The Truth is a deceptively simple story in which characters and audiences best beware of believing everything they see and hear. But here you can trust Michala Banas to reveal the truth, as she sees it, about acting, Melbourne and herself.
The truth about … acting
What’s the most common misconception about working as an actor, especially on stage?
That we’re all rich. I think people think that we make the kind of money that American actors make, and that we are loaded, when we absolutely are not. Performers are not doing it for the money that’s for sure.
What’s the weirdest audience moment you’ve encountered to date?
I was doing The Beauty Queen of Leenane at Fortyfivedownstairs, with Noni Hazelhurst. We were playing mother and daughter, and there’s this horrific torture scene in the play where I’m about to pour boiling cooking oil on her, and an audience member shouted out ‘NO, NO, NO! DON’T! DON’T. DON’T DO IT!!!’ It was fantastic. It meant they were invested in the moment and overwhelmed by this feeling of not wanting it to happen. But it was quite strange and it sort of shook me for a second. People yelling out when they feel impassioned about something is odd, but also delightful at the same time, because they’re clearly into it.
Best thing about working in this industry?
There’s nothing quite like being in a space where you’re sharing energy with each other – that transaction is the joy of live theatre. But for me it’s actually about all the incredible human beings that I encounter. Not just other performers but other creatives, and the people behind the scenes. The camaraderie and the level of brilliance that I come across all the time, I love that. Everyone’s got something brilliant to bring to the table, across the board: behind the scenes, on the stage, backstage, in the creative process, even in the not-so-creative elements of it – we’re making this thing together and there’s a shared love for the creation of shows, so we have this commonality but we’re also all individual and unique and different. I just love it.
The truth about … Melbourne
What’s the most common misconception the rest of the country/world has about Melbourne?
That the weather is bad. Sure, but it changes all the time. I love the inconsistency of the weather in Melbourne. I love coats and jackets, and it does get cold in winter, but in summer it’s not humid. Which as someone with curly hair, I love. I’m from New Zealand originally so I guess this is tropical to me. So the weather in Melbourne isn’t bad; it’s varied. And I like that.
What is the worst thing about Melbourne?
The worst thing about Melbourne is the weather. It’s awful… Seriously though, I don’t know how to answer this question. Traffic sometimes? But I think that’s true of any city. I think all the things that I could say I don’t like about Melbourne could be said for any city. What has everyone else said? Just put down whatever Bert said.
What is the best thing about Melbourne?
The culture, I think. I’ve lived in several cities over the years. And I feel like Melbourne has this really great artistic, creative culture. It’s multicultural, and has been for a long time, and that makes for better art. And there’s so much of it. And there’s always new discoveries to be made. The cultural element of this city is really strong.
Finish this sentence: Melbourne is a city of …
Discovery. No. Hidden gems. Hidden gems. It really is. I’ve lived here a long time and I still discover things about it.
The truth about … Michala Banas
What’s the biggest misconception the public has about you?
That I’m tall. Often when people meet me they say ‘Oh! You’re really small. I thought you would be much taller.’ That might be a TV thing though. I must look taller on screen…
Another would be that I’m working all the time, or that I that I get every job. There are countless roles that I have auditioned for and have not got. I can go for long stretches of unemployment, and periods of auditioning for stuff and not getting it all the time, just like every other actor. I don’t have the security that people think I have. But all that said, I’m certainly bloody grateful for the work I do get.
What is your most formative or memorable acting experience?
That’s such a hard question! Avenue Q was one, for sure. I nearly turned it down because I was so scared and thought I couldn’t do it, that I wouldn’t have the skill to be able to do the things that I needed to do in the show. So I almost didn’t take the job because I was terrified. My best friend said to me ‘People do this stuff all the time. Why can’t you?!’ She was right. So I did it, and it was wonderful. It was a really, really tough gig, it was a big job. But it taught me a lesson (one I seem to keep having now over and over), which is to do things that scare you. They’re often really rewarding and you can surprise yourself, and that was one of those occasions.
‘As soon as they offered me the role I went ‘hey, you know when I said I could horse ride? I meant more that I have ridden a horse … one time, and I didn’t die and I wasn’t scared.’
Also, I think my first show here at MTC, Birdland, was especially memorable because I’d spent so long wanting to do theatre and not being considered. No one would even audition me for theatre, they just weren’t interested. So when I got my first show here it was game-changing for me.
What is the best lie you’ve ever told?
I really don’t know how to answer that. I did say that I could ride a horse in order to get a job. But then I came clean quite quickly when I got the job, which was McLeod’s Daughters. As soon as they offered me the role, I said ‘Hey, you know when I said I could horse ride? I meant more that I have ridden a horse … one time, and I didn’t die, and I wasn’t scared.’ That was my second lie. I was terrified but I just had to deal with it.
And that was another job I nearly turned down because I was scared. Not just of the horse riding but all the physical stuff – shearing, mustering, riding; we did everything ourselves. We absolutely had body doubles for the dangerous stuff. And when we needed to look professional at shearing, they brought incredible women in to do the close ups, but otherwise, it was us doing it all. And I was nervous about it.
I can ride a horse now (debatable). I haven’t for a long time, but because of that show absolutely I can. At least, I can fake it really well. I can also fake fixing a fence like nobody’s business…
Published on 24 May 2021