Kayla Strada, an Australian actress known for her award-winning performance as Chelsea Johnson in the short drama film, “Next,” has been dazzling international audiences for years for her refined character portrayals in film, TV, commercials and theatre. The enticing Strada has a track record of swelling success. With demanded talent, passion for the craft and a look tailor made for a career in front of the cameras, Strada has risen to international prominence for her standout acting facilities.
Strada’s star quality was recognized in no time by the ultra-competitive industry that is acting. When she was just 17 years old, Strada was cast among thousands of auditioning actors as the beloved character, Betty Boop, for Universal Studios Singapore.
She’s since gone on to act in films championed by award-winning filmmakers such as Stan Harrington and Tessa Blake. Strada has acted in “Home and Away,” a 28-year running soap opera that’s the most awarded show in Logie history (Australia’s version of the Emmys), in commercials for Universal and Fox and in theatrical productions of quintessential shows such as “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “West Side Story” and more.
Strada was tabbed for a coveted scholarship at the McDonald College — Australia’s top performing arts school headquartered in Sydney — and also perfected her craft at Australia’s National Institute for Dramatic Arts.
After moving to the U.S., Strada attended Los Angeles’ renowned Stella Adler Academy of Acting, which boasts famed alums such as Oscar winner Benicio del Toro (“Traffic”), Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo (“Spotlight”) and Golden Globe winner Henry Winkler (“Happy Days”), among dozens more.
“The real art of acting, I feel, starts from theatre,” Strada said. “The theatre background shaped me as an actress because of the amount of work involved in the collaboration with others. Working with other people’s ideas and your own brings what’s on paper to life. With theatre, you’re never really finished. It’s taught me it’s an ongoing learning experience.”
Strada hails from the city of Gosford that is situated on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia, just outside of Sydney. Part of her initial lure to acting came after watching Universal’s 2003 reimagining of an iconic story that’s moved audiences for decades.
“The story all began after watching Peter Pan,” Strada said. “And no, it’s not the story of ‘I never want to grow up, so that’s why I act.’ I think I was about 13, kinda when I thought of myself as a woman. I had a child crush on Peter Pan, then played by Jeremy Sumpter, and really wanted to meet him. The only way to meet him was to be an actor myself. Obviously, my inspiration for acting changed, but that’s where it semi-started.”
Strada’s early taste in film and TV was influenced by her mother, Mary, who made a point to have Strada and her brother, Joseph, watch movies based on true stories.
Added Strada, “I am a big fan of Cate Blanchett. She is a big inspiration because she still goes back to her foundation and still does a lot of theatre, as well as the film side. She knows how to juggle both really well.”
Strada’s own performing began on the stage. Her first big role came in the Gosford Musical Society production of “West Side Story,” where she played Anybody’s, the stubborn tomboy who joins the Jets gang in the story.
“It was super funny for me because I was probably the most European looking girly girl playing the part of an American tomboy, but I had a blast exploring that character,” she said.
It was another character, however, that Strada first performed on stage who holds a special place in her heart and has served as the catalyst for recurring success. Strada debuted one of her favorite characters — Chelsea Johnson — for a memorable high school theatre project. She developed and performed the character, who was a familiar someone that hit close to home.
“Chelsea Johnson’s secret is the same as mine,” Strada said. “We both share the fact that we are dyslexic.”
And both equally brave. Chelsea is a character Strada describes as a bubbly, bright go-getter who has her sights set on being a star actress, despite her impediment. “Cold reads are her obstacles and she is motivated to prove to herself and to others that she can do it.”
Effectively performing a monologue brings its own share of challenges, but delivering one all the while overcoming dyslexia is a feat of remarkable merit. That’s precisely what Strada did.
“To have the audience laughing at me at the beginning, then to not hear a pin drop by the end of my monologue was the most satisfying feeling as an actor,” said Strada. “To have a judge who was examining my performance tear up at the end of my high school performance exam was more then worth it.”
What was gained beyond acing the dramatic test?
“She taught me to never give up,” Strada said.
And Strada didn’t give up the character either. She reprised Chelsea Johnson for a short film called “Next,” whereby this time Chelsea auditions for Hamlet, but has unwittingly memorized the wrong lines and is asked to cold read for the part in Shakespeare’s tragedy.
