ll be somewhere tropical, laying on a Sunnylife float!”
As the shoot progressed, an audience of locals would often gather to watch and say hello, and Clementi embraced the interaction. And why not? As she sees it, some of the best parts of her job are meeting people and being able to tell stories that resonate with viewers.
On the other hand, the scrutiny into her private life is not quite so welcome. “There needs to be a clear line between personal and professional,” she argues. “But I’m aware that the career I’ve chosen and adore comes with aspects you wouldn’t necessarily sign up for. Family, private life… it’s private for a reason.”
Clementi then grows quietly reflective as she considers the year she’s had. “Thinking of it at this point, it’s just been beautiful,” she says. “I couldn’t be much happier.”