Actor Focus: Luke Thornley

Luke Thornley Cinema Australia

“I bring these experiences, memories and fears from my childhood through to my young adulthood to the characters I embody.”

Interview by Tom Munday

How did you first get into acting and modelling? 

I was a very creative kid growing up. I used to draw complex mazes, create role-playing games with lego masterpieces and invent games with marbles and toy cars to pass the time. I was crushed when my parents took away my lego; apparently I needed to ‘Grow up’. So I was stripped of my creativity in my early teens which gave me the 9 to 5 mentality which I would need later on in life.

I loved Drama at school; but I failed. Literally, I was asked to leave during year 12. I was a train-wreck!  I couldn’t remember lines, I had no idea what I was doing with character or script work and I was incredibly nervous. I was never taught those things at school. I learnt more in one Acting class then I did in three years of drama. It was quite a comical experience when I bumped into my ex-drama teacher at my retail job. I said what I was doing and told her my experience in the field, her mouth dropped.

For me Acting came along at just the right time.  I was working in the retail industry in a management role and conditions were not good. I was getting belittled, humiliated and degraded by management every day. As cliché as it sounds, acting saved me.

It was a phone call to Loren Johnson at Acting Classes in Perth that changed everything! After about thirty minutes on the phone he convinced me to do a course with him. Afterwards, I never looked back. I started to get extra roles in a few productions and my first role was in Super Dingo Vs The pirates for the producers Lewis, Marrell & Montague. Soon after that I started to book lead and support roles in short films. I started to build professional business relationships and get out there and network. The Acting career began to develop.

Modeling was an off-shoot from Acting. I knew photographers through my connections and I started to do photo shoots with them, I joined ‘Perth Photo-Shoot Group’ and started to get a bit of experience. The best shoot I’ve ever done was with Lauren Payne [Twist Nexus MUA] and Steph Simpson [Model]. I portrayed a Skeleton that was in love with a girl but with his love also came death to the one he admired. I now occasionally attend photo shoots with ‘PPG’ to keep up the practice and support the TFP [Time for print] modeling industry.

When did you realise you wanted to pursue Acting as a career choice? 

I’ve always wanted to pursue Acting as a career but I didn’t really put things into perspective until I was signed up by Hallie from Filmbites. The one role that really cemented it in for me and showed me it was a possibility was “Australia, The story of Us” Getting hired by Channel 7/Essential media for that production in 2014 was an incredible feeling. I remember that evening when Hallie called me with the good news. I lost my mind; I was jumping over furniture, dancing and was so incredibly happy. It was an out of mind and body experience and an awesome birthday present. Having the opportunity to be a part of something so special and so drenched in history is unforgettable and I’ll never forget that experience. That was the foundation in my career as a Professional Actor.

What was your first paid gig? 

My first paid gig was for the City of Perth in 2012. I applied to be an extra for Carnival Macabre through Starnow. When I arrived for a pre-meeting/audition I remember hearing these words “How would you like to be my lead role” I said yes of course and then in a few hours I had bleached blonde hair and I was rehearsing non-stop for hours to get the performance right. Damien was a great director to work with. He gave me an opportunity, and for that I’m incredibly grateful. A couple of days later it was performance night, I was dressed up as a vampire and I became ‘David’ from ‘Lost boys’. I performed two scenes from that movie on the stage. During the last performance the rigging gave way but as the saying goes “The Show must go on!”

How do life experiences inform your performances and work ethic? 

When I was young I got spoiled with family holidays every term so even though I had to sacrifice friendships; as a result I matured quite early and grew from my life experiences on the road with my parents. I bring these experiences, memories and fears from my childhood through to my young adulthood to the characters I embody. I’ve been through quite a bit thus far; I’ve almost drowned three times, I’ve been scared for my own life in a family drama, I’ve back-packed around Europe and England and para-glided from a cow dung infested mountain range in Austria. I was bullied all through-out my school years which continued through to my retail years which gave me the thick skin I have today.

So when it comes to work ethic I learnt from a young age to give everything you do your all. I’ve taken that on board with my acting career. This career is very difficult to be successful in so you need to have a great work ethic, a passion, a drive, a professional attitude and of course talent to turn that goal/dream into a reality. I absolutely hate the saying “Good things come to those who wait!” If you sit around and do nothing to follow your dreams, goals and passions then you’ll still be sitting around in years to come…with regret.

What is your method for immersing yourself in a character? 

I do everything I possibly can to immerse myself in the character, their history and their world. The first thing I do is go through the script and write down dot points on every aspect of the character. I then ask myself who, what, when, where and why. After that I define the obstacles [Physical, mental and emotional] that prevent the character from reaching their wants and needs [I love to play around with the character’s wants, needs, underlying emotions and multi-layered intents]. I then define the stakes of the scene. After I’ve done that I then expand on each dot point into a multiple paragraphs. Then using what I’ve written I draw on life experiences to help build an in depth character essay. Once I’ve developed the character mentally I then develop them physically and vocally. Then I work the script down to its marrow. Lastly, if the character requires an accent or a certain skill I’ll learn it to the best of my ability. I do more but that’s a secret…

How has WA’s arts and entertainment scene evolved over the past few years? 

