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If you were to ask any Australian who the most accomplished, or respected, actor is, most likely, they would answer Roy Billing. Mr. Billing is not only one of the most popular actors on the continent (and around the world), he is also quite involved in charity work, both for aspiring actors and disabled actors. He is a man to be revered in the acting world.
I was recently given the opportunity to interview Mr. Billing for Teen Ink.
RH- Tell us a little about yourself.
RB- I started acting professionally in New Zealand in the late 70s then graduated to film and television. After a successful career in NZ I came to Australia in 1989 and continued my career appearing in many Australian stage, film and TV shows. I have been nominated for Logie, Film Critics Circle, and Australian Film Institute awards. I won Best Lead Actor in a TV drama in the 2009 Australian Film Institute Awards for my role as Robert Trimbole in UNDERBELLY : A Tale of Two Cities
RH- How did you first become interested in acting?
RB- Through becoming involved in amateur dramatics in the 70s in NZ. I was fortunate enough to get picked up by a professional theatre company in 1977 and have been an actor ever since.
RH- You have acted in a variety of film genres; what has been your favorite?
RH- My preference is for feature film, then TV and stage last. I have no preferred genre of films that I like acting in. It all depends on the role and I have been lucky enough to have played comedy roles as well as dramatic roles.
RH- Dear Diary has quite a unique plotline; tell us about that film.
RB- That was a professionally conducted short film shot by a young director Kane Christopher Guglielmi. It is about a man writing in his diary how his wife intends to kill him. Turns out he is trying to kill her and the diary is a subterfuge to put any potential investigators on the wrong track.
RH- You were pretty much unrecognizable in the role of the Chief Dufflepud (2010's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader); are people often surprised when they discover that it's you underneath all that prosthetic?
RB- Everyone is always surprised at at these prosthetics. Look at what has been done with films like the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy and the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films. These make up artists are extremely clever.
RH- How much time did you spend with the main cast of Dawn Treader?
RB- Not a lot really. Much of the acting is done in isolation against a green screen and you are digitally placed into the main body of the film. But I did spend time with the cast during the main studio shoot.
RH- Tell us about working with them.
RB- They are very pleasant and easy to get on with. Their is a sort of unspoken camaraderie amongst actors on a film set, no matter how well known some of them may be.
RH- What was your favorite part of filming?
RB- My favorite part of any film or TV process is when you are working on complex scenes and their is a good vibe between actors, crew and director. It is a great collaborative feeling.
RH- Several films you have been a part of have been adaptions of popular books; were you a fan of any of these books before making the films?
RB- Most of the time. Having read and enjoyed a book, draws you towards the film project.
RH- How does filming a movie based on true events differ from the filming of a fictional movie?
RB- There is an added responsibility to portray the events and characters as truthfully as possible. Especially when some of the people being portrayed may still be alive or have family still alive. When I played famous criminal Robert "Aussie Bob" Trimbole in UNDERBELLY I was very aware that he had family still around, and that there were many people in the police and criminal worlds who had known him while he was alive, so I tried to do as much research as possible to give a truthful portrayal. And I was quite successful given the comments I have had from people who did actually know him.
RH- What has been your favorite movie to film? Tell us a little about it.
RB- THE DISH. A great role and a great script and a chance to work with the Working Dog team who I very much admire. They never seem to do anything bad. THE DISH was also a great story to tell, about Australia's role in the 1969 moon landing. I have since had a strong association with the people of Parkes where we did all the exterior shooting. Most of the interior shooting, including the inside of the dish, was shot on location or in studios in Melbourne.
RH- Tell us a little about your work with theater and the Actors Benevolent Fund.
RB- I tend not to do much theatre work these days. The highlight of my theatrical career was playing Sam Pickles in the stage adaptation of Tim Winton's classic Australian novel CLOUDSTREET. We performed that in Sydney then took it to Brisbane, London, New York and Washington. We were the first overseas act into New York after the September 11 disaster.
I am treasurer of the Actors Benevolent Fund, a charity which assists ill, disabled and elderly performers. It is a pretty full on commitment and we raise funds from various events and from donations.
RH- What advice do you have for aspiring actors?
RB- Get well trained first. To get on in the industry you need to have an agent and the good agents will generally only take on newcomers who have trained at the established drama schools. It also helps to have some sort of back up job…through a degree or trade certificate…as the acting profession is very precarious and there are only so many jobs to go around. Even the most experienced, high profile actors have times when they are out of work.