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Date with Kate

Date with Kate: Nicole da Silva

7th May, 2017

Nicole da Silva and I at Eastside Grill, Chippendale


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.

Photo: Fairfax

Date with Kate


21st August, 2016
Date with Kate Kate Waterhouse (left) with Anna O'Byrne 12th May 2016. Photo: Steven Siewert

Anna O’Byrne from My Fairy Lady enjoying High Tea at the Sofitel Hotel

Anna O’Byrne was handpicked by Dame Julie Andrews to play Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. Julie Andrews played the role in the 1956 original and is now directing the Australia production, at Sydney Opera House from August 30. Andrew Lloyd Webber brought O’Byrne to London, creating the role for her in Love Never Dies, the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. She now has international acclaim across opera, theatre, concert and film. O’Byrne chatted to me about the difficulties filling Andrews’ shoes, Lloyd Webber’s advice for her and staying in Britain longer than she’d planned.

How did you land the role as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady?

The audition notice came through and I just thought I’d better throw my hat in the ring. It was just too good  an opportunity to pass up. I’ve worked with Guy Simpson, who is the music director of the show, on a couple of other projects previously. There were just multiple reasons, and obviously Julie Andrews!

You were handpicked by her – what was that like? 

It was weird going into the audition room [as] she was the first Eliza … [and] particularly because I have been such a huge fan all my life.

Were you nervous to meet her? 

Yes I was, but she is such a beautiful person. She has, like, just amazing energy and she is so respectful to all the performers … She gets what it’s like to go in and audition and be vulnerable.

Did she give you any insightful tips? 

Yes, she did all the way through the audition process, but particularly for my last audition in London. We had quite a long chat afterwards … She would tell me what songs to pull back in and how to particularly approach different kinds of songs.

Is it a lot of pressure to play her former role and have her direct it? 

It is also a really, really challenging role too … with five huge almost operatic arias really essentially for Eliza, plus dancing, plus never really being off the stage. Obviously doing it for Dame Julie is also daunting, but she is so encouraging.

What should audiences expect from My Fair Lady? 

I can’t think of a person who wouldn’t know a song from My Fair Lady, the music is so familiar … We are so lucky to have Julie recreating all the splendour and magnificence of the original production and I think audiences will have the same reaction as they did 60 years ago!

Does singing and dancing come naturally? 

Dancing less so. I’ve had to work on that a bit as that comes a lot less naturally to me than singing.

How do you prepare for a big role like this? 

We have a saying …  being “show-fit”, which is being ready to do the show and all its physical demands, eight shows a week. So it’s like your stamina. It’s like being a marathon runner … I’ll probably go into class a few times so I can be with my singing teacher [and try to stay in the] eight-shows-a-week mentality.

You made your West End debut as Christine in The Phantom of  the Opera – what was that like? 

That’s actually another really challenging role, just in terms of the stamina of it eight shows a week as well … Christine is another one of those, like, super iconic roles that, like, every girl wants to play.

Prior to playing Christine, Andrew Lloyd Webber lured you to London to create the role for Love Never Dies. How did that come about? 

I did Phantom here in Australia. It was my first gig out of college, but I was Christine’s understudy … Then, a couple of years later, he wrote the sequel to Phantom, called Love Never Dies. So I did that in Melbourne and then in Sydney, playing Christine. Then I went over to London and he was definitely quite instrumental in getting me into that production.

What is it like to work with Andrew Lloyd Webber?

He is such a giant in the industry and to get to work with, like, a living composer and to talk to them about their intention when they wrote this particular song and how to sing it … It’s amazing.

What is the best piece of advice he gave you?

When we were previewing Love Never Dies, he was, like, “When you take your curtain call at the end, even though you’re bowing, you need to still portray [the character].” I needed to come out of my shell more rather than being myself.

You say you need to come out of your shell when you are portraying a character. How do you manage the transition? 

I don’t know if I’ve worked it out yet. I love playing a character on stage, but I find it stranger to kind of be myself. Just recently, in Guys and Dolls, the guy who I play opposite does the speech after we all bow … and that is just my idea of hell. I was not very good at … being myself on stage, quite particularly after you’ve been the character for the past few hours and then sort of having to step out of that.

How did you get into musical theatre? 

I’ve just always loved it. My mum was a music teacher for a long time and we used to [be part of the] local amateur dramatic society. I didn’t go to a performing arts school, but I went to a school that had a very good sort of, like, performing arts program.