The WA arts and entertainment scene has grown dramatically over the past few years. More National and International projects have been produced here but as an Actor the professional opportunities in Perth are limited compared to the industry over east. It comes down to the production getting audiences, known Actors bring audiences. To become ‘known’ you need to be cast in substantial roles in well known productions. Sadly, that just isn’t offered here in the Perth industry to a great extent.

What is your process for performing the perfect monologue? 

A monologue is a continuous train of thought from various arcs’ that come from multiple memories and feelings. My method to mastering a monologue is to really define those memories and feelings and ask myself why this character is saying these words, where is it coming from, what is the intention behind the words and the wanted effect.

You have performed in a number of workshops, what were some of your favourite experiences? 

By far the most memorable and incredible experience I’ve had in a workshop occurred in November 2014. I had the opportunity to perform in front of a senior vice president of casting from a major worldwide studio. I received great feedback which in turn led to me attending the Professional Actors Masterclass in Los Angeles. The Australian Institute of Performing Arts runs this intensive course in Los Angeles for a solid five weeks. During this time I performed in front of many LA casting directors, agents and managers. I also worked with Rich Mento to produce three minilogues.

Without comparing; the workshops with Chum Ehelepola from Sydney Screen Actors Group were and are thoroughly rewarding and wonderful learning experiences. Chum is not only a great teacher and a working Actor but he all so makes the experience very welcoming and creates a certain vibe in his workshops which can’t be explained. I’m looking forward to further training with Sydney Screen Actors Group in the near future.

What have been some of your highlights and low-lights in auditions and on set? 

When it comes to highlights in an audition my best experience would have to be the audition I performed for  ‘Hard Vacuum’. I performed a piece to camera from ‘The girl with the dragon tattoo’ but I made it my own and the look on their faces afterwards was of shock and fear. Another one that jumps to mind would have to be the ‘Lost Boys’ audition when I simply walked in and received the part just off my look and resume. You have to love those experiences.

There are too many highlights from on being on set…if there’s such a thing as ‘Too many’. “Australia, The story of Us’ was enriching and beautiful and ‘Hard Vacuum’ was an awesome Sci-fi experience. Then last but certainly not least, my experience with the Titanic Exhibition was unforgettable, it was so enriching, rewarding and so steeped in history it was humbling. I all so had the pleasure to play off some great audience members who ‘got’ the interactive side of the exhibition and was challenged when the audiences didn’t ‘Get it/play along’

There have been a number of low-lights in my career thus far when it comes to auditions. Most of these occurred in America during my issue with accommodation. When I arrived at LAX I received a notification that my accommodation didn’t exist. I had a friend in LA who I kept in touch with via social media take me in for a few days before dropping me off at a local hostel. I stayed there for a week until a fellow Australian Actor who now lives in LA let me move in with him. During this time I was very stressed and as I result my performances in class were not as good as they could have been. I grew and developed personally from that experience.

What are some of your favourite genres to work in/play off? 

Without a doubt it has to be Sci-fi. Having the opportunity to play in a world that so far from the reality or that is just around the corner from it is out of this world. It’s thrilling and exciting! I loved working on the set of ‘Hard Vacuum’ and I can’t wait to see the final cut! I all so love sinking my teeth and claws into dramas and comedies. As a challenge, I would love to try my hand at a romantic comedy or a horror to explore my country boy look and my vulnerability.

You have been hired for multiple modeling gigs, how do those experiences compare to performance work?  

Modeling is an add on to my Acting career. I do it to gain images of characters placed in their environment and to support the fellow models and photographers. In film acting, it’s all about the eyes and the subtlety in the performance. In modeling it’s the same but with poses and sometimes exaggerated facial expressions. I still build characters for these shoots and I love to improvise in character. Heck, I love to improvise in character all day, every day!

You role-play for varying companies and events, how do audiences in that type of situation compare to other groups you have performed for (casts and crews, theatre audiences etc.)?  

They are from another galaxy. If you’re not good at what you do you’ll be found out. Audiences vary; some support your performance and listen intently, some improvise and play off you, some are fearful or confused and want you to stop or don’t understand. While on the other side of the spectrum; some are ‘too cool’ and muck around while on occasion some audiences are hell bent on making you break character.

