Join us for a special interview with actress Melissa Bonne. She’s currently starring in ABC’s Reef Break as Ana Dumont. We discuss what inspired her to pursue acting, her experience behind the camera, what it’s been like working with the cast and crew of Reef Break, which TV shows she’s currently watching, and her feature film, Back of the Net.
Enjoy this interview with the awesome Melissa Bonne! And be sure to follow her on Instagram @melbonne
Transcript available on our website
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Welcome to The Pilot Podcast. This week, we have a special episode. We still have a couple pilot reviews coming this week but we're interrupting our regularly scheduled program with a very special guest, Melissa Bonne, from Reef Break.
You'll recognize her as Lieutenant Governor Ana Dumont as well as from her roles on Janet King, Pulse, and her recent Disney movie Back to the Net. So welcome, Melissa. We're so honored you're joining us today.
Thank you. Thank you for having me. Hello, both of you.
Hello. Would you like to introduce yourself to our listeners?
Yes. So as BJ said, my name is Melissa ... Melissa Bonne and I am currently - well actually I just finished filming a US series called Reef Break and I play a character called Ana Dumont, the Lieutenant Governor of the island. So yeah, that's my first US series. I'm Australian, as you can tell with the accent.
Awesome. So we've done our research on you and we've read that you said Pretty Woman inspired you to pursue acting. So what about that role and movie inspired you?
Actually it was Jurassic Park. I saw Jurassic Park when it first came out. It was the both of them so Jurassic Park. So I was born in Zimbabwe. And I just remember the day that we went to go see Jurassic Park, it was ... the cinema was packed. I don't know if you guys remember like if you watch that movie at the cinema, but it was crazy. I've never seen that many people at a cinema before and my dad was really like he was a sci fi fan. So he was really really excited about seeing it and I'm pretty sure it was the day it came out. So anyway, it was packed. He was determined to see it that day. He was like we're not leaving, you know, we have to see it today. It's come out today. Anyway, I remember sitting in that cinema and you know, feeling this you know, terror and joy and excitement and all these feelings I've never ever felt before even watching movies at home like I've never experienced that before and I just remember feeling I want that. I didn't know what it was and it was the same... Do you guys remember the scene where that the guy gets eaten off the toilet?
It was that scene that I went ahh that's what that's what I want. Not necessarily to be eaten off a toilet but whatever that experience created that's what I wanted and then Pretty Woman it was Julia Roberts - that made me think it's acting it's acting that I that I want to do and I'm not quite sure exactly what about that movie but maybe it was to do with the coming of age thing coming from nothing and then you know, blossoming that kind of thing and I don't know kind of... Everyone relates to that on some level, you know, that maybe not having everything that you want and then suddenly having everything that you want or you know the hope of that anyway kind of thing and yeah, so I really loved her. I thought she was really believable. And she made me feel good. So I was like, I'm gonna do that for other people. Hopefully.
That's so cool. And we also know that you have a fine arts background and a lot of stage experience. What from that do you bring to Reef Break?
Oh, gosh, well, hopefully some decent acting. So well okay, yeah, I, I am a very, maybe a little bit too serious. I take the craft of acting very, very seriously. My acting coach was brutal with me in a really like, good way. Like he, the very first time he told me, I did great work, I kind of got, not kind of, I got lazy for, like a year. And I just was thinking, oh yeah, I've got this, he said I was great. So I relaxed. And, you know, he just realized I was the type of person that you couldn't tell, you couldn't tell me I did good, because I would just relax after that. So he stopped telling me I was good at anything, I never heard it. And so I just remember falling in love with the work. And then with plays, it was more the grind of it, you know, working with a lot of text and finding, always finding more more of what's underneath the text and trying to embody it as best as I could. And you know, with the procedural like, Reef Break, we have a lot of... a lot of dialogue that isn't easy to make real straight away, like you've got to do a lot of work with it to, to make it feel like it's one something that you would say something that you, you know, language that you use every day because you're playing a character that is existed for however old they are. And, and also, you don't have a lot of time to do that on set. You know, we've got, you know, three or four takes maybe each per scene, per shot, sorry. And so, you know, that data training is really I feel like it really helped me because I didn't have... I didn't have an issue picking up lines when they were changed on the day, I didn't have an issue. You know, I loved digging and finding the meaning and stuff behind everything. So I don't know if it came across like that. I don't know if it came across real but the effort was there and that's what I got from my training my theater and my training. Yeah.
