Emma Booth says school bullies made her turn to acting
EMMA Booth became an actor to escape relentless bullying.
The Glitch star was just 13 when she announced to her mother she was never returning to school because she was tired of being picked on in the playground.
"I was very skinny and freckly," she says.
"I was very awkward looking, and I didn't bloom until a lot later, so I was getting bullied.
"One day, I decided I'd had enough. Mum asked me why I hadn't got dressed for school and I told her, 'I'm not going anymore because I've decided I'm going to be an actress instead.'
"Mum was like, 'Right, like that's going to ever happen. Only one in a million make it'. Two weeks later I had my first job in television in (children's series) The Adventures of the Bush Patrol, so I ended up leaving school and doing distance education."
Booth's experiences as a young teenager haven't just shaped her career path. She's now a passionate advocate and ambassador for Bullies Keep Out, an organisation which aims to help build tolerance and acceptance of difference.
"I'm so grateful that there was no social media when I was growing up," Booth says.
"I really fear for my future children and what they'll have to deal with. This generation is navigating things that we never had to deal with.
"It's a very different world now."
Children are certainly on Booth's mind of late. The 37-year-old married musician Dominick Joseph Luna in Las Vegas in 2013 and says they are now both ready to start a family.
"Oh yes, I really hope that will happen soon, in the next couple of years," she says of motherhood.
"I'm hoping to do some more of The Gloaming, but I'm sure I will fit it in somewhere. I'm ready."
Booth is well into her fifth month of filming the first season of T he Gloaming in Tasmania alongside Ewen Leslie and Aaron Pedersen.
The series, which Booth terms "Tassie noir", will screen on Stan and is from the makers of The Kettering Incident.
Her husband has been with her for the duration of the icy shoot. "It's wonderful he can be here with me so I don't have togo home to a cold, lonely house," she says.
"He's a fantastic support to me. It's been a really exciting project to be part of. And I have just fallen in love with Tasmania."
The West Australian native is equally enamoured with Victoria after spending extended periods of time here shooting three seasons of the ABC's popular paranormal series Glitch in Castlemaine and surrounding areas since 2015. The third season, which kicks off this month, will be the show's last, endinga tradition of the close cast and crew heading out for boozy meals after a long day shooting.
"All our town scenes are in Castlemaine and I just love it there," Booth says.
"The Royal Botanic Gardens have also become one of my favourite spots. I love to hang out there.
"I used to come to Melbourne a lot when I was younger and modelling, to do fashion shows, but I never got to live there forlong periods like I have doing Glitch.
"I love Melbourne, it's got so much culture. It's got a very different vibe to anywhere else in Australia."
Despite first making a name for herself on The Adventures of the Bush Patrol, Booth changed directions at 14 and became a professional model. By 15, she had travelled the world walking runways in Tokyo, Milan, Paris and New York.
She had huge success at home, too, and was Western Australia's Model of the Year and the face of fashion weeks in Sydney and Melbourne.
The unique look that had once made Booth a target for mean girls in the playground now rewarded her with such success that she was able to buy her first house at 18.
But modelling could be tough. Though naturally slim, she recalls being urged to lose weight.
By the time she hit 22 she had lost interest in modelling and longed to go back to her first love, acting.
"I look back at that time and I can't believe I did it," she says of her jetsetting teenage years.
"But I grew bored with it really quickly. I wanted to get back to acting so that I could use the gifts that I have and actuallyspeak, too.
"I was lucky. I had a pretty good experience with (modelling). But I have a good head on my shoulders and I have a great family. That world can be really hard on young girls. It's changed a lot and that's a good thing.
"There are far more protections in place for young girls working in that industry. Those changes were necessary and I'm grateful they have happened.
"Women and men deserve to feel safe at work. So I welcome the changes that are happening wholeheartedly. Even still, I don'tknow if I would want my daughter going into that (modelling)."
Making the transition back to acting, Booth says wasn't without its challenges.
"Even though I had started my career as an actor, because I was known as a model I had to work even harder to prove myself," she says.
"There are a lot of preconceptions about models who become actors."
Since leaving the catwalk, Booth's career has gone from strength to strength both in Australia and overseas.
Here, she's had a starring role in Glitch and Underbelly: The Golden Mile, playing real-life stripper turned undercover agent Kim Hollingsworth. Although she was offered a body double, Booth didn't shy away from doing her own nude scenes, believing it was important to the character she was playing.
In the US she won a large and ardent group of new fans when she joined the fantasy TV series Once Upon a Time for its final season. Booth played a modern interpretation of the witch who kept Rapunzel in her tower.