You all so have to learn to partially break character for certain people so they can still enjoy the experience and you have to be very versatile in your approach. For instance every tour that I perform for at Fremantle Prison is different from the one before as I tailor the performance to the audience. Sometimes I’ve completely improvised the performance. You have to be prepared for anything! And I mean anything! There was one instance at the prison when I invited a girl I targeted to come into my cell for a bit of ‘rest and relaxation’. She declined but then offered me her sister. She all so added this “She’s great on her knees” It was completely unexpected but I played along with her and brushed it off after a little bit of improv.

You perform in a wide array of works including advertisements, short films, features, music videos, web series, re-enactments in documentaries, theatre etc., how important is it to multi-task and expand your horizons in this industry? 

In my opinion; it is extremely beneficial in every way conceivable. There’s a limited amount of professional work in Perth so if you want to make a living out of performing you have to multi-task in every performance stream. There’s plenty of work out there if you dig deep enough and build the right connections. When I say build, I mean build! Rome wasn’t built in a day…neither will your career.

What can you tell us about your latest Web/TV project, Hard Vacuum? 

The first thing I have to say is a huge thank you to Jason Nash and his family for literally have a spaceship  [Non-functional] built in their carport and during production countless of hours of filming interrupting their lives. Jason did an incredible job on building the spaceship; he has a wealth of knowledge and is great to be around. The rest of the cast and crew also got stuck in and helped build and prepare the set for shooting. It was a collaborative team effort and my God does the raw footage from the 4k cameras look brilliant! The set was decked out with flashing lights, computer components, space gadgets, a cockpit, tubes and wires. It felt like a Hollywood set! It really added another layer to everyone’s performances. We didn’t have to imagine what it would be like on a spaceship, we were on one.

Some exciting news from The Producer [Steven Kerr] There are possibly a few meetings planned soon. Steven is aiming to make inroads with a couple of US Sci-fi production houses that have showed their interest.

Finally, to leave you wanting more…”It’s safer outside the ship”

You are represented by Filmbites, how has the company helped you over your career? 

Hallie McKeig is a great Agent to have and simply a wonderful woman. I remember when I first walked into the agency for a meeting. Hallie and I got along like a house on fire and we still do. I can’t thank her enough for her support and advice. Within my first 3 months she landed me a role on “Australia, The story of Us” and ever since then I’ve been submitted for various projects and have received quite a number though Hallie. I’m looking forward to continuing our professional relationship when I move to Sydney this year.

You are working on your own project What! No Script?, what are the advantages and difficulties of writing, producing your own work? 

I’m currently working a few projects, one of which is ‘What! No Script?’ [Working Title] and the others are all in development. I don’t have enough experience in writing/producing my own work to have a preference but I have been let down on multiple occasions when I work collaboratively. These projects have fallen through for many reasons such as too many different opinions, lack of experience and poor work ethics. In my opinion it is just a matter of finding the right people to work with on a project you both have a deep passion for. I do have two projects in the vault that I’m actively working on independently; a dystopian sci-fi thriller and a European comedy.

In reference to ‘What! No Script?’ I’ve had many troubles from cast/crew dropping out last minute to lead cast becoming unavailable. ‘What! No Script’ or whatever I decide to title it has been my passion project for many years now and I will see it through to production. It will find an audience.

You have worked with Inner Circle Combatives Australia, what were some of the most fun activities you’ve delved into whilst researching/training for a role? 

I’ve been training at Inner Circle Combatives Australia since mid 2014. I’m very thankful for their support and I now have a wide range of combat skills at my disposal.

The most exciting training I’ve done so far would have to be for The Pirates of the Caribbean submission. I worked stick/sword for 3 days straight before we filmed it. I all so learnt knife and went down to the Lone Ranges shooting complex for a potential project. I’m very much looking forward to learning more combat and reality based fighting skills from ICCA in the near future.

The Australian film and TV industry has taken on several transformations over the past few years, where to do you think it could go from here?

With the recent introduction to OzFlix and many other online streaming services I would love to see more local and national productions available to purchase and rent online. It’s a great platform to help get film-makers their audiences and even easier if it’s a niche market project. This combined with the access to affordable advertising through social media will be very powerful tools in reaching their market. The majority of the market want content to be readily available and affordable so in a few years time when the technology get developed for ‘Google glasses’ I believe people will have the choice to watch content through the very glasses/contact lens they wear. Sadly, along with readily available content comes piracy. I believe tougher laws will be introduced and enforced to try and combat this without looking at the reasons behind why audiences pirate content.

As we look further into the future of virtual reality, beyond a full immersive experience I believe we’ll have the option to be a character in the film ourselves and interact with the other characters to influence the storyline.

‘Oculus Rift’ will make this a reality but it won’t be anytime soon. Technology will continue to improve and blow our minds and we need to be prepared for this and ready to take the necessary changes to structure the overall Film and TV industry to support these developments.

One thought on “Actor Focus: Luke Thornley

  1. Pingback: Article: Actor Focus: Luke Thornley | Reshoot & Rewind

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