Natalie Abbott’s very first TV role has catapulted her from theatre into a leading role, rubbing shoulders with seasoned professionals and getting recognised in the street.
For her performance as Diana in ABC’s Aftertaste, she is also getting recognised in public.
But there were no guarantees she would land the role.
“I worked really hard because I was really quite terrible. I didn’t know what I was doing. So they kept bringing me in saying, ‘You did really well, but we just need you to work a bit on this.’
“The team must have seen something in me”
“I went to acting for screen classes, because I really wanted to get it. I fell in love with the script and Diana at that point, so I did work really hard. The casting director really helped me out with that and I think the team must have seen something in me to push me, which was really great,” she tells TV Tonight.
Prior to being cast as niece to Erik Thomson’s angry chef, Abbott won praise for her Helpmann / Green Room nominated performance in the stage musical Muriel’s Wedding. She studied Music Theatre at the Australian Institute of Music and won a Bell Shakespeare regional performing scholarship.
Landing the role alongside the seasoned Thomson was just the start, joined by the likes of Rachel Griffiths, Peter Carroll, Wayne Blair, Susan Prior and Remy Hii.
“Honestly, I was pinching myself. When I found out the calibre of people that were going to be on the show I was like, ‘Oh, God, I think this might actually be happening.’ I was so lucky to that this was my first show and that I learned from the best.
“That was too theatre!”
“Understanding the difference from theatre initially quite a struggle for me. I worked a lot with my best friend. We worked a lot on on my takes. She was saying ‘That was too theatre!'” she explains.
“There was a lot of push and pull, taking it back, but not so much that it looks like you don’t care or that you’re bored. It’s a fine art, which was hard for me to grasp, initially. When I was on set, and I understood, it was a bit easier for me.”
“We felt so fortunate every day to come to work”
Filming of the Closer Production series took place in Adelaide after the first lockdown ended in 2020.
“It was one of the first things in Australia to go forward during the pandemic. We felt so fortunate every day to come to work,” says Abbott.
“The Adelaide Hills are so beautiful and picturesque. They came across so incredibly in the show. But it was very cold and we were battling a lot of elements. We got rained out a couple of times, but we persevered.”
But the steep learning curve was not without its challenges in transitioning from stage to the small screen.
“There’s a roomful of people watching me”
“One of the hardest things was the intimacy. (In theatre) there’s always a feeling that you’re on stage. But when you’re filming in a house, bedroom or a car, it feels very real. So that was hard. I got nervous before those scenes because I thought there’s a roomful of people watching me.”
“Learning how to be a human in front of a camera, was a really hard thing.”
Still, the hard work has paid off with Abbott now having to pinch herself for different reasons altogether.
“When I heard the number people who watched the show… I was just blown away.”
While Muriel’s Wedding brought her recognition, the broad appeal of television lends itself to a whole new perspective.
“When I heard the number people who watched the show on that very first episode, I was just blown away. That’s insane!'” she declares.
“I have gotten noticed a few times, which has been so strange. For some reason, if they ask me if I’m ‘that girl from that TV show,’ I always go to say ‘No … oh wait, actually yeah, it might be me.’
“It’s been really weird but really fun.”
Aftertaste airs 9pm Wednesdays on ABC.