Actor Focus: Nelly Yoa

“I grew up in Sudan, a war-torn country with no hope or future. The struggle, poverty and uncertainty has motivated me to spread my wings.”

Interview by Joanne Kmaid

With a new AFL career, how do you find time for acting?
It’s really difficult at times due to training sessions and other media commitments, but when I do get a chance, I jump at every acting/extra opportunity. My agency, Real People Victoria, is great. I love meeting people from different walks of life and I find acting highly interesting.

From soccer to AFL to acting, what motivates you to spread your wings?
When an opportunity presents itself, I’m always jumping at it to explore it. After travelling the world playing professional soccer for over six years, my passion for soccer took a different turn. I thought I just needed a break from it, a gap year perhaps. Two weeks into my gap year from soccer, I received a phone call from the AFL in January, 2017, asking if I would like to play footy. Wow! Without even thinking about it, I said yes to the proposal. Two months later, I was playing for Collingwood, the biggest AFL Club in Australia. Never did I dream of playing in the AFL until this year.
Acting is something I am passionate about. I hope to pursue it further when I retire from professional sport unless Hollywood approaches me for a blockbuster role! [Laughs]. I grew up in Sudan, a war-torn country with no hope or future. No notion of what tomorrow would bring. The struggle, poverty and uncertainty has motivated me to spread my wings. I work hard to be successful in whatever field I pursue by making a difference in other people’s lives.

You are achieving what others dream of. Share some personal advice…
Always be patient and always be willing to take a risk in life. Be opportunistic, be open to change, stay positive, be ambitious and be driven by success. Always dream big. Whatever you do, don’t give up, keep going. Just remember, your hardest times will often lead to the greatest moments in your life!

No dream comes easy. What are your struggles?
I’ve had my share of struggles throughout my football career and personal life. My struggle through football is well documented in the media, especially in Australia. I was viciously attacked by a group of 15 men with a machete in April, 2011, after coming to a stranger’s aid.
I was at the peak of my football career, days away from signing a lucrative deal with Melbourne Victory FC, when I was pierced in the knee only five months after I had recovered from an ACL knee injury. I came close to death with a one percent survival rate. I was told by the specialist that I would never walk again let alone play sports. God has the final word, I say.

Have you always been athletic and a go-getter?
Yes, I have always envisioned an athletic career. I am always starving to succeed. From a very young age, I can vividly recall my specific focus on achieving that goal. I have remained ambitious, highly driven and positive throughout the long journey. In recent years, I was blessed to be mentored by great athletes, including my close friends, Usain Bolt, John Terry, Wayne Rooney and Rafael Nadal, just to name a few.

I worked with you on the set of Sunshine, a new SBS crime/thriller drama. How would you rate the work?
Personally, it was a great initiative and an honor to be a part of the Sunshine cast and crew. I enjoyed my role; I was cast as a basketball coach of the opposition team in the final basketball game. The work was great and the cast were fun to work with.

I loved seeing the laughter and cultural bond between the Sudanese cast. Is that common within your community?
Yes, definitely! This is very common across the Sudanese community. We are in front line when it comes to laughter and a great sense of humour. Our cultural bond is incredible and solid. A great bunch of people.

How glamorous is acting?
Honestly, it is only glamorous when the product is complete and when you’re walking the red carpet. Otherwise, the process is absolutely tiring and exhausting. Long hours, especially if it’s a large production. Sometimes, a ten-minute movie scene or a TV commercial could take up to four to eight hours to shoot, even longer if the director isn’t satisfied with the take. Lots of hard work goes into acting and behind the scenes.

Are there any similarities between soccer, football and acting?
All three share a similarity. All three require patience, long hours, hard work, dedication, motivation and positivity.

Which charity is close to your heart and why?
St. John Ambulance Australia. Without them, I wouldn’t be here. They saved my life on the night of the attack as I laid there in a pool of blood. Their swift response was heroic. I will forever hold them close to my heart.

This interview was submitted by Cinema Australia contributor Joanne Kmaid. If you have an article or interview you would like to submit for our consideration please contact us today.

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