Although she has now been working as an actor and model for more than 20 years, Booth says she can still walk around largely unrecognised.
"People don't really come up to me," she says.
"And if they do it's usually to say, 'Did we go to school together?' I'm like, 'Umm, no, I don't think we did'."
It's a different story with the Once Upon a Time fans.
"I didn't know what cosplay was before I did that show," she says of adult fans who dress up as fictional characters.
"That show has a really dedicated fan base. I had no idea how dedicated people could be until I did that show.
"I have been doing this (acting) for 20-odd years and my eyes were opened to a whole new world. It was humbling.
"It was really nice to do something big budget on a big set like that. But something like Glitch, when you are filming outside in the bush … just feels more intimate and personal."
After turning her back on modelling in 2004, Booth started as an actor with guest roles in shows such as All Saints.
By 2007, she had made inroads. She won the best supporting actress AFI for her role in the critically acclaimed movie Clubland.
The film, which starred Golden Globe-winning British actress Brenda Blethyn, screened at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival and Booth's feisty performance attracted the attention of many US talent agents.
Her international star-power seemed to be even further on the rise when she landed the role of Germaine Greer in Hippie Hippie Shake, a movie about the real-life launch of the London edition of Oz magazine in the 1960s. She starred alongside Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins) and tabloid darling Sienna Miller.
Unfortunately, despite the all-star cast and rave reviews from the critics who saw the film's first cut, Hippie Hippie Shake was shelved and has never been released.
"Who knows why that happened, I suspect it was a political decision," she says.
"I would love to see it myself one day because I heard great things about it. At least Germaine will be happy."
Greer made no secret of her contempt for the project, even penning a column titled, "So Emma Booth is to play me in a raunchyfilm about the '60s. Can't she get a real job?"
In some respects Booth got off lightly as Greer has a long history of dishing out withering critiques. The famous feminist accused Meghan Markle of being a gold-digger and said former Australian PM Julia Gillard had a "big arse".
Greer resented being cast as a character in someone else's life story, particularly, she added, given it had been writtenby the late Richard Neville, a man she described as "one of the least-talented people on the London scene in the '60s".
Booth, for her part, has sympathy for Greer's discomfort at being portrayed on film. She would have loved the opportunity to have talked to the outspoken feminist ahead of playing her, but never got the chance.
"I would love to meet her, I have so much respect for that woman," she says. "I was really bummed that she wasn't happy about it.
"It's always a lot harder playing a real person, especially if they're still alive. You want to do a great job portraying them and you hope that they'll see what you do and like it.
"I was lucky enough to meet Kim Hollingsworth when I was doing Underbelly.
"I had a lot of conversations with her and was able to ask her a lot of questions about her life, how she wore her hair, whyshe did what she did. It really helped me get into the character.
"But I understand why Germaine felt the way she does."
Booth's character in Glitch may not be based on a real person but it still presented artistic challenges. Booth plays Kate, a woman who has been broughtback from the dead in mysterious circumstances.
Screen husband Patrick Brammall says his good mate "Boothy" is perfectly cast because of her interest in the paranormal.
"She's a bit in touch with the supernatural side of things, so every season, the brilliant Emma Freeman - our director and guide - would set up some ridiculous prank that involved scaring the sh*t out of Boothy at an especially spooky location," Brammall laughs.
"She was suitably freaked out each time, then managed to laugh about it afterwards."
Freeman says she loves the fact that Booth "always embraces the magical".
"Emma is a true collaborator," Freeman notes. "She is one of the most instinctive actors I have worked with - connected, passionateand committed."
From The X-Files to Stranger Things, the US has had great success with making supernatural thrillers for decades, while Australia has tended to stick to dramas based around real-life situations.
Freeman says Glitch took the impossible concept of loved ones returning from the dead and grounded it with unapologetically Australian storytelling.
"I think Glitch has opened the door for more Australian genre series and highlighted that we can make them our way."
Glitch has won a Logie and an AACTA award, but perhaps an even greater mark of its success was when Netflix picked up the series.
That acclaim has helped change the TV landscape in Australia, paving the way for locally made shows with a supernatural bent, such as Foxtel's The Kettering Incident, Stan's Bloom and Netflix's Tidelands.
"I am so happy Netflix picked up Glitch because it allows people around the world to see what we have to offer," Booth says.
"People love the supernatural genres and they love crime shows. In Glitch, you get both."
GLITCH RETURNS ON SUNDAY, AUGUST 25, 9.30PM, ABC AND IVIEW