Felix Johnson: What was your initial reaction to, and what piqued your interest most about the story of the play?
Kate Cheel: On first read of the play, I was immediately compelled by the way the play interrogates two particular things; the long-standing culture of victim blaming and slut-shaming with regard to crimes of sexual assault against women, and the immediacy and mass-audience reach of sharing content online. Where these two intersect is so dark and so dangerous – especially surrounding teenagers and the increasing pressure on young people to share intimate or nude photographs only to have their privacy violated on social media, and then be blamed for it!
What are your go-to methods for discovering a character? How do you like to work?
I’m not sure that I have any go-tos, every job requires something different. For this project it was really important to me that I sought out the stories and voices of survivors of sexual assault and how as a society we are dealing with these instances. If I’m going to be part of the conversation and any kind of decent representative for these women I need to be informed, thoughtful and active in my participation. In terms of discovering my character, the play takes place in Croydon, West London – a world away from Sydney, Australia and a completely different scene for young people. I found immersing myself in the music, fashion and pop culture of her world really useful in getting to know who this girl is and how she exists in the world.
To what extent do you think people have control over how they are perceived online and the images and information that is shared about them?
I’m just realising… we actually have NO control. Holy cheese balls! Thank you Felix, now I’m terrified. Any person can publish any thing about you. And you can request to have it taken down or you can take them to court, but to properly police all activity would be near impossible. The other end of the spectrum is of course the curated self via social media and self-produced content. You can shape how people perceive you online by essentially telling them who you are and what you think through the select imagery and info you choose to share. But there’s no total control.
Do you think revenge is ever justified?
I believe in retribution absolutely, but I don’t think revenge does any good. And it begs the question, what is justice and can it ever truly be served? To steal from someone far wiser than me, Mr Martin Luther King Jr, “The old law of ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind.”
If you could know the answer to one of the world’s unsolved mysteries, what would you most like to know?
I’d like to know what happens after death. Are past lives a legit thing? Are ghosts real? Spirits? Angels? Reincarnation? Is there a puffy cloud somewhere up there with everyone I love looking over me? Do they have to wear what they died in for eternity? Eternity is ages. How would you not get bored? Where do plants and animals go when they die?
Kate Cheel: I’m stealing this question from you because it’s good. What was your initial reaction to, and what piqued your interest most about the story of the play?
To be honest, I’m just a fan of a good story. I loved the twists and turns that the play took me on when I first read it; bringing that to life and sharing it with an audience is the most exciting thing about being an actor for me. But then on top of that, the content of the play is so immediately relevant and relatable – I couldn’t help thinking how I and the people closest to me might behave if we ever found ourselves in a similar situation.
What’s one thing you’ve learned about working on this project and one thing that has surprised you?
I guess I’ve learned (again) to maintain a positive scepticism. People and situations aren’t always what they appear to be no matter how familiar we think we are with them. It’s important to consider everything to find out the truth. I got a surprise listening to Croydon slang… and now I’m wondering if I’d be peng or butters…
How did you work on your accent? It’s very good.
Well, that’s kind! Luckily I had a bit of background work on a London accent already, but had to adjust quite a lot in the end to get a Croydon accent that suited Nick. It took hours of listening to samples, emulating one sound, then another, finding my ‘way in’ to the accent with particular phrases, then being as picky as I could about making all the sounds and the rhythm as authentic as possible. It’s something totally new for me now and that’s always exciting.
Have you ever made an assumption about someone or a situation and been proved totally wrong? Explain. Please…
So many times I can’t even count. Which is terrible, but luckily I’m also constantly amazed at what people can and will do for each other. I don’t have a single great example, but suffice to say I try my best to keep an open mind and give everything a chance. Curiosity over judgement any day.
What was the last photo you took on your iPhone and did you share it with anyone?
The last one is a boring photo of a timetable… which no one wants except me. But before that I sent a selfie to my girlfriend of my new haircut. She was both fascinated and rueful.
Kate Cheel and Felix Johnson are appearing in 4 Minutes 12 Seconds by James Fritz.
Dates: 13 September – 8 October, 2016
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre