Hol­ly­wood HOPE­FULS

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Cover Story - – Deb­bie Schipp

The faces may be slightly fa­mil­iar, the names per­haps less so, but the dreams are big – and just one break could change all of that.

Ev­ery year, lo­cal ac­tors pack up those dreams and their port­fo­lios to try their luck in Los An­ge­les be­tween Jan­uary and April for Amer­i­can pi­lot sea­son – when all the big US tele­vi­sion stu­dios cast for their new pro­duc­tions.

Rus­sell Crowe re­port­edly went 13 times be­fore he cracked the Amer­i­can mar­ket. The com­pe­ti­tion is that fierce.

Last year, Match­box Pic­tures and the ABC de­cided to chart the jour­ney of six Aussie hope­fuls. Aly­cia Deb­nam- Carey, 19; Michael Clarke-Tokely, 22; Craig An­der­son, 35; HaiHa Le, 29; Pene­lope Mitchell, 22 ( cousin of es­tab­lished Hol­ly­wood ac­tor Radha Mitchell), and Luke Pe­gler, 30, took the bold de­ci­sion to let the cam­eras fol­low their for­tunes through pi­lot sea­son. The re­sult is Next Stop Hol­ly­wood. They are tracked through au­di­tions, go-sees, tri­umph and dis­ap­point­ments over six weeks.

For Deb­nam- Carey, film­ing of the show marked the start of a year in which she put the study for her Higher School Cer­tifi­cate be­hind her and took a crash­course in the strug­gle to make it in LA, but also learned a lot about life.

The youngest of the six, the Syd­neysider has acted since the age of eight, with roles in ABC se­ries Dance Academy and the much-loved McLeod’s Daugh­ters to her credit, and had al­ready been marked as one to watch when she was named a fi­nal­ist for the Heath Ledger schol­ar­ship.

She heads to LA with a few weapons in her ar­se­nal: she al­ready has a Hol­ly­wood agent, and she has her “rock” – her mum – along for the ride. Although she ad­mits her mum couldn’t help with some of the more phys­i­cal ob­sta­cles of get­ting to au­di­tions, given her re­luc­tance to drive – Amer­i­can-style – on the right­hand side of the road.

“We had to find a dif­fer­ent so­lu­tion be­cause as a left-handed, dyslexic woman with ab­so­lutely no sense of di­rec­tion, it was prob­a­bly a bad idea for her and ev­ery­one else on the road,” says Deb­nam- Carey, laugh­ing.

Given her con­firmed au­di­tions go­ing in were for the lead in Sex And The City prequel The Car­rie Di­aries, it was im­por­tant to get the trans­port right.

Suf­fice to say, with­out spoil­ing the jour­ney for view­ers, Deb­nam- Carey has had a lit­tle more time to sort out the

When you’re act­ing and have a cam­era in your face you’re play­ing some­body else … For this there was no mask to put on

va­garies of trans­port in LA since pi­lot sea­son – with­out her mum.

In a Next Stop Hol­ly­wood success story, she re­turned to LA twice last year af­ter scor­ing two roles in movies. “It’s been a to­tal year of growth for me,” she says. “Not just act­ing-wise, but life-wise. It was my first time out of home.”

On her wish list for 2013 is a re­turn to LA, and to pass her driv­ing test.

“Driv­ing has been a night­mare – I ac­tu­ally failed my test in LA,” she laughs.

“You vow you’re go­ing to use pub­lic trans­port, but then it takes you three hours to get any­where. I ad­mit­ted de­feat, and then I failed my driv­ing test.

“What was worse was while I was wait­ing to take it, an­other girl did hers, hit a car, and still passed.”

An­other of the hope­fuls, Clarke-Tokely, is no stranger to the cam­eras thanks to his crit­i­cally lauded role on hit se­ries Tan­gle, but ad­mits hav­ing them “in your face for six weeks for a doc­u­men­tary” was a dif­fer­ent mat­ter.

“When you’re act­ing and have a cam­era in your face you’re not your­self. You are play­ing some­body else, so it’s eas­ier,” says Clarke-Tokely, who this year will ap­pear in new ABC drama Dr Blake’s Mur­der Mys­ter­ies.

“For this, there was no mask to put on. It was a lit­tle dif­fi­cult to tread that line be­tween who am I now, and who do I need to be at the next au­di­tion. I was think­ing about do­ing the whole thing in char­ac­ter, but I don’t think I could have lasted six weeks.”

Clarke-Tokely es­ti­mates he did three au­di­tions a week dur­ing the pi­lot sea­son process, pol­ish­ing his au­di­tion per­for­mances with Hol­ly­wood hope­ful Pe­gler, who has ap­pear­ances in Neigh­bours, Res­cue Spe­cial Ops, Packed To The Rafters and US se­ries Spar­ta­cus to his credit. “Luke and I lived in the same apart­ment block for the show, and it was good to bounce ideas off each other, go out for beers to­gether and shoot the breeze. It wasn’t as crazy, scary, daunt­ing or in­tense as I thought it would be, but we’re all in­ter­ested to see what the show mak­ers have done with about 300 hours of footage.”

The ex­pe­ri­ence hasn’t put Clarke-Tokely off pi­lot sea­son – he’s al­ready booked his ticket back to LA and will be au­di­tion­ing again as Next Stop Hol­ly­wood plays out. “I know more about the an­i­mal now, and I want to see how far I can push this one up the hill,” he says. “There’s a fine line be­tween am­bi­tion and stu­pid­ity. I want to be care­ful to tread in a mind­ful man­ner.”

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