Teressa talks about how her hobby turned into two starring roles in two fan favorite shows.
An Australian born beauty who made what seemed to be a hobby into her life story, Teressa Liane was forced to find her inner artist at an early age and she did just that. Being left to entertain herself on a regular, Teressa quickly learned storytelling and one man shows. Using her mirror, stuffed animals and her siblings as her audience she quickly adapted to being on stage. Seeing this as only a hobby Teressa had other dreams. However, after a visit to The Arts Centre to see HMS Pinafore at eight years old Teressa now had only one dream and that was to become an actress. With much practice behind her it only made performing in front of others that much easier.
While in high school she unveiled her strange talent of impressions. Some of her favorites included Jim Carrey, Steve Martin and Molly Shannon. While enjoying impressions she realized her overpowering admiration for theatre and performance. Due to an undeniable line of support from friends and encouragement from an amazing Drama teacher she built up the confidence to join First Impressions Youth Theatre (FIYT), a local Theatre Group. Not only did she gain priceless experience as a writer and actress she was also surrounded by people like herself, unique and eager to perform and be great.
With the move of time she eventually studied at La Trobe University. Teressa dived head first into Student Theatre. It was here she put her talents of singing, acting and writing to great use. Not long after she wrote Beatnik Cabaret (2008) she decided to stop attending school and go for her dream. Teressa didn’t go directly to the screen she took a host of different classes until she enrolled in TAFTA – The Australian Film & Television Academy, in Melbourne. With such talents it was only a matter of time until John Orcsik Founder/Director of TAFTA and a notorious Actor/Writer/Director himself took her under his wing as he befriended and mentored her.
After making her acting debut in the Australian TV Show, Neighbours (1985) under Fremantle Media as the “lovable, larger-than-life” character Rhiannon Bates she took in all that she could before making the move to the United States. Here she snagged the role as Angelica in AMC’s Into the Badlands which premiered in the fall of 2015. She also hoisted into the role of the feisty Mary Louise on Season 7 of The Vampire Diaries’. With such a busy schedule Teressa barely has time to learn new lines, however we were able to catch her between sets to see what she has for the coming year.
The Vampire Diaries! How did you land the role on this hit CW series? Tell us about your character?
I was in New Orleans shooting for another show, Into the Badlands (AMC) and was sent the audition script from my Australian agent. It was one of those, learning and filming it in a day situations. I didn’t care about sleep; I loved the writing and the direction these new characters seemed to be going. Originally, I auditioned for the role of Valerie. On my way back home to Australia, I stopped in LA for a few days and received news that I had been requested to go in to Warner Brothers, but this time to audition for Aurora (The Originals) and Mary Louise. I remember being completely won over by Mary Louise’s wit and unintended charm! She literally made me laugh out loud and I knew that it would be the greatest, wicked kind of fun to play her.
A few weeks later, on the exact morning I was leaving for New Orleans to pick up shooting with Into the Badlands, I received the call from my manager. It was around 5am and I was in the car getting all my last minute packing done, I remember half being unsure whether to believe it. I said “No, shut up” way too many times, told my sister and brother-in-law as they drove me to the airport, and the whole thing was like an out of body experience. You work so hard, and audition so many times, the moment someone says ‘yes’ to you, and for a character you’re so passionate to bring to life, there is no normal way to respond. Once I finished up in New Orleans, I flew straight to Atlanta and met everyone. We got right in to makeup and hair tests, and within a week, we were filming. It has been the best experience yet!
My character, Mary Louise, is a Vampire-Witch hybrid. She was turned into a vampire in the 1800s and has spent over a century in a prison world, where she was mostly in a catatonic state. Now, she’s thrown in to present day and is struggling to control her natural instincts. I love her so much because she is a thinking character, unfortunately only before and after she has done something bad. She wants so desperately to know who she is and that she belongs, but her killer instinct and insecurities get the best of her. She loves as deeply as she holds grudges, and will protect those she loves to the end.
This season, we’ve seen her go from someone with complete confidence, to questioning all that she says and does. She makes decisions that have very real and awful consequences. We’ll see how these affect her relationships with others, as well as how she views herself. She’s finding her way and she will need to discover if she can be the same person she once was, or if she is possibly someone completely different.
What do you like best about working on the show and what is the greatest lesson you’ve learned thus far?