If you hadn’t gone down this career path, what would you be doing? 

I used to want to be a librarian when I was younger. I’d still like to be an author or a librarian, something like that.

What was your first big break? 

Love Never Dies [had] a lot of international interest in the production and it was filmed and released in cinemas internationally and on DVDs.

What’s next in the pipeline? 

I’ve just released my album, so I’ll be doing a bit of promo for that, and I’ve got some concerts lined up over the Christmas/New Year period back in the UK.

Will you stay based in the UK?

My partner is a Queenslander. We keep saying it’s a temporary thing, but then we keep staying on longer.

Is he in musical theatre as well? 

Yes, he is doing Les Miserables on the West End.

What do you do for fun when you’re not working? 

I love exploring the London parks, and spending time with my family is obviously a huge priority when we’re all in the same country.

Opera Australia and John Frost’s production of My Fair Lady previews from August 30 at Sydney Opera House; from $89.90. Julie Andrews is in conversation with her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton at the Opera House on August 28; from $4


WE WENT TO Sofitel High Tea, Sydney

WE ATE An assortment of sweets classic opera slice; macarons; Wentworth cheesecake; chocolate éclairs; lemon meringue tartlet; fruit tartlet; scones and savouries: Roast beef on whole wheat with horseradish butter; smoked salmon on ciabatta, cream cheese, cherry tomato, capers; cucumber dill on white bread; spinach and pumpkin muffin; quiche Lorrain

WE DRANK herbal tea and english breakfast tea.



Date with Kate


3rd July, 2016
Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 4.51.53 PM

I caught up with Todd McKenney to hear about his life in show business


Todd McKenney is marking his 30 years in showbiz with a new show, What A Life, performing songs from the artists who have shaped his life. The entertainer, 51, has trained in jazz, tap, acrobatics and ballroom dancing and is well known for being a judge on TV’s Dancing with the Stars and playing Peter Allen in the musical The Boy from Oz. He talked to me about how he got his start, what he’s learnt from a life in the spotlight, and embarrassing moments from the first time he stepped on stage.

Tell me about your show What A Life.

So we’d been touring with a show called Todd McKenney Sings Peter Allen. I said: Let’s put some new numbers in to keep it fresh for us. We wanted the whole thing to feel like we were in my house, where you could talk back [and] ask questions. So we don’t just sit down and give them a scripted monologue of my life … I had a life before the band, and I had a life before Dancing with the Stars. I think it’s kind of interesting to let [audiences] know where it all began. So I’m going to put my or our own stamp on some of the songs that I grew up with. My nana used to sing me songs as a kid. She taught me my first poem then she taught me my first song, so we’re going to put that in.

What can the audience expect?

We celebrate the artists who have inspired me – such as Peter Allen, Bette Midler and Barry Manilow. There is also a tribute to the incomparable Prince. There’s a moment in the show where I’m going to have like three different songs and I’m going to let the audience choose which one they want … And then there are some beautiful stories about people I’ve met, all the fans that come and thank me … I talk about my daughter and, you know, what I’m going to have to explain to her when she’s old enough to Google me!

Will your daughter see the show?

She might be too young. I wouldn’t call this a family show! I wouldn’t be able to be myself and talk about a bit risque stuff. She’s eight now. She has Googled me and she told me, “Daddy, you’re famous.” We try to get her away from all media. Even my performances, she’s only been to a few.

Is she like you?

Oh God, yes. She’s a little naughty, all little kids are. But she has a really unique take on the world. She gets a joke; I can have a joke with her – an adult joke, sarcastic, all the sort of things that I sort of am. And she thinks it’s the funniest thing.

Is she daddy’s little girl?

Well, she lives with [actress] Anne [Wood], so Anne is the primary carer. But yeah … She has a different relationship with me than she has with Anne. I love her to bits.

Did you always know that your would be a performer?


What would you have done otherwise?

I was a travel agent when I left school … [However] I just wanted to be the best male dancer in Australia, that’s where I was aiming … I wanted to do more turns than anybody else, I wanted to leap higher and I just wanted people to notice me as a dancer … I’ve just had the most amazing, most incredible support. Through a whole stack of them, through theatre, through television and through radio. I realise how rare that it.

You’ve been in entertainment for over 30 years. How did it all begin? 