It certainly has, as we've watched the show.
Have you connected with that acting coach since starting this show?
Oh, he's in my life forever. But not as an acting coach. He's... like, my uncle. That won't leave my life. No, he's... yeah, he's a mentor, really, for me for a lot of things. And I think more now, he's more business, the business of the industry and stuff. I go to him for that. But he hasn't seen the show yet. I don't know what he's gonna say when he says it. But we'll stay tuned for that.
And we've read that you said that acting brings you joy, because you have this opportunity to spread joy to others.
And I think Reef Break is a great vehicle for doing that.
How did you get involved with the show?
I changed agents towards the end of last year. And this was the first audition that she sent me out on. She'd sent me the script like a month before and I read it. She said there was a role in there that she thought I'd be suited for. But because they were casting, you know, me and Wyatt Cole, who's my brother in the show. Sorry, Ana and Wyatt are brother and sister. She wasn't sure if you know, they have to cost that first and do that. Anyway. So when I auditioned for the role, you know, your first audition, you don't really for me, I don't ever really think of it like I'm auditioning to book a job. I look at it like I'm trying on a character. Because at that stage, you don't know how many other people are going for the role. And it's, I've just learned to not even think about it at that stage and so I just did that. And then I got the call back like a month later. So I'd completely forgotten about it as well. I was like, what's Reef Break? And she's like, oh, you know, the US series with the... I'm like, oh yeah, what was my character? And she's like, I think it was a lawyer. I'm like, oh, okay. It wasn't obviously, I'm Lieutenant Governor. Anyway, but by the time that happened, and I knew I was being seriously considered, it was only... it was down to me and another girl. And so I was like "really, okay. Wow, right. Um, this could happen." Um, so I, you know, I, I didn't spend more time on this than I do with anything else. I did exactly the same as I do with all my other auditions. And the good thing about the callback was that our showrunner, Mark Rosner, and one of our producers, Kelly Lee, were in the session via Skype. And they were just really helpful. Like, there was no pressure and the casting... our casting director Leigh, who I know, well, he was really helpful. And so it was just a really nice - it was just a really, really cool experience. And I didn't ever feel, like from the time I auditioned - the first audition to the callback, there wasn't a time where I didn't feel like I could play Ana, you know. And I can't say that about every audition. You know, there's a lot of roles and I'm like not this one. I don't think I'm any good to this one. That kind of thing. You know, this one I felt really supported actually. I'd say is probably the best way to put it.
That's amazing that it felt natural, it seems.
Yeah, yeah. But again, I credit, you know, Mark, Kelly, and Leigh for that, because, and the reader in the room, because honestly, sometimes you... you can get so caught up in your own stuff and your own version of things. And, you know, you know, because with the pilot, I didn't have a lot of information about the character. And because, you know, she's not the lead. So there's not, there were three scenes that I had to go off of. And there was no real indication of what she was like. And the only thing I thought of was, I'm not really a tough person. I didn't think I was like, Lieutenant Governor, material enough. Like the thought of it, do you know what I mean? Like when I first read it, but when in doing and I was like, okay, yeah, I can I can be strong. I can. There's a toughness in me somewhere like I feel it, you know. But yeah, but they really, they were really helpful.
There's not just a toughness to your character. But in these latest couple episodes, we're seeing that she's willing to step outside the box to get things done. At first, I think your characters introduced as a bit of a foil, or more straight laced, I think the term is straight man.
To Wyatt's character and to Cat's character.
And we see her getting into her own things in these latest episodes. And so I'm curious, we know that there are strict rules around this, but we're just curious about where you might go next. Can you give us any hints?
