Interview with Rosa Ablett-Johnstone as Tess in Flunk


How did you get into acting? I’ve been acting since I can remember, in school plays and after school drama programs. After getting my Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, I lived nomadically in Europe where I decided to walk the Camino de Santiago. On this walk, I met a woman named Frankie who is an actor in Australia, and she changed everything for me. She encouraged me to apply for drama school and helped me prepare for my callback, after she’d helped me realise that I wanted to be an actor. Although most drama schools had closed their applications by the time I’d had this revelation, there was one, The National Theatre Drama school, which was still taking applications. It seemed symbiotic, and as though the whole world was leading me there. I got accepted and started my three-year training about 2 weeks later.


What led to you joining the cast of Flunk? After graduation, I took some time to reset and re-calibrate after a very big couple of years. When I brought myself back to auditioning and applying, ‘Flunk,’ was one of the first casting calls I saw. I auditioned and was offered the role of Tess!

What unique insights do you bring to your character? I think the thing with Tess is, is that she really loves her people, and is very loyal to those people; she is stubborn, and a bit judgemental, but at the end of the day, she has a heart that is constantly seeking to bring warmth into others’ lives. She has been a really interesting character to unpack for me, as I think we share some similarities, but there are a number that we don’t share. In actuality, we are quite different, but I think this has been a key point to focus on. How would I, Rosa, react, and where does my reaction come from? From this, I created an imaginary place as to where Tess’ reactions come from. As a younger sister, I also looked to my older sister a lot for the Tess/Ruby relationship, and was able to gain a great deal of insight from her.

Have you ever experienced similar situations to your character in real life? I think that being a little bit older than the people she’s constantly around, Tess seems to take on a bit of a care-giver role. I have definitely experienced both sides of this in my life; being the caregiver and also being the person that the care is given to. Ultimately, I think that a lot of what Tess experiences is what a lot of young people experience. There have been many times where, in a workplace, I’ve been in a position of leadership or responsibility; times where I’ve been looking after younger family members, and friends; and times where my stubbornness has gotten in the way of my growth.

How would you have responded in your character’s situation? I think that Tess’ reaction to Willa is the main point of difference between Tess and I. I am a lover of education and learning, and I aim to consistently be bettering my understanding of the world around me. This, in and of itself, is a privilege, which I am well aware of, and perhaps Tess has not been offered the same graces as me, however, I do think that Tess could deal with her issues with Willa in a different way; a less judgemental, and ignorant way, and a more understanding and curious one. I do think that Tess really sticks by her sister, and supports her, and I think that is how I would respond if my sister was in trouble.

What’s a fun behind the scenes story you remember from filming Flunk season 5? The absolute highlight of the BTS was getting to know beautiful Liv. We drove to and from shooting together, and really got to build up a relationship which I think you can really see imbued in the relationship between Tess and Ruby on screen.

What do you think the future holds for your character? What would you like to see happen to them, and why? I would love to see a more fleshed out relationship between Tess and her sister, and I would love to see what there is for Tess beyond her managerial position; what her hobbies might be; who her friends are; what lights her fire. I think the collaboration between Ric, Mel and myself, brought a character with real gusto to life, and I’d love to see where she could channel that. I was chatting to a friend the other day about how it would be interesting to see Tess go into a public servant role, maybe in local community, or on the flip side; could she maybe become a designer herself? I would love to see Tess let her shield down a bit, and allow herself to be wrong and learn from it. I think it would be interesting to see a relationship built between Tess and Willa of respect and mutual understanding. That storyline feels as though there could a few hidden gems within it.

What advise would you give to other actors starting out? As an emerging artist myself, I hope that my small amount of advice is helpful, but I would encourage you to seek out someone with more experience than me. What I will say is that the absolute biggest thing is to get some training. There are a plethora of fabulous acting coaches and communities where you can start and I would not be where I am without the support, guidance and mentoring from incredible artists. My advice would also be to not compare yourself, and to not be too hard on yourself; there is only one you, and you are the only person that can create YOUR version of whatever character you’re applying for. Don’t waste your precious time trying to be another actor; be you, and be your version of your character, because no one else can be you as well as you can. Someone else’s success does not equal your failure, and someone else’s timing is not yours; focus on your artistry and you’ll be fine.

Outside of acting, what are your other hobbies and activities? I am a lover of yoga and pilates, and I have a keen interest in politics. I love to read and I love to move my body. As a Tasmanian girl at heart, I find myself yearning for nature as much as possible, whether that is hiking through forests or swimming in the ocean whenever I get the chance.

What are your plans for the next 12 months? I have been working on three theatre shows as a part of the Theatre Works 2024 season, so have my hands full at the moment. After those shows close, I’m hoping to get over to Europe for a little bit and see friends and family. I am hoping to build up some more screen credits and really immerse myself in the screen world over the next 12 months and beyond. And, lastly, I am really striving for balance between my career and my personal life. I have the world’s most magnificent friends from all over the world, and I want to make sure I’m nurturing those relationships as well as my relationship to my artistry. I have 2 amazing, spectacular and wonderful nieces and an equally amazing, spectacular and wonderful nephew, so I hope to make more time to be a concrete figure in their lives, and I am blessed with a beautiful extended family, so I want to ensure I make time for them as well.

How can the audience follow your career in the future? I have a great deal of VERY exciting things coming up at the moment and the best way to follow those would be through my instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rosa.ablettjohnstone/(@rosa.ablettjohnstone) The links to my upcoming plays are:

DREDGE: https://www.theatreworks.org.au/2024/dredge

PIPER: https://www.theatreworks.org.au/2024/piper

THE VOLITION PROJECT: https://www.theatreworks.org.au/2024/the-volition-project



Last modified: May 19, 2024

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