WHY AUSTRALIA'S IN A LATHER OVER THIS SOAP STAR!
S he’s following in the footsteps of some illustrious names — Margot Robbie, Liam Hemsworth, Ben Mendelsohn and Kylie Minogue — to name a few. And April Rose Pengilly hopes her role in the TV soap Neighbours will be the springboard to acting success.
April Rose Pengilly, the daughter of INXS rocker Kirk Pengilly, has had some success in television already, with parts in the Ten television series Brock and Peter Allen: Not The Boy Next Door. And she came close to landing several high-profile international roles before she arrived in Ramsay Street — including the role of Cheryl Blossom in Riverdale, Han Solo’s love interest Qi’ra in Solo: A Star Wars Story (which eventually went to Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke) and parts in a couple of James Franco projects.
Just three months after her debut Neighbours episode hit screens, however, the 30-year-old Sydney beauty has been nominated for a Logie for her performance as Chloe Brennan. Pengilly, who began filming in November and moved to Melbourne in January, is up for the prestigious Graham Kennedy Award for Most Outstanding Newcomer at the awards ceremony on July 1.
“It was a big surprise, but I am so honoured and grateful to have my years of hard work recognised,” she tells BW Magazine.
“I’m obviously a long shot but please vote for me anyway! I’ve never won anything before and my mum wants something shiny to place upon the mantel.”
The accolade was the confirmation Pengilly needed that she had made the right decision — giving up a lucrative modelling career in a bid to be taken seriously as an actor.
“I had to give up my modelling career and make it clear that I am an actor now to get taken seriously,” she says. “It was really tough giving it up because that’s what I got my start in. I thought I could do both but I had trouble, my agent couldn’t even get me in the room because a lot of casting directors were saying ‘Oh no, she’s not a real actor, she’s a model, she’s not taking it seriously.’ They wouldn’t even watch my work and he was like ‘No, she studied really hard, she is serious about this,’ but the modelling made it hard for them to take me seriously.” D espite a passion for acting since she was 11 years old, Pengilly went on to built a name for herself in the modelling world, signing to Wilhelmina Models after graduating high school and working on campaigns while living and working in Tokyo, Osaka, London and New York.
But in an industry notoriously full of “slashies” — actor/model, singer/dancer, presenter/thespian — she was told having two careers would hold her back.
“I would be in the social pages or something and they would credit me as ‘model’ by accident and I would be like, ‘No, you’ve just set me back months, now no one is going to want to book a model,” she says. “(In Australia) people are like ‘You think you can do two jobs, how dare you!’ In America, they love if you have different layers, careers and things to talk about. I think there’s the stigma of model turned actor, there’s a few that haven’t been so successful, so I think people look at that and it turns them off.
“I wish I could do both. I miss modelling so much. I’m hoping — now that I am on a longrunning show and I’m not just doing guest appearances and films here and there — that I might be able to do both again.”
While she might miss modelling — for now — acting clearly suits Pengilly. Her Ramsay Street character, Chloe Brennan, has landed right in the middle of some juicy scripts as she is reunited with her TV brothers Tyler, Mark and Aaron Brennan.
“The role is really fun and the character I’ve ended up with is very similar to me in a lot of ways,” Pengilly says. “She’s very fun and open and I get to do a lot of comedy on the show and I’m lucky that the character I play gets to be the comic relief a lot of the time. It feels like the role was tailor-made for me.”
Despite landing the role in the long-running soap, her spot on Neighbours almost didn’t happen. Pengilly was just three weeks away from moving to the US, a goal she’d been “obsessed with” for six years, when she landed the gig.
“I had filmed an audition for Neighbours early last year and didn’t think too much of it because I got my US visa approved in April,” she says. “It took me two years to get the visa and then, three weeks before I was meant to head to LA, I got the call saying I got the part.
“It came out of nowhere, it was a complete
surprise. I think it’s a goal for most Aussie actors to be on one of these iconic Aussie shows that is beloved world wide, but I’d kind of given up on it, my goal was America.
“I felt like I was in a holding pattern, I was sending self-tapes over and they might call you the day after and say ‘We need to fly you over now.’ I was always on the edge of my seat. There are quite a few roles I came close to but then the visa problem held me back, they want you to have your visa in place before you go.
“I may not be where I thought I would be, but where I am is pretty amazing.” G iven Pengilly grew up in the entertainment industry (her mum Karen Hutchinson toured with her father’s band for 10 years before they split when April Rose was just a toddler), it seems only natural that she would end up there herself.
But she has always wanted to do it in her own right, even reluctantly dropping her surname when she began modelling in 2005 so people couldn’t accuse her of trying to ride on the coattails of her famous father.
“Both my parents are in creative industries and always have been, so I didn’t have a lot of hope of getting an office job,” she jokes.
“Acting and modelling are very different industries than what my father does and my mum does, I think people just lump them in or they just think it might be nepotism, but there isn’t anything my dad could have done to help me and he wouldn’t have wanted to either. He wants me to create my own success and they are both proud of me.” While she has succeeded in her chosen fields irrespective of her surname, there were some things she inherited from her rock star father — his down-to-earth attitude and his love of music. “Having my dad in the industry since he was so young, he always tried to be really polite and considerate and that worked for him so he always instilled those values in me, to work hard and be kind,” she says.
“I don’t think I’m above anyone or anything.”
She even learnt to play the drums in high school and would play at house parties and even on a friend’s EP. “Harry Styles has a female drummer on his tour,” she laughs, “that could’ve been me!”
Life as an only child growing up between her mum’s place and her dad’s on weekends and holidays, also made Pengilly adaptable, she says. “I’d go to the beach with my mum and she would sunbake and I’d have to make friends at the beach to play with on the day,” she says. “I was mostly raised by a single mum and would see dad on weekends or on holidays. My parents split when I was two or three. Dad would go away for six months at a time on tour, so I remember that being really difficult. “He had a property in Kangaroo Valley which we would go to and go horseriding and swimming in waterfalls so I was so lucky to have that. I have a weird split personality where I have my country self and my city self so I’m overdue for some country-self time.”
I think it’s a goal for most Aussie actors to be on one of these iconic Aussie shows
Pengilly found success in her modelling mod lli career but is determined now to make it as an actor with her start in Neighbours. Main picture: Rohan Kelly