Um, hmm. How much am I allowed to say? Yeah, well look, it... So what you've seen so far, like, you will see a little bit more of her. What she's capable of, and what she's willing to do, you'll see a little bit more of that come out. And because, you know, it's a supporting role, what's cool about it is that, you know, I really enjoyed being the opposite to Cat, you know. And with Poppy, she's so... she's a lot like a character. She's very... she's got this wild playfulness about her. And it's hard not to laugh, when you're working with her, like to keep a straight face was challenging most of the time, but I learned to find it fun playing someone who feels a lot, has it all, but doesn't show anything, like keeps her cards to itself. It was it was hard, it was challenging, to not say too much, I guess, with what I was doing and things and because I think that's really important for her. Mark, the showrunner, was like, you know, she's the smartest person on the island. And so... she's always the smartest person in every room. And that means she's the smartest person in every conversation, but she doesn't need to announce that she's the smartest person, because she just knows that she is. So she's always like... there's nothing that she misses, she sees everything. And so I had to kind of bring myself up to that as well, you know. Like make sure that I was paying attention a lot. And, you know, that was really fun to do. And so it's fun to kind of be a character that's not right at the front of everything. So I could, you know, I had this perspective of what was going on with all the other characters as well in the show and then outside of that as well, if that makes sense.
No, that makes a lot of sense. This is a bit random, but it makes me think of... I'm not sure if you watch the show Drag Race?
It's a competition show for drag queens and they have to do an acting challenge. And they brought on Felicity Huffman to judge it. And basically one of the characters was, as you described, sort of the straight man to the other four...
And the one who had all the information, but couldn't be as out there as the other characters. And so Felicity Huffman paid special attention to that character, because she said that she plays that sort of role often. And the difficulty of that tends to get overlooked.
Yeah, right. That's really interesting, huh? That's kind of... kind of how I feel. You know, it's funny, though, because I get to enjoy everybody else as well. Like, because I don't have to, I guess, I get to keep all my secrets to myself as the character, but no one else gets to do that. So I get to see what everyone else is up to. And it's, it's kind of like spy... fly on the wall? Is that the right saying?
It's kind of like that a little bit. Yeah.
Regarding those secrets, I have to ask, we know that Ana has a relationship, is that going to be a plot line in the second half of the season?
So.. it's there... [laughter]
We don't want to get you in trouble.
Like, yeah, like it's in the show. It's definitely in the show.
We appreciate that.
I will say, Ray, who plays Jake is one of my favorite people. He... He's a real artist, Ray. So working with him was just a joy. Whereas talking about people who don't show how they're feeling. Everything is on like he... wears his heart on the sleeve sort of thing, you know. You always kind of... can always kind of tell what mood he's in and whatever. But like, it was so great working with someone who's just so experienced as well. He's been on so many things. And you know, when you're working with someone like that, you really don't do anything they kind of, he's literally doing everything for you. And you just have to listen. And you know, anyway, just went on a tangent there. But I love Ray, just wanted to say that.
No, speaking of the cast...
We touched on this a bit on the show, but this feels very effortlessly multicultural. And then the production style is also fascinating with it being a French-American show.
But in Australia. We're curious, what's it like combining these worlds to build this project?
Um, well, obviously, I can't speak for the producers, you know, really, because I didn't produce it. But from what they told me, they were, you know, it was tough at the beginning, because, you know, the way we shoot over here is very different to to the US, like, for example, we shoot two episodes at a time over here for our TV shows. And over there, you guys shoot one episode at a time, which in my opinion, kind of makes more sense, and is easier for everybody. Um, but shooting two episodes at a time has its benefits, but like, things like that, I think the you know, the American producers learned a lot from that. And then the Australian crew in the pace, and everything is kind of similar to how we shoot over here. But I think the biggest difference was the scope of the production, how much action there is, and the fact that we were on location for the majority of the time, like there's only... I think we've only got one two three, three or four ... five? I think we've only got four sets, PlayStation, Jake's boat, Cat's house, yeah, four four sets. And so we shot a bit at the studios at Village Roadshow studios, but most of it was on location. And so that was exciting for the Australians, because we don't, we don't have budgets, that big for TV over here. And most of the shows are pretty, you know, con- contained in a way like you know, to, you know, a few locations not all over the Gold Coast, basically, near beaches and mountains and out on the open water and stuff like that, like all of that stuff was really such a gift, I think for the Australian crew, and the mix of the cultures, I think, I think everybody learned from each other, you know. You know, and Poppy as well, because she, she's Australian, but she was, you know, she's been in America, pretty much her whole life. So she's American. And so even the way she works with us was very different to what we're used to in Australia. So we learned a hell of a lot working with her. So I think everyone really benefited from that. And I think that that's what's really important about doing co-productions and things like that, and working outside of your comfort zone. And because you don't get stuck in one way of doing things. And you know, you learn different ways and things that may not suit you kind of thing. You may go we don't like doing things that way. But you also may learn a hell of a lot. And yeah, it's just it's just nice. Yeah, it's nice mixing, I think.
