Stage & Screen

“This is Where the Hard Work Begins”: Rising Star Allegra Teo

&ASIAN sits down with old soul actor Allegra Teo to chat about growing up on set, staying grounded off set, and her two feature film projects both screening at CinefestOZ 2022!
Stylist: Luke Meakins, Hair/make-up: Nadia Duca. Photo: Andrew Ho.
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“This is Where the Hard Work Begins”: Rising Star Allegra Teo

Hi Allegra, thank you so much for speaking with us at &ASIAN! As an introduction for our readers, can you share with us the ways you self-identify? 

I’m a 17-year-old girl living in Australia who goes to school. I’m of mixed heritage, which includes Chinese, Indonesian, Dutch, Spanish, and English. Family is very important to me: my maternal grandmother gave me my first name and my Chinese great-grandmother gave me my Chinese name, Teng Hua. My family and I celebrate a lot of Chinese festivals throughout the year, and I love going to Singapore to visit family. I love to compose my own songs and accompany myself with either the piano or guitar.

Huge congratulations to you for having two feature film projects, The Curious Case of Dolphin Bay and Pieces, as part of the 2022 CinefestOZ!

How has it felt to have such a prolific and productive 2022, and how did you ensure you were energetically/emotionally prepared after the COVID hiatus of the last couple years?

Living in Western Australia, we were in a very unique position during COVID due to our strong border closure keeping the majority of West Australians safe. This enabled projects like Pieces to be able to be filmed without restrictions. Similarly, it was the same when I was in Queensland filming The Curious Case of Dolphin Bay. On both sets, everyone was very aware of how hard it had been in this industry and other projects, so we all felt very fortunate to be able to work. I feel extremely lucky to have been involved in two productions last year and to have met so many new people. 

A highlight this year has definitely been seeing my two films in CinefestOZ. I didn’t have any ‘set’ method to prepare emotionally/energetically, but I mainly lead with an open mind, ready to learn and explore.

The Curious Case of Dolphin Bay is a family movie centred on preteen adventure and imagination; Pieces deals with mental health and creatively reframes pathways towards healing.

What first got you excited about these two very different projects, and how did you prepare as an actor for their contrasting sets and requirements?

I am so grateful to have played two roles that are completely different from each other so early on in my career. I had always wanted to play a very conflicted character to give myself a challenge. When I got the role of Violet in Pieces, I was so excited to get to know who she was and to explore her world. When preparing for Violet I did a lot of research to ensure that I was authentic in my performance. 

Violet has a lot of big emotions and has experienced things that I haven’t, so to get into her mindset, I wrote a song for her. Every day before I went to set I would either listen to the song or play it; I find that music heals everything so I feel like Violet would’ve written a song to use as an outlet for her pain. I was immediately drawn to Jennifer in The Curious Case of Dolphin Bay because of how different she was to Violet. Jennifer was the perfect character for me to play after Pieces because it was refreshing to play someone so bubbly and friendly. It also gave me a chance to say goodbye to Violet.

The thematic contrast between the two films seem to represent the in-between space you currently occupy as an actor growing up.

How does it feel to mature as a person and navigate pivotal life moments both on and off-set, and is it a challenge to balance those authentic Allegra moments with the fictional lives you get casted into?

I think it is important to keep parts of my life separate from characters so that the line doesn’t get too blurry between me and who I am as a person to the character I am playing. When I act, I like to disassociate from myself and who I am, so I am able to fully immerse myself into the character’s world. I do like to draw on things in my life I have experienced, but only the feelings and emotions and not the direct experience. I am genuinely so grateful to have started my career at this age and to have spent my sixteenth birthday on set, filming Pieces surrounded by like-minded people. 

It is weird coming from set where I am working to then going back to school. It’s almost as if I have to compartmentalize my life, as my personal life is very different from life on set; once I leave set, I’m brought back to being Allegra: daughter, sister, and schoolgirl. I find that my family and friends keep me grounded. What has helped me grow as a person is to have met people who have had similar experiences to me, and my mentors who have given me advice and taken me under their wings.

Stylist: Luke Meakins, Hair/make-up: Nadia Duca. Photo: Andrew Ho.

With Pieces deep-diving into issues of mental health and therapy, how does a young actor like you mentally deal with the harsh rejections, failures and realities of the film industry; what protective structures, people and resources do you consider irreplaceable within your support network? 

There have been times when I’ve gotten really close to getting a role or I have been super excited to audition for certain roles but never end up hearing back. I started auditioning when I was 12 so it has been a long journey filled with rejections. To keep myself motivated through all of this I have always told myself that it’s ok, that my time will come, and that the perfect role for me is out there waiting. When I got the part of Violet and Jennifer, it confirmed this notion, and it definitely helped me believe in myself and my abilities. 

My family is irreplaceable to me within my support network, they have seen me grow into this industry; they have come to my school plays and now they continue to support me through watching my films on the big screen. They are always there for me in the good times as well as in challenging times.

You are part of a new professional generation that is more hybrid, more mixed-heritage, more diverse than ever before: a quality that will bring big and positive changes to many industries that prefer simplistic labels.

As someone who’s already been professionally active from a young age, are there any industry practices you’ve noticed that are in dire need of being updated? 

I feel that I am a part of a generation that is non-judgemental but is accepting of one another regardless of where they come from. I would hope that casting in the future will steer away from tokenism and move towards a direction of giving every actor in the industry the opportunity to be cast based on who is best suited for the job and who will have the best emotionally authentic performance. I’m excited to be a part of a generation that focuses on what is on the inside. 

I have noticed within the industry that actors can get quite competitive. Actors shouldn’t see other actors as competitors even though they all have similar goals but rather see them as their peers. This industry can be tough when you don’t have support, so I think a sense of community is so important to build people up and encourage them. I like to celebrate with my peers when they get cast because they were the best person for that role.

What advice would you give to other young performers who are travelling the same path as you, in order to stay motivated, healthy and sustainable? 

I would tell young performers to not take opportunities for granted, instead embrace them and use them as stepping stones to add to their path; a path that doesn’t have an end but rather moves towards the direction of success. There will be some challenges, but you just need to push through these, to get to the other side. 

I would also say that success is never guaranteed, just because you have booked a role, that doesn’t mean the hard work should stop there, in fact, this is where the hard work begins. Persistence and resilience are key attributes to have, as these things help you to keep going when things don’t go your way. It is also important to have fun, enjoy your time with family and friends, and to find something that interests you outside of this industry too.

Off the top of your head, what would be your dream project to be casted in, and why?

I would love to be in an action movie, particularly a Marvel one. I would love to play a strong female character and inspire young girls watching that they can achieve anything they want. I would also love to do a musical like Mamma Mia!– growing up it was my favourite movie, and I would frequently pretend that I was also in the movie! 

Are there any future projects or any future goals you’d love to share with our readers? For our readers who’d like to follow your future career moves, where can they find you online?

I have been attached to an upcoming project, but I am unfortunately unable to talk about it at this stage. In the future, I hope to travel overseas to film projects. One thing that I love about this industry is that it can take you anywhere and you can be involved in projects all around the world. This excites me because travel is a passion of mine. Filming local Australian projects and working with female directors will always remain important to me. 

Allegra Teo can be found on Instagram. The Curious Case of Dolphin Bay is available on Disney+.
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