“I’m going to be a mother”
Australian actor Nicole da Silva meets up with Stellar to reveal her pregnancy news and shares her excitement at becoming a first-time mum.
She made a name for herself playing complicated characters, and now actor Nicole da Silva tells Stellar how she is about to take on a new challenge – a family – as she prepares to welcome her first child
Nicole da Silva’s puppy is giving her shoe a good chew. “Oh, hello!” the 36-year-old laughs, as she gently shakes her playful little friend. “Well, I guess this is a good practice run.” The actor has been training Chula, a rescue dog, over the past few months – in turn, Chula has been getting her owner ready for her biggest role yet: as she exclusively reveals to Stellar, da Silva is six months pregnant with her first baby.
“I feel like myself again,” she says of the news. “The first trimester was really hard. I was hit with major exhaustion and just constant nausea. You spend so long at the beginning of the pregnancy mentally coming to terms with it and physically you’ve got stuff going on, too – but you’re not showing. Then in the second half, it’s like, ‘ This is a reality now, it’s not just all in my head, I’m actually out there, literally, and I’m going to become a mother.’ It’s quite lovely.”
She’ll need her energy: she kicks off filming the second season of the Nine Network’s medical drama Doctor Doctor this month, and will keep working until July, when the baby is due to arrive. “There’s a bit of time off where it can just be baby world,” da Silva says. “We’re pretty lucky: we have very supportive people around us; family, friends, grandparents who want to be really hands-on looking after bubba. So we’re looking forward to being able to lean on that. I think some level of shift and change is inevitable, and we’ll have to make adjustments as new parents do, but there’s a lot of work I still want to do and a lot of stuff I’m still interested in so it’ll all be bubbling away as we go.”
“We” is da Silva and her partner John, a painter who she lives with in Sydney’s inner west. (And of course, Chula rounds out their growing family.) Their relationship was 12 years in the making; the pair met slinging cocktails at a bar in the city but, for a while, that was it. “There was always chemistry, but we dropped out of contact. And then, it was bizarre, we just kept bumping into each other every year or two. Then a few years ago, I was living in LA but was back in Sydney briefly and drove past what used to be his old house, and I thought ‘I’m just going to text his number and see if he’s still around… if that’s even still his number.’”
It was. And while they didn’t have time to catch up then, they kept in touch until da Silva came back for another visit. “I think we were both operating under the ruse that we were just catching up as old friends,” she recalls with a chuckle. “But then we could always see the chemistry there.”
From that long-overdue meetup, “it was kind of a done deal”, she says of the long-distance love that developed. Four years in, da Silva describes their relationship as “great. It’s easy. It’s honest. It’s fun. And it’s lovely to be on the same page as someone in terms of what you want your life to look like and what your priorities are – we’ve definitely got that. We both would like to be living in the country at some point. We both desperately wanted a dog, so we got one. We knew we wanted kids, so that’s handy.” Marriage, on the other hand, can wait. “It’s been a busy year, with a rescue dog and a baby on the way, so that’s plenty.”
“I’m really looking forward to welcoming this little person into the world”
She has always known what she wanted. “When I was young, maybe 10, I heard that most actors were out of work and I thought, ‘Oh, that sounds like a challenge. I think I want to take that on’ – which is ridiculous,” she says, laughing. “I started writing and directing plays with my friends in them to put on for class.”
Growing up in Western Sydney with a Portuguese mother, a South American stepdad and two older step-siblings, da Silva was “always the clown, doing funny little skits for my family”. A bright student, she attended a selective school and worked hard to get into her chosen media and communications course at university; once there, she realised that it wasn’t what she really wanted. Drama school was.
“My family had seen how hard I studied and I think they were hoping I would choose something with a little more security. They encouraged me to become a teacher or a lawyer, and I was pretty hellbent on acting. I come from a long line of passionate, fiery women in my family.”
Six months out of university, the first sign her determination was paying off came when she landed a regular guest role on All Saints. “But it was still stop/ start,” she says; a couple of years of no acting work, then a “breakout” gig on Dangerous. This was followed by a year or so of working in bars to pay the bills – all while hoping and looking for the next role. It eventuated in the form of a gig on Rush that brought her to national attention and led to her iconic take on tough Franky Doyle in Wentworth. Even now, with da Silva’s role in Doctor Doctor and a career that’s humming along nicely, she says uncertainty is always just beneath the surface. She’s an actor, after all. “There are no guarantees – and that’s what keeps you wanting it. You get to a level of acceptance that there aren’t any guarantees but you keep working at it.”
Once the chaos of new motherhood subsides, da Silva plans to do just that. She’s on the advisory board for 50/50 by 2020 – a collective cause focusing on equality for women, people of colour, LGBTQIA, and those with disabilities within the film and television industry. “It’s something that I’ve been really excited to be a part of; it’s focused primarily in America at the moment but it’s something I would like to see brought out to Australia, and I think there’s a lot of undercurrents of those movements happening at the moment and it’s heartening to see.”
There’s plenty of creative fuel in her tank, too. “I’m really interested in producing my own work, so that’s definitely on the table for me in the near future, and I think America’s always on the cards… so I’ll just keep everything bubbling along.” In the meantime, there will be more than just that dog to watch over. “I’m really looking forward to welcoming this little person into the world. There’s something pretty magical and special about that. I do have trepidations and fears, but I’m looking forward to a new part of myself that it will reveal.”
SILVER LINING Australian actor Nicole da Silva will continue filming on her series Doctor Doctor until her due date in July. Chair by Jardan (shown throughout), jordan.com.au
WHAT TO EXPECT (clockwise from top left) Nicole da Silva in her role as feisty inmate Francesca “Franky” Doyle in Wentworth; as photographed for Stellar; da Silva and her partner John, with whom she’s expecting her first child; at the 2016 Logie...