Well, my mum’s a dancing teacher; my grandmother’s a dancing teacher as well. The first time I went on stage, when I was almost four, there were no other boys in the class but me. And mum put me in these lime green knickers … I underestimated the impact of having people looking at me. I got so nervous, I wet my pants … I’ve never been so humiliated! And my lime green knickers, they got darker green every time I would go to the front [of the stage and] it would get worse. But it made the audience laugh, and I remember that!

What was your first break into entertainment? 

My very first job was the Fat Cat, Channel 7. The first time I did Fat Cat, I couldn’t see properly out of his head, and I just kept mowing the kids down. So they had to come and get me to take me off and tell me, “Listen, you’re flattening the kids as you walk.”

You’ve won so many awards during your career. What has been your biggest achievement? 

Singing I Still Call Australia Home at the AFL Grand Final. I remember standing out on the stage and … 89,000 people flashed up on the screen. And I was standing in the middle of it just thinking, “Oh this is so far from where I ever expected to be.” From really middle-class suburban Perth to one of the most iconic moments in Australia’s calendar.

How has the industry changed during your career? 

Social media has changed everything. Everybody has got a review now, and everyone’s happy to put it online. You can’t afford to have a bad night any more.

Does that create a lot of pressure? 

It does, yes. But also sharpens your tools. Dancing with the Stars has been on air for 15 seasons.

Have you enjoyed all your years as a judge? 

Yes, that’s been great. It sounds weird but the celebrity thing took me a long time to get used to. I wasn’t ready for that, I didn’t think about that … It was tough getting used to everyone having an opinion of you. It took me ages to get comfortable with that. When Dancing was big, we had two million viewers on a weekly basis. So it was always the day after the show, when I was flying home. I was captured or captive, I suppose, in the Qantas Club. That’s when they all wanted to come and have a go at you.

What would they say?

One lady pushed her little 10-year-old kid in front of me and said “tell him what you think”. She said “I watch the show because Nikki [Webster] and because of you she’s not on it any more, I hate you”… I also got spat at in Hobart! [Another time] I went in to the butcher’s to buy some meat for the barbie and a little old man just went “Give Pauline Hanson a fair go, mate” and hurled his bag of sausages at me! And I was like, Jesus Christ; it’s a ballroom dancing competition … For years people hated my guts!

What a Life! is on July 7-9 at Glen Street Theatre, Belrose ($69); for other Sydney dates, see


WE WENT TO Moorish Blue

WE ATE Beetroot, goats curd, walnuts, rocket and crispy pear salad; Moorish Fried chicken wings; Wok Fried Chicken Wings; Wok-fried calamari, pearl couscous, okra, Tunisian paste; Grilled barramundi, Smoked vegetable salad

TODD WORE Ben Sherman shirt and G-Star jeans.

I WORE Scanlan Theordore.

Date with Kate


26th June, 2016

Gina Liano and I enjoying an Italian lunch at Amoretti’s

Gina Liano is a barrister, TV personality, designer, author and actor who rose to national fame on the hit series Real Housewives of Melbourne. She also joined the cast of Neighbours and has featured on The Celebrity Apprentice Australia. She will make her first theatre appearance this week as the wicked stepmother in the pantomime Cinderella at the State Theatre in Sydney. Liano, 49, told me about the challenges of being on reality television, the secrets to her beauty regime, and her first foray into theatre.

How do you feel about your theatre debut? 

It’s a mixed feeling. I am excited and I think it’s a great opportunity and so much fun. But you know, when you’re going into something that you have never done before? I’m learning on my feet. I know I can do it, but you have a bit of stage fright.

What drew you to the character of the wicked stepmother? 

Well, I was never going to be Cinderella! [laughs]. And I was never going to be ugly stepsister. So I was left with that role … Bonnie [Lythgoe, the show’s producer] asked me which role I would be interested in. She put to me the wicked stepmother or the fairy godmother and she said, “Well, you could do both, whichever one you would like to audition for”. But the fairy godmother needs to sing …

You are a barrister, TV personality, author, designer, actor and now a stage performer. What title do you prefer the best? 

I suppose entertainer.

How has your life changed since The Real Housewives of Melbourne? 

It has changed dramatically. I’ve gone from having a relatively private life, to being in the public eye. I’ve got a public profile now and I’m recognised. I didn’t know the Australian audience before. Now I feel that they’re quite familiar to me. It’s really encouraging because I think we are collectively very switched-on people … [Previously] I thought … “OK, Aussies were notorious about tall poppy syndrome”, and historically there have been a lot of people who have been bullied, like Charlotte Dawson, for no particular reason. They’re successful and they get put down by, usually, a very small minority. That hasn’t actually been the case [for me]. People are very – I think they’ve become a lot more Americanised in a way. They’re very enthusiastic about success. People, with me in particular, they’ve really got behind me and supported me all the way.