“Chelsea is forced to face her fears and insecurities to reveal her hidden secret,” Strada said.
Strada’s groundbreaking performance in “Next” was recognized with a Best Actress award at the 2016 Nova Film Fest (Virginia) in April. “Next” was also nominated for Best Short and was the runner-up for Best Dialogue Short at the 2015 Action on Film Festival (Monrovia, Calif.).
Stan Harrington directed “Next” and is a multi-award-winning director, producer and actor known for “Lost Angels,” “Perception,” “The Craving Heart,” and many more.
“I asked Stan if he would film it. When he said, ‘No,” I asked if he would just read the script first. He came back the next day and said, ‘We’re filming it this weekend,’” said Strada.
The pair would collaborate again on the short romantic drama, “Love Is…” with Harrington writing and directing, and Strada starring in the role of Maddie.
The film follows Nick (Bryan Lee Wriggle) and Maddie, who fall in love at first sight, but find their relationship stalling and themselves searching for the true meaning of love.
“The nature of a shoot required to make a movie like “Love is…” is exceptionally trying, so getting to work with actors that not only come prepared, but also have incredible talent and insight, like Kayla, makes everything just that little bit easier,” said Harrington.
Strada described her character as a relatable girl with universal themes including wanting her boyfriend to show his love instead of only saying it. The story picks up where Nick and Maddie are at a routine stage in their relationship, but Maddie is trying to change things because she doesn’t believe Nick has been trying to show Maddie he loves her, even though he has and his efforts went unnoticed.
“It has been a privilege to work with someone like Kayla Strada,” said Wriggle, who has also acted in Harrington’s “Bella” and Relativity Media’s hit “21 & Over.” “She brings a professional attitude and great work ethic to set each day. I feel honored to work with actors that take control of their work and ‘bring it’ on set each and every time!”
Actress Daphne Tenne (“Monkey Say, Monkey Do,” “Vort”) co-starred in the role of Liz. “This project has been an amazing journey,” she said. “Kayla is extraordinary at what she does, truly a professional at work. Acting alongside Kayla in this film was a journey that I will take with me forever. I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of the project and I learned a lot about myself and about love.”
The “Love Is…” story had thematic elements inspired by events from Strada’s life. “My uncle passed away and my mother, back home in Australia, was noticing all these five cent coins all over the house. She started to put things together that it was my uncles’ way of telling my family that he his around watching them and things are okay. It may sound strange, but I have had other people come up to me after watching the film, saying they have had similar experiences, so although this is based around a couple, the inspiration came from my uncle.”
“Love Is…” became an Official Selection at the Nova Film Fest, is expected to screen at forthcoming film festivals and will be shot as a feature film adaptation. “The team we had…it became a real family and I love that,” Strada said. “It’s a project that we have worked so hard to tell a story that we are all passionate about.”
Strada’s other film roles include playing an ER Nurse in “Upended,” a short drama directed by the award-winning Tessa Blake (“Election Night”). The film tells the story of an unstable single mother who looks after her young son, who is rushed to a hospital after eating what he though were acceptable brownies. Strada’s character enters the plot and tries to help the boy survive.
She also acted as Nancy in the Nick Seabra-directed film, “Cold Milk.” The role saw Strada carry out the victimized Nancy, who is taken hostage by an unfamiliar, crazed man who wants Nancy to impersonate his daughter, who was taken away from him.
For TV, Strada performed in the role of Gypsy for the Discovery Channel’s “Deadly Women” docu-crime series that chronicles true crime stories of female killers, and in writer-director-producer Sophie Webb’s, “Same Sex.” She’s also acted in Australia in the Nine Network’s “Underbelly” and 7 Network’s hit soap opera, “Home and Away.”
Strada has acted in the music video, “Here’s to the Sunrise,” for the pop/hip-hop group, Kicking Sunrise (Right Coast Music), and co-hosted on YouTube’s popular “The Naked Traveller” adventure series with Tyson Mayr. She most recently presented at the 2016 Los Angeles Greek Film Festival with host Mena Suvari, star of “American Beauty” and “American Pie.”
We’re looking forward to seeing Kayla Strada in many more exciting roles to come! For all the latest, visit her official site, www.kaylastrada.com.