Diversity Spotlight: Interview with Aileen Huynh performing in David Williamson’s The Big Time

The Big Time - by Brett Boardman

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.

The Big Time by Prudence Upton

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. 

Aileen play    A2
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. 
A 1
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

Interview with Takaya Honda (The Family Law/ Play School) and now Neighbours!

Screen shot 2016-09-05 at 6.21.38 PM

Takaya Honda is an Australian stage and screen actor. He’s known for his role as Klaus Thomson in the 2016 comedy TV series, The Family Law , Play School and now Neighbours.

He was born in Canberra, but moved to Sydney at a young age and attended Sydney school Barker College graduating in 2005. He then attended the College Of Fine Arts (UNSW) in 2006 studying a Bachelor of Digital Media before transferring to the University of Technology Sydney in 2007 to study a Bachelor of Arts in Communication (MediaArts and Production) which he graduated from on the 29th April 2011.

JOY: Congratulations on landing a regular role for Neighbours. Please tell us briefly about the whole casting process.

TAKAYA: The audition process began with a self test. I had originally been sent the sides for the role of my twin, Leo but was able to get my hands on the sides for David from a friend, filmed both and sent them through to casting. About two weeks after that I got a call back and had to fly down to Melbourne. For the call back I had to prepare for both roles, so had to know both scenes and they also sent a scene through between the two brothers and I had to learn both roles in that as well. The callback was with about 7 others, all of varying Asian mixes, we were called in at different points to either play the scenes either with the actors playing the roles opposite (in this case Zoe Cramond and Matt Wilson) or one of the other auditionees and we were at the studios for about 4-5 hours. About two weeks after that I had to fly back down to Melbourne again for another callback. This time we had to have all three previous scenes ready, as well as three new ones, two with another character in the show (who I don’t think I can name) and another between the two brothers, again learning both sides of the scenes. This call back had us down to the ‘final’ four. It was another lengthy audition lasting a few hours and with a lot of chop and changing between different combinations of people. In this callback we were fortunate to be able to run the scenes with the current cast members prior to going into the room, which was a huge help. After that callback it took around 2-3 weeks before I got the call from my agent saying I had gotten the role of David.
JOY: Would you say Neighbours is your breakthrough role?
TAKAYA: It’s hard to say what my breakthrough role is, whether I’ve had it or even whether Neighbours is (will be) that. I feel it is something for others to judge. However I have been awarded some amazing experiences, from my first role (and audition) with A Gurls Wurld through to The Family Law, My Great Big Adventure, Play School and now Neighbours. To a degree I feel it’s hard for those of diverse backgrounds to have breakthrough roles in the same way as our caucasian acting brethren. I feel that the opportunities I have had would have opened more doors to a caucasian actor than have been for me. But, I must be clear in saying that I am truly very grateful for these opportunities.
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JOY: What made you want to get into the film/TV industry?

TAKAYA: Growing up I kinda wanted to do everything. I wanted to be the doctor, the lawyer and the fighter pilot and I came to realise that acting would allow me to play all of those things and more! I’ve also always had a passion for the visual – ever since I got my hands on a camera I have not been able to help myself but to try to capture the things I see around me.

JOY: How did you get started in your career?
TAKAYA: I had some fantastically supportive teachers at High School (Barker College), namely Damien Ryan and Terry Karabelas who really gave me an understanding of what Acting is and the reality of what a career in acting can be. Damien then invited me to perform with Sport For Jove Theatre Company where I have performed in a bunch of Shakespeare plays which lead to getting representation and the slog of years of working odd jobs with a peppering of Acting gigs. I’ve been a videographer/editor, photographer, light and sound rigging crew, cinema usher, web administrator, promotional model, casting assistant and the classic actor job – a bartender. I have done my best to keep my work as relevant as I could to the industry and am cherishing the time I am given now to be working as an actor full-time.
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JOY: Do you think there’s a positive change in the TV/Film industries for more diversity?
TAKAYA: I think there is, the efforts that Neighbours are making are very positive and I do believe they are trying to do it the right way. With our characters, rather than be the two asian guys moving into Erinsborough, we are two Australians who have Japanese heritage and our storylines are like any other characters on the show, not ethnically specific, which is quite refreshing. We do not feel any pressure to be representatives for Japan or the immigrant experience – we just get to play within the world of our characters, which is rich with ‘Neighbours’ drama. The Family Law is another great example of a positive move within the industry and I hope that there are more opportunities like these ahead across the full gamut of Australian media.
JOY: Who inspires you in the industry?
TAKAYA: Those who inspire me in the industry are those who give back to it, and the broader community. Those who use the platform of celebrity to increase the amount of joy in the world are really who I look up to. In terms of acting I could rattle off the usual suspects but to me the likes of Miranda Tapsell as seemingly the industries voice of diversity, Charlotte Nicdao for being a friend who is so incredible at articulating her wisdom not just to me but the broader public (even in the face of denigrating criticism), Waleed Aly for the reasoning he brings to arguments and when thinking towards the international industry, Seth and Lauren Rogen for their work on Alzheimer’s, Aziz Ansari for so cleverly integrating the struggle of diverse actors into ‘Master of None’ – I could go on, but these humans who have taken the gift of popularity and used it for something outside of themselves, and who work towards bettering us as a whole. These people inspire me.
JOY: What do you want to achieve in the future?
TAKAYA: Everything. haha. I don’t know – it is so hard in this industry to predict or dictate your own career that for me I like to provide myself with options and be happy with whatever path appears to me. Even just a couple of weeks before auditioning for Neighbours I wouldn’t have thought that it would have been a part of my journey. So, I like to stay open and positive because you just never know.