What I love most about working on the show is that I get to play make believe with a bunch of awesome people, who love their job just as much as I do! Waking up every day, excited to go to work, is the best feeling. Knowing that we are all there because someone believed in us, it’s a privilege, and I’m aware of that every day. I am so grateful for the friendships and the family we’re all a part of.
The greatest lesson I’ve learned so far is not to have a sense of ‘chasing’ something, in any aspect of your life. It’s great to put in the work, for yourself, to be the best you can be, but it’s so important to understand that the right people, the right opportunities will align with who you are and what you put out.
You were born in Australia and started out on an Australian TV show. What made you come to America?
The ultimate dream was always to work internationally, I think that’s probably because of all the shows and movies I grew up idolizing and wanting so badly to be a part of. I got my first real break on the Australian TV Show Neighbours (Fremantle Media) and I think it’s the part of me that thrives on a challenge. I knew that I was ready; that there was going to be a lot of hard work ahead of me, but the final push actually came from a fellow cast member (thanks Josef). It was very much an “If not now, when” kind of chat. I’ve been very lucky to have the support of people, who’ve given me words of encouragement when I couldn’t see something for myself, or maybe just needed to be reminded.
It’s funny how a few words from someone you respect, can be in passing from their perspective, but to you, it means the world. That’s why I believe so much in letting people know that you appreciate them or their work, a culmination of small, supportive comments, have definitely contributed to me being where I am right now.
When you first appeared on screen in America, did you feel uncomfortable? Were you pressured to nail your debut appearance? Were you afraid of receiving negative reactions from your debut appearance?
Coming into this as a bit of a new ensemble cast definitely took some of the pressure off. I knew that it was going to be more about ‘The Heretics’, collectively. I was so excited to see how our dynamic would read on screen because on set you could tell there was something so cool going on. The individual personalities just clicked. I wasn’t sure where Mary Louise was going to go as a character, I had faith in the show and its creators, and I’ve been so happy with how this new season has come alive.
I love to hear fans respond to our work, particularly with the shows that I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of. There is such a passionate fan base, and they are so invested in every aspect of the show. It really does heighten the experience for us. Twitter has been great for stuff like that! I get to see the talent of the fans! Their art and edits, there’s been a lot and I try to keep up with it. The feedback so far, has been an awesome bonus. When our character does something bad and fans make sure we hear about it, I know we’re doing something right.
You fell in love with Film and Musical Theatre at a young age. Do you prefer film or theatre? What characteristic do you have that would make you better in films or better on stage?
I fell in love with Film and Theatre at a very young age, probably before I could even put into words what I loved about it. I’ll always have a place in my heart for the experience of theatre, the spectacle of it. It is pure entertainment, there’s a sensory, nostalgic beauty in that, and definitely, something I would hope to return to in the future. Right now, I’m focusing on Film and TV. It’s such an exciting time, with new viewing options and original content and there has been a definite shift in bringing relatable, strong female characters to the screen. I’d love to continue to be a part of that wave.
I think any work that allows me to get physical is always a plus. In the action sense, I loved the stunt work in “Into the Badlands.” I was a mega tomboy growing up, so that desire to get involved in all the fun stuff and maybe walk away with a few battle scars, that’ll always be there.
Would you rather be in the movie Hairspray or in the Broadway musical Hairspray? If you had to play a part in both the movie and on Broadway, would you play the same character in both or would you choose to play a different character? Why?
Right now, I would rather be in the film, but that could change. I’d be happy to play Penny in both. She is one of the quirkier characters and not always in an “out there” kind of way, Penny is genuinely odd. I love to play someone who goes against what’s normal, that idea of the underdog who gets the audience to question what “is”, and why they feel a certain way. I’ve always liked her.
How did you handle the change from entertaining yourself to entertaining a small group of people to entertaining people nationally and internationally? Were you prepared for this drastic change and accomplishment?
It kind of happened naturally. I never really saw the bigger picture until I was out of High School. When I was about five or six, my sister and I used to force our family to watch these terrible performances. Our mum really encouraged our imaginations, always bringing home random props and accessories. One day, she gave us both these giant fans made of lace, we decided it was obviously a sign that we had to sing and dance The Haynes Sisters’ number from the movie White Christmas… at an Easter lunch. It was weird, for sure! Eventually, I stopped torturing my family and chose to channel this creative energy, toward a willing audience. Once at La Trobe University, I took up Student theatre and there was no going back from there. I studied at any acting school I could find in Melbourne, until I found what worked for me, and then it was just about pushing on until the right opportunity was there.
