Nicole da Silva is an Australian actor who began on All Saints and now has an international cult following for her role as Franky Doyle in Wentworth, earning her a nomination for most outstanding new talent at last month’s Logies. Da Silva, 35, talks to me about losing her anonymity, the strangest place she has been recognised and the TV shows she is binge watching herself.
What is a day in the life of you?
If I’m not working I like to get out and do some meditation and do some exercise … I’m [also] working on a few of my own projects.
Where are you based now?
I’ve just come back from LA and am looking forward to settling down in Sydney for a while.
What has been the most demanding role you have ever played?
I would have to say Franky in Wentworth. [The show] just requires so much of us and all of the time. It requires a complete ability to go to the nth degree. We need to be so primal and vulnerable and there is no room for sidestepping around it.
What is it like to be part of the Wentworth phenomenon?
It is pretty huge, crazy and unexpected. Our fans are so loyal and dedicated to the show… They are constantly in contact.
What did you think when you first read the script?
I was really excited about Franky Doyle … I was excited about who she was and what was going on for her. I really connected with her, she was so strong on the outside but really quite vulnerable to what was going on in her life. It was a gift to bring [her] to life.
How do you prepare for role?
I started training like she would train: I wanted to physically look really wiry and competitive. For the actual audition, I dressed down in a really ratty singlet. I covered my arms and neck in tattoos.
What is it like to be recognised around the world?
It is great and it has taken some getting used to. It is on Netflix now, so more and more people are catching wind of it. I don’t know how I feel about losing my anonymity, but it is just part of the package.
What is like to transfer from a dark character like Franky Doyle in Wentworth to Charlie in Doctor Doctor?
It was a relief, actually. It is so taxing to maintain that level of intensity required for Wentworth.
Is it hard to get out of character when you leave the set and go home?
In my mind, I think I have quite a good grasp on it. I guess my family would have a different take on it. They would say I have a tendency to stay in that dark world during the period of shooting. Not to any extreme degree, but it is hard to shake it off after a full day.
How did you get into the industry?
I graduated from drama school and started teaching speech and drama. I was going to a few auditions and the first gig I got was a semi-regular role on All Saints as an ambulance driver.
What was the best thing you learnt from All Saints?
To not project my voice [laughs]. I had trained in theatre and it was all about expressing with your body and voice. However, on camera it is such an intimate medium with the camera only one metre away.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
The world can knock you down seven times, but you get back up eight.
If you hadn’t gone down the acting path, what would you have done?
I don’t think there was any other path for me. I considered being an architect as I was really interested in building houses … It always came back to acting for me, though.
What would be your dream role?
I’d love to do an action trilogy … maybe bring back Lara Croft.
What is next for you?
We are shooting season two of Doctor Doctor in a few weeks and I’m working on a few projects at the moment, too, which I have to keep under wraps.
Who do you look up to?
I like a lot of the unsung heroes of our industry. I think there is something really valid about an actor keeping some mystery to their life.
Is that something you consciously do?
Absolutely. I would hate people not to be able to engage with the story because of things they think they know about me.
What do you do for fun when you are not working?
I chill out. When I am working it is so intense and it requires every part of your life. I am really low-key. I binge watch television, I go for walks and do yoga.
What shows do you binge watch?
The Fall … Unreal … and The Night Of.
Have you noticed that TV has changed during your career?
When I was growing up, film was the pinnacle of storytelling. Now I feel we have moved into an age where television is the best way to tell a story over 10 episodes and five seasons. People really absorb themselves into the characters and we didn’t have that when I was growing up.
Have you noticed people are so invested in the characters?
I get asked a lot if I have read Wentworth fan fiction… It is fiction about the characters which the fans write. There are whole online communities of our fans writing …
Where is the strangest place you have been recognised?
In bathrooms I find it confronting. I was in a supermarket in LA and I was asking for toilet paper because I couldn’t find where it was. She was like “Franky!?” so we had a photo in front of the toilet paper [laughs].
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully producing my own work in Australia … There is something really special about coming home and working here.
Do you prefer TV or theatre?
I think in a lot of ways I prefer film. I prefer working with the camera in that respect and I know that is where I am right now. Theatre is so great as it requires a real physical and mental rigour; you rehearse and then open the show and still have five weeks of season to go. You really need to find the freshness each night … My preference is always shifting based on where I’m at.
Location: Eastside Grill in Chippendale
We drank: Eastside Bramble mocktail and Passionfruit & Lemonade mocktail
We ate: Mixed breads; Sustainable Tuna Poke with cucumber relish; Berkshire Pork Skewers with Rum Pickle Back; Salad of Autumn vegetables with Buffalo Mozzarella, Fig and Black garlic pesto.
Nicole wore: Kaliver dress, Samantha Wills Jewels, NineWest heels
Kate Wore: A TOME shirt and jeans.