It was probably inevitable that Sacha Horler would wind up in entertainment in one form or another.
The daughter of showbiz parents, she grew up surrounded by fellow performers in Sydney theatre cicles.
“I am a theatre baby. My father was one of Nimrod’s three directors with John Bell and Richard Wherett. My mother was the general manager. The cliché is true: I had a bed behind the box office,” she recalls.
“They used to say ‘She’s been in the theatre so long she had her crib under the box office.’ But I did! As did the Bell and Otto children and all of those who were around then.
“But I didn’t think I was going to be an actor by any means. I was obsessed with ancient history & English literature. I did some plays and like many other young people I auditioned for NIDA and got in.”
“I got a call saying ‘What are you doing on Thursday?’”
After some 2 decades of film, TV and theatre, Horler is about to unveil new ABC comedy, Sando, portraying Australia’s discount furniture queen. It marks the first time she has led a series as title character -but she landed the role at short notice, after original actress Genevieve Morris had to withdraw due to illness.
“I got a call saying ‘What are you doing on Thursday?’ and the circumstances were explained. My immediate reaction was one of concern for Gen,” she explains.
“The business is fast and they needed someone to fill her very large shoes, so I auditioned and got the job, cut my hair, dyed it red and started shooting. It’s not the way I normally work. So to say it was stressful and a challenge is a reality, but that’s our business.
“She had the generosity to text me and say ‘Good luck mate, I give you my blessing.’ She didn’t have to do that.
“When I started doing the press I contacted her to say ‘I’m trying not to cry every time I talk about you, because I love you.’ And she said ‘Thanks very much now you’ve made me cry!’”
According to Horler, Victoria ‘Sando’ Sandringham is a hybrid character devised by Jungle’s Phil Lloyd & Charlie Garber, from infamous TV advertisement celebrities.
“Do you remember Joyce Mayne? She had white hair and I personally can’t remember a day where she wasn’t 70. She used to get in the spa with young Sale-of-the-Century-types and say ‘Come and buy a spa!’
“It was awful advertising and you couldn’t look away!” she laughs.
“You will meet the strangest group of people under one roof since Sylvania Waters. I like to think what Phil wrote, is a Harvey Norman / John Singleton / Joyce Mayne hybrid. That in itself is a gift because those 3 would make very interesting dinner party guests.
“Jungle might call it Sando, or The Moodys, or No Activity, but it’s actually an ensemble.”
“This character is severely deluded”
That ensemble includes Firass Dirani (House Husbands), Phil Lloyd (The Moodys), Rob Carlton (Paper Giants), Krew Boylan (Schapelle), Adele Vuko (Skitbox), Uli Latukefu and newcomer Dylan Hesp.
“Sando slept with her daughter’s fiancé -these things happen- but she chose to keep the child where others might not. So she is genuinely surprised that 10 years later her daughter is still not over it.
“So this character is severely deluded. What she has to do is seek forgiveness.
“Krew Boylan is fantastically uptight, Don would like to be Shannon Noll, he was the jingle king. My son Eric is very ‘special’ and the actor is a scene stealer in the best sense of the word.”
When it airs next Wednesday Horler will probably be watching with family on the couch, conceding she hates to watch herself on screen..
“When it’s a brand new show I like to let my family watch it with me,” she reveals.
“I would be the worst person to watch it with. And if I watch it by myself it’s just stupid.
I’ve been doing this for 20 years and you can’t be objective.”
“‘What are you doing next?’ That’s how people say it”
Yet while she has a busy year ahead, including more of Secret City, Belvoir & STC plays and hopefully more of The Letdown, Horler is used to the audience approaching her in public, such as this recent exchange with a supermarket customer.
“‘What are you doing next?’ That’s how people say it,” she says.
“So I said ‘I’m doing a comedy on Wednesday nights for the ABC.’ And she said ‘Good! Because we need a laugh!’ and walked away.
“It’s very direct, but I love it.”
With such frank feedback there should be few nerves comes Wednesday nights when Sando hits screens as a new slice of Australiana.
“I will get a G&T and try to open my fingers and look at myself on screen.”
Sando airs 9pm Wednesday 21 March on ABC.