In Occupation, Risteska plays one of a large ensemble of characters who get caught up in the action and drama when a small country town is invaded by what has only been described as “…a hostile ground invasion.” Co-starring Temuera Morrison, Bruce Spence, Jacqueline MacKenzie and Rhiannon Fish, the film marks Ewing’s second collaboration with director Luke Sparke after Red Billabong.
How have you found working on Occupation?
Oh, I absolutely love it, to be honest – this is absolutely my favourite character that I’ve played so far. I love characters that I can sink my teeth into, that are challenging, that have some depth to them. This is a very emotionally challenging role – I’m obsessed with it.
What can you tell us about her?
I’m not allowed to give too much away, but her name’s Chloe. She’s been through a lot emotionally through this journey – I don’t know what I’m allowed to say! [laughs]
As long as you don’t tell us what the invading force is, you should be okay.
She’s pretty much normal and then she goes through a really tough time when all this happens, when the big event happens. She’s really quite traumatized, so when we meet her again she’s extremely distraught and in a very vulnerable position – and that’s when I meet with Dan’s character and she explains what she’s been through – very, very deep.
And this is the second film you’ve shot with Dan, right?
We just got off another film together, Chasing Comets. He’s the lead in that one as well. We actually just got off that one, which was our first time on screen together – we actually play love interests in it. Not love interests as in the whole film – she’s more like a little bit of fun! Which was really, really interesting – that was a fun character. It was very interesting having to hook up with my on screen boyfriend/real life boyfriend – it was very, very funny. We had a lot of fun with that.
What’s it like when you’re personally involved with who you’re acting opposite? Do you feel like you’re putting your private life up on screen?
Well, that character was very left of field compared to who I am as person. Very out there. I was actually really nervous on our first day, which was interesting because Dan and I read together for all our auditions – pilot season and any self-taping that we do, we read together, so we’re very comfortable in that situation. So I didn’t think I’d be nervous but I actually really was that first day. Obviously I think the world of him and I think he’s so talented and he inspires me every day, but I was nervous because I wanted to do a good job. But I got over that – after the first couple of takes you warm up to it and you get over all that nervous energy.
You were also in Skinford this year, which was a decent little horror film.
I love [Skinford director] Nick [Kacevski]! Nick and [producer and brother] George worked on my very first film clip, “Ain’t No Cinderella”, and then from there I’ve been really close for years, and they called me for Skinford and said, “We would like to offer you this, but there’s a few roles here – let’s just put them down as a self-tape and we’ll see which one suits oyu better.” I think I auditioned for four roles and we settled on Gemma. She wasn’t a major lead in the film, but once again very emotional, very deep, and they’re the type of characters I love.
You mentioned that you and Dan read and rehearse together – what is the daily grind like or an Australian actor at your level? Can you give us some insight into the nuts and bolts work?
I think at the end of the day nothing comes easy, and if you work your butt off… I think there isn’t really a secret. I started dancing at the age of three and then I started performing in musical theatre at the age of six, and then I moved into film and television – I think I was 16 when I landed my first onscreen role, which was Home & Away – I had a guest role. I moved into film, which was The Combination (2009), and after that I think I had two years where I didn’t really have any work and I was nearly pulling my hair out.
It’s a tough industry, because you could be working really hard and it’s bang, bang bang, back to back work, but then I could have nothing for a couple of months or a year. It’s uncertain as to how it may play out. But I think if you constantly work on your craft, reading scripts and putting down auditions, and you have a really good support network, that pays off. If you’re constantly working on your craft, that builds your self-confidence, so when you walk into a room you can own it rather than doubt yourself – I think that’s the most important thing.
And what’s up next for you?
I’m actually in talks with a few different people at the moment for some features. Nothing set in stone, but I have been speaking to Nick Kacevski about a few opportunities he has coming up that he’s interested in me playing a few of those roles – he’s got a few in the pipeline that he’s working on, so fingers crossed they come through. Otherwise it’s back to the auditioning and we’ll see what happens from there.