I don’t know if there is even a way to fully comprehend what it means to be living your dream. There are still days where I cannot believe I am at this place. I’m kind of just going with it, like “Oh, are you sure? OK, thanks”. I’m doing what I love. I constantly remind myself that it is always about the work and the positive, creative experience, I want to contribute to and that I am only a small part of this bigger picture. My attitude toward the work hasn’t changed but the scale at which it is now being received is mind blowing.
So far, which character have you enjoyed playing the role of the most? What made this character so special? Did you feel a personal connection with this person?
This is such a hard question to answer, there is a reason people say the roles become your babies. I love them all for different reasons. Some I see so much of myself in, others are so daringly different, and I respect and enjoy what they teach me. I’ll always have a soft spot for Rhiannon in Neighbours, it was the first time someone took a real chance on me, and I had done very little beforehand and was suddenly entrusted with this huge mess of hair and a matching loudmouth attitude.
I feel like the roles that find me have always been perfect for me at that time. Angelica was so cool because I finally got to put my stunt training into action (I loved her grit). However, I have to say, playing Mary Louise, has basically been a dream come true (a lethal, sarcastic, sassy vampire-witch). There are days where I have to remind myself that this is work. I connect with Mary Louise’s desire to be herself, in a world that will tell you what you should wear and how to behave so as not to attract the wrong kind of attention, her loyalty to family and maybe a bit of the hopeless romantic. There’s definitely a bit of me, hidden beneath her villainous ways.
You enjoy musical theatre. Have you thought about becoming a singer and songwriter to add to your acting career or do you just want to sing for the part, the portrayal of your character?
Growing up, many of the women I admired were singer/actresses. I love singing, but at this stage, it would probably only be for a character, and I’ll leave that to the pros.
With your experience of writing and acting, have you found greater passion in writing or acting? Which one has brought you the most success in your life?
Writing has always been something I do on the side, when I have time. I’m always writing bits and pieces, putting it away for future projects, but right now, I’m just enjoying all that my acting is bringing to my life. I get so much from it, personally. It’s such a big part of who I am and what inspires me. But, there is still time and I would hope to do both in the future.
Is there anything about America that reminds you of being home in Australia and keeps you from getting too homesick? What do you consider to be the biggest difference between the two countries?
The beaches! Whenever I’m feeling a bit homesick, I go out to Santa Monica or Venice Beach, anything along the Pacific Coast Highway. There is something about the people who are drawn to the ocean. Everyone sort of respects each other’s space and there’s this collective calm. You are going to have a hard time finding an unhappy person at the beach.
The biggest differences I’ve noticed is that Aussies casually swear a bit more, myself included. I realized during some of my very first conversations that I was possibly offending people. That and we will wear thongs (flip-flops) literally anywhere! Definitely not the case, here.
As a child you are often asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” The common answers include a doctor, lawyer, firefighter, ballerina, etc. If you had not fallen in love with acting, what would your answer be? How would your life be different now if you had pursued this job?
From the age of 11-14 I was convinced that I was going to be a professional basketballer, I was playing at Championship level and made it to State tryouts, but realizing how physically committed these girls were, made me realize it was not in the stars for me. I’m going to say a zoologist, or just someone that hangs out at the zoo, feeds the animals. A seal caregiver. I’d be happy bringing out buckets of fish every day. That’s what I would do. Wear khaki Monday to Friday; go home to a big dog. My life would be different in that I’d be settled somewhere. One of the only things I miss, while traveling and working so much is not being able to have a pet. It’s on the list! I love my life right now, so the big fluffy dog can wait.
As her shows continue to rise to fan favorites Teressa will continue to fully immerse herself into her characters. She feels she is blessed to have what she has and to have done what she has done. She enjoys every moment of her journey and even today credits much of her success to her mentor and friend John for his honesty, belief and passion for his students and her. She also praises her friends, family and teachers for their love and support in helping her succeed. With many more projects to come Teressa will soon be a fan favorite for many.
To continue to see news, teasers, bloopers and much more from Teressa find her on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/teressalianeofficial
By: Royse Todd