Interview with Australian actor Remy Hii (Marco Polo, Betterman, Neighbours)


Remy Hii is an Australian actor. He attended the National Institute of Dramatic Art for three years and appeared in various theatre productions before being cast in television. Hii starred as Van Tuong Nguyen in the miniseries Better Man and was cast as Hudson Walsh in the soap opera Neighbours in 2013 and currently starring in Marco Polo. Hii was born to a Chinese-Malaysian father and an English mother. His early theatre work was with The Emerge Project an arm of Switchboard Arts. There he performed in a number of original productions in Brisbane by local playwrights between 2005 and 2007. From 2009 to 2011 he attended the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in Sydney where he graduated in 2011. I was lucky to interview Remy who’s currently filming for Marco Polo.

1) When you were growing up who were your role models on Australian TV &    Film?

I actually grew up as a young kid in Papua New Guinea; we didn’t have television reception out there so my grandparents in Sydney would send out the TV guides from back home, and I’d highlight the shows I wanted to be taped, and they would mail back VHS tapes for us to watch. Gary Sweet in Police Rescue was a pretty big part of my life back then. Sadly looking back to my younger years, I don’t recall there being many faces of colour on our screens to look up to.

2) What made you want to break into Australian TV / Film?

I’ve always been motivated to succeed in this industry, as an artist, to be able to tell stories that excite me and in turn excite others. To get people passionate about Australian stories again. My friends and I always bemoan the often heard line “It was good… for an Australian film”. Somewhere along the line our storytelling stopped connecting with the audience: it stopped reflecting the country that many of us are living in; and yet there is a strong push now for new voices to be heard and that is something I want to be a part of.


3) How did you get started in your career?

A fantastic co-op theatre company in Brisbane run by Dr. Errol Bray allowed me to hone my craft as a young actor and recognise the importance of new writing in Australia. It was through performing there that I was asked to audition for a new play at the Queensland Theatre Company – The Estimatorwritten by David Brown. It won the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award in 2006 and I was playing the title role to sold out shows for an extended season. It was a wonderful induction into the industry, and cemented for me the idea that perhaps there was a place for me as an actor in Australia.

Coming from theatre in Brisbane, Film and Television seemed like this unattainable and mysterious thing. I found myself being sent for roles like Asian Gambler in East West 101, Asian Nerd in The Strip, and Asian Ladyboy in SeaPatrol. It wasn’t until I graduated from NIDA that other options started opening up for me, and chances to play interesting characters who were more than their skin colour or racial stereotype started to present themselves. Looking back, I’m kind of glad I never got the part(s).

4) Do you see a positive change to colour blind casting in Australian TV / Film and Theatre?

This is a really tough question to answer, as I can only speak from personal experience and sometimes it seems like we’ve really made it and sometimes it feels like we’re back living in the 50’s. I think we are making baby steps towards a place that  reflects the wonderful variety that is our nation. It’s slow, and there’s a long way to go but television is no longer the same as when I was young and diversity on our screens meant the other variations of white like Greek and Italian.


5) What changes would you like to see in the TV & Film industry?

More risks. Some of our countries greatest runaway hits have come from projects that the commercial networks would recoil from. Shows like The Slap, Please Like Me and Redfern Now have all found success and audiences here and overseas, and they refused to be safe – from casting to themes and subject matter. Rather than being afraid of what makes us different, we should be embracing it.

6) What more do you want to achieve in the future?

I feel like I’ve barely even begun! I’ve been working for the last few months on the second season of Netflix’s Marco Polo. It’s a very big budget, action heavy production requiring hundreds of actors and extras, hours and hours of physical training, fight choreography and punishing hours on set. It’s an incredibly rewarding process, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it, but I’m looking forward to coming back home and getting back to the theatre. Just a stage and that magic connection between the actor and the audience.

Photos courtesy of Remy Hii and Australians in Film