Ever since Ayeshah Rose played the ongoing role of Natalie in the acclaimed and award-winning Australian TV series, “Underbelly”, the Australian actress and now filmmaker has maintained a steadfast belief in portraying characters which help promote a positive narrative around female empowerment while highlighting the universal strength of the human spirit.
“Underbelly” maintains a stellar reputation as a darling of Australian television, a show which changed the way local audiences perceived its own history and wanted it represented on screen. Ayeshah retains a sense of gratitude for her opportunity to take part in the Logie and AACTA-award winning show that also boasted a top cast like “X-Men Origins” actor Aaron Jeffery, “Wentworth” and “Rake” star Danielle Cormack, and “Once Upon A Time’s” Emma Booth.
Ayeshah’s involvement in the series, which told true stories about Australia’s criminal history in the 1970s and 80s, formed a strong bedrock upon which the rest of her exciting career has continued to build. In many ways, by breathing life into the role of Natalie at the time, Ayeshah proved her chops as someone who would go on to adopt a marginally significant role in elevating the industry’s consciousness around females on screen. In the hands of any other actor, the character of Natalie may have been relegated to a relatively trivialised character seen more for sexualised purposes than anything else.
Ayeshah’s strengths as a screen actor, and capacity to bring a sense of dynamism to any scene in which she appeared and grab an audience’s attention, meant that she delivered a truly memorable performance which did not go unnoticed.
Indeed, Ayeshah attests to how her time on set gave her an opportunity to forge a strong creative partnership with award-winning film and TV director, Shawn Seet (filmmaker behind the upcoming “Storm Boy” with Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush).
“The director absolutely remembers my role, because it was the only intimate scene in that series that was more loving rather than vulgar or explicit.”
One particular scene Natalie discusses is opposite award-winning Australian household name, Peter O’Brien, also known for his role in “X-Men Origins.”
Natalie’s scenes, as she proclaims, “required bravery at such a young age, and a huge imagination.”
The character of Natalie was also crucial to the show’s narrative because she had an affair with lead character, George Freeman. After Natalie leaves her abusive uncle, who was tasked with actually taking care of her while her husband fled to America, Ayeshah had to convincingly fall for Peter O’Brien’s character and deal with the emotional fallout after her husband returns.
The varying levels of emotions called for an actor who could bring equal amounts of intensity and vulnerability, a skill that Ayeshah has been heralded as having in spades.
That bravery demonstrated during filming of “Underbelly” set the tone for many of Ayeshah’s other career highlights, including most recently with “Me Too,” an award-winning film project Ayeshah also wrote, directed and produced.
Ayeshah speaks articulately when asked about the film’s storyline.
“A young vibrant, aspiring artist, who thrives on chance, puts her absolute all into auditioning to a panel of producers and a casting director for a rare opportunity for a part in a film. A moment in time to fight for this job, to prove she is talented, attractive and good enough to be noticed.”
Tension however rises when it’s clear that maybe the character’s talent isn’t enough, as Ayeshah goes on to explain.
“Amongst the situational tension, it seems her dramatic and genuine depth of a performance may not be enough to stand out in hope of securing a role. She knows what she must do. She understands what is expected of her.”
The question the film therefore asks is what extremes must women go to for an opportunity to have an opportunity? In this regard, Ayeshah’s craft as an actor and storyteller has made valuable headway in using the medium of film to probe challenging and important social questions to its audience.
The added bonus was that Ayeshah was honoured with a Best Actress mention at the Independent Shorts Awards.
“I felt grateful that an audience could see the [depths] I went to as an actor. I also really valued having the message being understood…I put so much into that project both directing and acting. It required so much focus and vulnerability as well as being prepared for the potential ridicule by a larger audience.”
Ultimately, Ayeshah is looking even more forward to the future, more so than she is proud of her already impressive contributions to the landscape of females in film.
“I’m proud of the work I’ve done and am really looking forward to make more contributions to the world of film, and work alongside as well as support other driven female creatives along the way.”
I am in a good place with my work as I’ve now done work that has helped communicate particular and current issues as well as support artists to continue to strive for those characters that are OUTSIDE of their type cast. There are many incentives for authentic traits and blood lines of actors to play certain roles, but I hope to continue doing what I believe true artists should be exercising, which is unlimited imagination.