Going With the Flow – Anna Bamford
She’s starred alongside screen giant Cate Blanchett, has an impressive Australian television career with roles in Wonderland and Home and Away, and is an ambassador for Flickerfest 2018, but Eastern Suburbs resident Anna Bamford is just getting started.
The Beast caught up with Anna to talk about what’s next on the horizon, where her love for acting began, and all the fun she’s had along the way.
How are you today Anna? I’m good thanks. I’ve just returned from a pretty busy meeting with skin care company Dr LeWinn. We’re planning for the year ahead, which is pretty exciting. It’s good to know what they’re doing and what products they’ve got coming.
Where are you from originally? I grew up on Sydney’s North Shore, in a leafy suburb called Killara. My parents still live there to this day. I went to a school called Barker College, which was a bit further up north on the train line, in Hornsby. I had a great teacher called Damian Ryan. He was my drama teacher and now he is the director of the Jove Theatre Company here in Sydney. That’s sort of where my passion for acting began.
Do you still go back to Killara much to visit your parents up there? Yes, I do actually, I love going home. My room’s still there so I love to go home to see them, and kind of get away from all the noise.
You’ve spent a fair bit of time in the Eastern Suburbs, can you tell us a bit about that? I’m currently living in Paddington, just until January, but before that I was living in Bondi for, I would say, about two and a half years. I think I prefer that area of Bondi more around Tamarama, which is a bit quieter. My favourite was always Bondi in the winter because it was quieter.
Why did you move from Bondi to Paddo? I moved from Bondi to Paddington because I had just returned from six months overseas and wanted a change. I love the Eastern Beaches but I wanted to be closer to the city and it was only temporary – for the time I was back in Australia – so thought I’d change it up, and nothing beats Paddington in spring.
Don’t you find Paddington a bit sterile? Not at all, there’s a great sense of community in Paddington – the William Street Festival is the first thing that springs to mind. There’s also a great restaurant and bar scene in Paddington, along with the cafés in Five Ways and all the Australian designers at ‘The Intersection’, which creates a really close-knit community. I think it’s the opposite of sterile.
Any awesome local eateries that you would recommend to our readers? Some of my favourite cafés are around the beaches, like The Shop & Wine Bar in Bondi – they do amazing BLTs – and I also love Out of the Blue in Clovelly, where they do the best burgers.
Is there anything that you dislike about the Eastern Suburbs? The thing I dislike about the area is probably getting stuck in here. There’s a tendency – at least I have a tendency – to kind of never leave, because everything you need is here. It’s a blessing, but it’s also a curse, I guess.
And what’s your favourite thing about living here? My favourite thing is probably the community. I love having everything so close and within my fingertips, but there’s definitely a tendency to never leave, because it is so beautiful. That stretch from Bondi to Coogee, that’s probably one of my favourite things, the coastal walk. I mean, I’m sure everyone says that. But I’d say my favourite thing from here is Marks Park.
How did you get into acting? I actually used to always be really shy growing up. Well, not always, that’s a lie. I did drama class at high school but I used to always make up excuses to miss drama class. And then I did this exercise, it was like an assessment and we did a piece on The Importance of Being Earnest, and I just sort of read the lines and did the performance and didn’t really think much of it, but then afterwards I knew I loved it. I knew myself, I enjoyed doing it, but I was dead as well – like, I was quite nervous. And then, after that performance, my teacher came up to me and said, “You’re actually really good at this, you should consider taking this more seriously.” And it was from then that I really started thinking that it could be a possibility for me.
You studied nursing before pursuing acting. Can you tell us about that? Pursuing nursing was purely for my parents. They wanted me to have a back-up plan, which in hindsight was incredibly smart and I’m glad that they pushed me to do that. The industry is so up and down, you really never know when the next job is going to be, or how long that job is going to last. So I was studying nursing for six months, and then I just stopped, even before I had gotten into drama school, because I knew that it wasn’t for me. And that’s when I went travelling and did some volunteer work in Kenya and Tanzania. And then I came back and auditioned for drama school the next day, and then got into the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), so it all happened really quickly. And then I was moving to Perth four weeks later.
Can you tell us a bit more about your charity work in Africa? When I was 19, I quit studying nursing, packed my bags, and did two months of volunteer work with an NGO in a school and orphanage in Mombasa, Kenya, followed by a safari. It was an extremely rewarding and eye-opening experience.
What did you learn from that experience? A lot! I learnt how lucky I was. I learnt that even without words people can speak the same language. I learnt that a lot about myself too. It was the first trip I had done on my own and, as a 19 year-old, I had to look after myself. I really wanted to push myself and back myself. I had always been so interested in other cultures so learning about the African people, especially the Maasai culture, was very eye-opening. I think it taught me to be more patient, empathetic, and grateful, and it made me think more laterally, which has helped me with my career a lot.
Do you have any aspirations today of getting into any other fields? I’m really interested in interior design – that’s a big passion of mine – and the hobbies I do, like pottery and a bit of drawing.
Were there any similarities between the character of Miranda in Wonderland and yourself? Yes, actually, there were a lot. Funnily enough, after I graduated from drama school I moved into a sunroom in Sydney, and that’s exactly what happened to Miranda. I remember at the time finding it quite funny that it was basically exactly the same. Other similarities were also that she was a female in her mid-20s trying to find her fate and establish herself in Sydney, which is exactly what I was doing.
Did you find that helpful, or would you prefer playing roles that are different to yourself? I think you have to find similarities and differences in every role that you play. I loved playing Miranda. Still to this day, I think there was definitely that similarity between the two of us.