Awesome. And I just wanna say I'm enjoying all the action, and that your character's involved in it too.
Little bit, yeah. Gosh, yeah. Did you guys -- so you've seen episode four?
Yes. We saw you shimmy down a tree.
That was the best episode. That was my favorite one to do. Yeah, I loved that one.
So speaking of production, we see that you have writing, directing, producer credits. Do you have a preference being in front of or behind the camera?
Oh definitely in front. So I started studying when I was 16. And most of my quote-on-quote acting career has been studying and training to act. And so the writing and the directing came from me trying to strengthen and whatever I'd learned in, in acting school and put to practice what I'd learned in different ways, while I was kind of waiting for auditions, you know, to come along. And so while I, I love doing those things, and I did them as if I was doing them as a career, like I gave my heart to each of them when I was doing them, but it was always for acting. I mean I, if I could just I would just do that for now. That may change in you know, 10 years or so. And I'll go "Okay, I'm ready. I'm done. can do something else now."
I think it's always a good exercise to learn every aspect of whatever area or field you work in.
Yeah. Yeah, I think so. I think, yeah, because you understand where other people are coming from. And one of the things that I have always kind of said, about what I want is to make things easy for everybody. So I want to be easy for a director, I don't want them to struggle directing me, I don't want you know, to make things difficult for a casting director, I want to make sure I'm prepared, you know, producers, I don't want them to struggle with handling me or whatever. Like I want to make sure I'm on time and the job is easy to do. And definitely doing, you know, dabbling in those things. It makes you realize as well, and writers, like writing is so hard, like, oh my gosh. It's yeah... so I hate changing dialogue, as well, I really hate it. And so I learn things as they're written. And if we change it on set, we change it on set, but it's never because I want to, and that's also coming from theatre training, you can't change the dialogue in stage plays, because, you know, you have to perform it as written. So you get used to that, you know, but you also appreciate the writer's job a lot more, I think, yeah.
So kind of moving forward with the idea of challenges and different aspects of your career. You've spoken before about how long it's taken to audition for a role and get regular roles. Do you have any advice for actors, especially actors of color, who are trying to get into the field and get their big moment?
Well, one thing that I was told when I was 19, that I listened to, because I, you know, I was 19 and I didn't know not to listen to this. There was a professional in the industry said to me, I would struggle to get work as an actor in this country. And that sent me down a really sort of negative path. And I started looking at the industry as a whole negative, you know, if there's no work for me out there, then I'll just, if no one's gonna hire me, then I'll just create my own work, you know, and all that kind of thing. And so my decisions weren't based on love for the craft, they were based on a fear of not being invited to the party, really. And my mom told me not to listen to that when I was 19. But I was like, you're my mom, of course, you're gonna say that. So I didn't listen to her. But I should have. And so it took me a really long time to get over that. But what got me over, that was the work, I just focused on the work. And I just held on to the belief that the work is going to tell my story, the work is going to get me more work, the work is going to speak for itself. And you know, you can have talent, or you may not have talent, but the work you have. And you just need to be persistent with it and love it. Give it your heart and give it to the world. You know, you're never going to own a character, the characters you play aren't yours, they belong to the world. And so then you are invited to audition, for one, you know, give it your heart, but give it your heart. Don't hold on to these roles and more will come your way, I think. Because you're holding on to so much, then you're not really going to be free to accept anything else, I think. So, do the work, love the work, give the work to the world.
That was powerful. I love that. That's applicable across fields, I think.
And speaking of more roles, we see you're in the Disney movie, Back of the Net. Can you speak about that project? And do you have any soccer skills as well?
No, I don't have any at all. My brother is a professional soccer player, Devon. Yeah, he's the coolest one of us all. My sister and I kind of like meh. He's... he's really cool. But that was really cool, that film. I did that... When did I do that last year or the year before? It was only a couple of things, but I loved it because it was... it's just cute. And it's it's just a nice light family sort of film. And I just love when things are flipped as well, when the girls get to do what the boys usually get to do and so that was really fun. And also the soccer thing. You know, I did grow up watching soccer because I was dragged to all my brothers games. And, and that was that was my first feature film. And yeah, it was really cool. It actually premiered in Australia on my dad's anniversary of his passing. So that was really weird and cool at the same time, was kind of like a nod. I looked at it like a nod from dad saying I'm here, I'm watching, you know, just kind of cool for all of us here. Didn't mean to go there, but... I'll end that on a light note. That movie was fun. Loved it. And it's a cute movie. Yeah.
