Aileen Huynh is a Australian-Vietnamese actor who has appeared in films
including, Tim Ferguson’s Spin Out, The Casting Game and T.V. shows:
Cleverman, Betterman and Neighbours. She is now starring
in David Williamson’s latest play, The Big Time, at the Ensemble
Theatre. This is a fast paced, modern play which depicts the wonderful
world of entertainment where Celia (Aileen Huynh) is playing a lead role
in a soapie, earning her big money and her friend Vicki (Claudia Barrie),
whom she graduated from NIDA with, is doing the hard yards creating
worthwhile art for smaller, sophisticated audiences. It’s not until Vicki
turns her hand into film directing that she has the opportunity to cast
Celia, but will jealousy and bitterness get the best of her?
I feel that this is David Williamson’s best work, as he’s able to draw on
personal experience in the entertainment industry – that of his sons who both
attended drama school and his daughter who is an agent, and his wife who
was a theatre critic. I particularly love the twists and turns and the fact that
colourblind casting played a big part in this play.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Aileen for our Diversity Spotlight post.
J.H: What was it like reading David Williamson’s latest play?
A.H: David’s latest play is about the acting industry and the ruthless
world of ambition and celebrity. It was quite funny reading it as a performer
and seeing certain parallels and reflecting on my own experiences in the
industry. David’s whole family have had careers in the arts, so he had a
lot to draw from!!
J.H: What was it like meeting Mr Williamson during your play read?
A.H: Meeting David was such a pleasure. He is a very kind-spirited,
easy-going (and VERY tall) man. I remember writing my HSC drama essay
on ‘The Removalists’, so it was quite the moment for me to sit around a table
with him in the flesh and read his new play.
J.H: What changes have you seen in the last few years in regards to diversity?
A.H: The last few years have seen a huge wave of dialogue and conversation
in regards to the need for diversity in our industry, and it is starting to filtrate
into some changes within the industry. We are starting to see a much richer
range of stories that are being told across our stages, which has wonderfully
drawn in a more diverse range of theatre goers. Although I feel Australian
mainstream TV is very slow on the uptake, there is a much different feeling
through platforms like Netflix, which make such a wide range of content,
many of which authentically celebrate diversity and have proven that there
are big audience numbers who want this. And then you have opportunities like
‘The Big Time’ that have come along, where for the first time in my acting
career onstage, I am playing a character that is not race-specific to my
background, and it is a wonderfully weird thing.
J.H: How can we maintain and keep diversity going in the entertainment
A.H: Maintaining, improving, keeping diversity alive and importantly
giving it its most authentic voice means representation needs to happen
both on and behind the scenes. Diversity must start from the key members:
CEO’s, producers, directors, writers and it must filter through to cast, crew
and all the other players. There is a feeling at the moment that diversity is,
‘in’, or ‘on-trend’, and we are more willing to showcase it on our screens
and stages while it’s hot. However diversity isn’t a novelty and going
to die out.
Far more change needs to happen in our working environments,
which is changing far slower than representation onscreen, where it
can be more easily called out. The same teams and people are ultimately
still the gate-keepers. To really embrace diversity and genuinely reflect
our society we need to have more balance within the whole machine.
J.H: What has been most challenging as an actor?
A.H: For me, one of the most challenging things has been maintaining
such a topsy turvy lifestyle. Each week is different, things can get thrown
at you last minute and it’s hard to ever get into a long-term routine or flow.
It’s something I’m still constantly trying to work out and improve and it
never gets any easier.
J.H: What advice do you have for the next generation of actors?
A.H: Be kind to each other, share information, work together –
it will only make your career stronger.
Photos courtesy of Ensemble theatre, Brett Boardman, Haiha Le
and Prudence Upton