But playing roles that are different from you is also really fun and always interesting; they always open you up and make you look at yourself from different angles. I think that, as an actor, it’s your job to find parts in those characters that aren’t like you within you. When you’re playing a character that isn’t like you, it’s your job to access that inside you and blow that part up. And I think, as well, that is becoming more interesting for me and more complex as I’m experiencing life more. The more I’m growing and doing, the more I’m able to go, “Oh my gosh, I would’ve done this differently or that differently,” because you just learn.
I guess an example would be when I played this character in a play where she was a murderer. Obviously I’m not a murderer, but you’ve got to find parts of you that you can access that can make that character come alive. I think that is an example of a character that’s different to me that I definitely had fun playing, but I find that every character is difficult to play. I don’t know, maybe the characters that are more like me are more difficult because you have to look at yourself more.
Have you done much theatre at all? Yes, I have. I just finished a play in New York on Broadway this year, which was at the Sydney Theatre Company in 2015, and the majority of the study that I have completed was theatre.
How does your experience in theatre and then television work together to inform each other? I always say that ‘acting is acting’. What it is for me is a transferral of energy between the two characters in the scene, sort of like tennis or ping pong. I’ve said this before in another interview; you are hitting the ball back, but it’s just on a different level. On screen, obviously, it’s the same thing. You’re getting something from your scene partner and you have to respond as truthfully as you can. It’s just that the levels are different on each stage and screen.
Also, I think that with screen it’s much more out of your control because you don’t really know what’s going to happen in the edit room, whether they’re going to use your reaction from earlier in the scene or at the end of the scene. With stage, you’re there in the moment and it’s really exhilarating. But, at the end of the day, you are still being present in the moment and transferring energy.
Do you think more public money should be directed to the arts? Or would you prefer to see it go towards other things, like health and education? Yes, I would definitely love to see more money directed to the arts to create a rich and dynamic arts environment. More funding would enable more people to access plays, concerts, and galleries, especially in regional areas. This creates enormous social benefits by enriching people’s lives and helping them understand the world around them. More funding would also create employment by allowing more people to participate in the arts. There could also be economic benefits – cities with a vibrant arts culture, like London and New York, benefit greatly from increased tourism.
Do you think Sydney’s cost of living is going to render it a cultural wasteland, as actors and other artists are forced to move elsewhere? This could definitely happen as there are a lack of jobs in the arts sector. Also, because of unpredictability of employment, it’s difficult to pay Sydney rents, let alone save for a deposit for a house in Sydney.
How should this problem be dealt with? Firstly, it would be wonderful if more funding was available, which could result in more jobs. Secondly, it would be great if the government could build more low-cost housing near the centre of the city where people want to live.
Do you think Hollywood, and America in general, has too much influence on Australian culture? How would you change this? I think Hollywood and America are definitely an influence, but not enough to be overly concerned about. I think Australia has a distinct enough culture for it not to be overwhelmed by outside influences. We also have strong film and music industries, which have produced some wonderful talent. More support in the form of increased funding is always welcome though!
This year you’re an ambassador for Flickerfest. What do you love about this local Academy accredited short film festival? I guess that it’s the longest running short film festival that’s been in Australia, and that it can recognise creatives and artists on the level that it is recognised on. I think it’s a really iconic festival for Australia. It’s a really great chance for filmmakers to make something and for their films to be seen and their messages to be heard. I love Flickerfest, I’ve been for the last couple of years and I always love it.
What has the role of ambassador involved for you? We shot a trailer with a director who I’ve actually worked with twice before. As soon as I knew he was involved, I was like, “Yes, yes, yes!” because he’s great, and I really enjoyed my time working with him.
So every year Flickerfest does a trailer on an iconic film, and this year it has been on Crocodile Dundee, so we brought Mick Dundee to Bondi Beach and made this short film depicting him trying to enter into this festival competition. That’s what the trailer is about; it’s about getting that short film to Flickerfest. It’s quite funny and Mick Dundee is quite hilarious.
Who would you say are your role models? I’d definitely say Cate Blanchett. I just worked with her and I really, really look up to her, not only as an actor but also as a woman. Apart from her, my other role models include Lisa Wilkinson, my mother, and all my close group of girlfriends, because they are so important to me.
What advice would you give to aspiring Australian actors who are trying to get a break in the industry? That’s a big one. My advice for anyone aspiring to make it as an actor would be to be very resilient and just keep believing in yourself.
Ultimately, a lot of it is out of your control, so when you’re auditioning for things, don’t take the audition home with you. It’s so much easier said than done, but try and leave the audition at the audition, because it’s really stressful otherwise and you’ll go mad if you think about it too much and wonder what will happen – whether the phone will ring or if you’ll get the part.
After an audition, I try and say, “Okay, on to the next one,” because otherwise you’ll run yourself crazy. There are so many different factors that go into the decision-making process, so it’s better to just be yourself. What’s the point in changing if it’s so out of your control anyway? It reminds me of that quote: “Be yourself, because everyone else is taken.”
What can your fans expect from you in the future? I’m about to go to LA for pilot season, so that’s my next kind of thing that I’m going to be doing; pilot season over there. I’ll just be doing lots of auditioning over there.
What does the future hold for Anna Bamford? I’m not really sure, and I’m okay with that. I have always had a tendency to worry about the ‘what ifs’ and try to control things that are out of my control, so I’m determined, this year especially, to really start to be okay with just not knowing and just going with the flow and being true to who I am. I think that not knowing what the future holds can turn a scary thing into an exciting thing.