No, I love that all of these things can be connected on some other level.
Yeah, I think I do that a lot. Probably because of the acting thing. I always try and find links to things, just so things always means something to me. So I'm never really missing anything, you know, try to do that. Anyway.
So as you know, since we reviewed Reef Break, we review pilot episodes of TV shows and try to let our listeners know whether they're worth checking out.
Or how we would suggest watching them. Like one of our reviews, for example is would watch while cooking or folding laundry. So it's a good soothing show to have in the background while you're doing something.
Do you have any recommendations for shows that you'd recommend to our listeners? Anything catching your attention right now?
Yeah, I've been watching The Loudest Voice with Russell Crowe. Have you guys seen any of that?
We haven't seen it yet.
Look, it's it's heavy. You know, that's not a iron your clothes, do the laundry... No, that's a have eaten your dinner and maybe have a glass of wine with you or something. It's... yeah, it... teaches you a lot, I think, about what's really happening and stuff. I really I'm really enjoying that. Have you guys seen The OA on Netflix?
A little bit, yes.
I am so impressed with Brit Marling and Zal I think it is that works with her. I think that's his name. She, you know, she created that and, like, wrote it and produced it and she's acting in it. Like season two gets a little bit warpy but it's really thought-provoking. I find it really interesting. And it's only six episodes a season as well. So you kind of get the... the arc of it pretty quickly. You don't have to hang around for too long. Um, do you guys get like that when you're watching something and you you know you don't want the end straight away. But you it's that just give me the end, just give me the end right now. Do you get like that when you're watching?
Yes, very often.
Yeah, it's such a weird thing. I'm like, what's wrong with us? Like, we just want to get to the end of the eight episodes. But then when it's over, we're like dammit I want one more Stranger Things, you know. So conflicting. I would recommend The OA for some non-light viewing and some thought-provoking stuff. Watch The OA, it's really cool. Yeah.
That's very cool. I would also suggest Succession to you if you haven't seen it yet.
I have, I've seen that.
I feel like that's very instep with the loudest voice.
Yes, it is. You're so right. It's so is. Is season two out yet of that?
It comes out August 11th.
Does that come out all at once or do we have to wait week to week?
We have to wait. It's so good.
I hate waiting. I hate it. Do you guys watch The Handmaid's Tale?
I've seen a little bit of it.
I read the book. So I felt nervous about watching the show because the book was so hard to read.
Yeah, well, it's hard to watch too. Yeah, yeah. You're not into it, BJ?
I like it. I think it's something I need to slowly work through.
Not too slowly, don't hang in there for too long. It's a bit torturous. Yeah, no, it's... that's hard to watch. It really is hard to watch. Why do I watch all these dark things? You know what, it's because I've been doing a light fun show. That's why I need to get real heart wrenching stuff into my life, I think.
Everything is about balance. So we'd love to wrap this by telling our listeners how to keep up with you. Where can they follow you? Where can they see you and see you next.
So I'll be on Reef Break for another seven episodes. We've got 13. So I'm not sure what we're up to now. And I'm on Instagram. And I have a Twitter account, but I kind of don't go on there enough to be on there. It's all Instagram, and Reef Break for now. And I'll keep you posted on anything that comes up
Awesome. And we'll include all your links in our show notes for our listeners to find you.
Amazing. You guys are awesome. I love listening to your podcast, by the way.
BJ & Mitu 26:55
Oh, wow. Thank you.
Honestly, I think podcasts so... they're so hard to do. And you guys... I was like what a good idea. Wish I thought of that. Yeah, and I love how you have your little conversations about things and you bring in like little bits of personal stuff as well. Um, so we learn about you both. You should be proud of yourselves.
My goodness. Thank you. We were going to thank you, but I didn't think we'd end on this note. Thank you so much. And thank you for joining us and you're our first interview with someone whose show we got to review.
So thank you so much for joining us.
Cool, well you're my first podcast interview so first for all of us. Oh, we have to remember this forever and ever. Awesome, awesome. Well, I will keep watching you guys and stay in touch.
Thank you so much.
BJ & Mitu 27:47
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