What do you think it is that makes the show so popular? 

It’s come off the back, obviously, of an American franchise that was very popular. So a lot of people were very keen to watch it. But in a way, that could have set us up for failure because we had some tough acts to follow … I think people can identify with all of them at some point. We’ve all got girlfriends who probably remind us of someone in the cast … We are actually a lot of fun when we’re all together … We’ve been in the thick of really intense disagreements and I would say something that wasn’t directed at [another cast member], but it would be tongue-in-cheek or I’ll be a smart[y-pants] somewhere along the line … She would just crack up laughing and laugh until she is crying. They’ve cut that out. They’ve edited those things out.

So the TV catfights are real? 

None of it’s scripted. It’s all organic. Occasionally, production will say, “OK, well the viewer has seen this happen and you guys have talked about it off-camera. Now you need to have that conversation on-camera because no one understands where it has gone from there”. The thing with that is that the conversation doesn’t always go the way you think it is going anyway. Sometimes it can actually just spawn into something else.

Do you catch up with the girls outside the show?

Yes, occasionally; we all catch up at some point or another. I probably speak to Lydia [Schiavello] the most, and that’s for a whole variety of reasons. I think we’ve come out, this season, probably the closest and in terms of contact; we’ve probably spent the most time together. I speak to Pettifleur [Berenger] a lot. But what happens is that when there is tension through the show, we probably just need down times and when we stop filming, we back off, like you do naturally.

Will there be another season? 

They haven’t announced it. The original girls are out of contract now. They haven’t approached us to [renegotiate contracts] yet because they’re concentrating on getting Sydney [series] up and running. It’s the same production company. Definitely there will be a season four. Who comes back, I don’t know.

What did you learn from your experience on Celebrity Apprentice?

Never to do it again! … It’s not just the challenges and the hours. They put up the airconditioning and they film you reacting to the fact that it’s midday and you’re starving and that you need a coffee, or that you need to stop because you’re freezing and they have actually chosen wardrobe for you that’s inappropriate to what you’re doing because you’re out in the cold. It actually is a threat to your health. I ended up in hospital … I said to them, “You don’t need to freeze me or starve me for me to entertain. I can be more entertaining with a warm blanket and a coffee and I’ll operate at my best”.

You are a barrister by trade. Have those skills helped you in your TV career? 

Well, I think confidence-wise, public speaking [has helped]. My whole career, I used to be on my feet, public speaking, and to always be thinking about what I’m saying and making sure that I can deliver it in a very concise or precise way.

You always look so glamorous. Do you look this glam even on your days off? 

I’ve always been dressed up. I was in the fashion industry for a long time. Being a European woman, I have sort of inherited it.

Do you never have a day in trackie pants and ugg boots?

I don’t know [about] trackie pants or ugg boots! [Laughs.] I try and have one day where I give my hair a rest – and my feet, because just standing up for hours in rhinestone shoes and sequin dresses filming, you end up with burns on your arms and shoulders.
How long does it take you to get ready? 

I probably had it turned to a fine art before I started filming, because there is a lot more pressure obviously when you’re going to be camera-ready. So it takes me a couple of hours, usually. And I used to be able to do it in an hour, when I was in court.

When you were younger, did you ever envisage your life would be like this? 

I’ve always had a lot of things and projects on the go – I had children and I was in the fashion industry. I had a clothing store. I’ve always had a lot on. So I’m not that surprised … Things happen in the time they’re meant to, I suppose.

What’s next for you?

I [recently] launched a jewellery range. And I have a second fragrance [coming out] … We’re hoping they’ll be ready for Christmas.


WE WENT TO Amoretti’s Chiswick.
WE ATE Gabrese  salad with a combination of truss and cherry tomatoes, Spanish onions, bocconcini, ricotta, tossed in fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil; Lasagna, Olive di Nonno and Veal Parmigiana.
WE DRANK Mineral water.
GINA WORE Bariano dress and Gina Liano shoes.
I WORE a Life With Bird Jacket and ASOS top.
Cinderella is on July 1-17 at the State Theatre, Sydney; tickets from $50.