Rising to the stage and screen with NIDA Alumna, Actor Emele Ugavule

27 September 2016


NIDA News recently caught up with 2014 Acting (Music Theatre) graduate Emele Ugavule as she took time out from her busy schedule to talk to our third year Acting students, about emerging into the world outside NIDA, as part of our annual Industry Week event.

Can you fill us in on some of the exciting projects you have been involved in recently?

It's been a pretty unpredictable year in the best way! I've been working on projects as a producer, director and creative director this year. I created a collective last year called Black Birds,which has now seen programming in the Festival Fatale season. I've collaborated on Art Direction for independent bands marketing and worked on independent film clips as a Co-Producer and Assistant Director, as well as written, co-directed and produced a short film Counter Face, with WAAPA graduate Ayeesha Ash, which just had its first showing in Melbourne and soon to be Sydney!

You were recently part of Belvoir’s production of Twelfth Night. What was it like working on this play?

Incredible. The entire experience was nothing short of magical. An absolute honour to walk into work every day and call everyone in my company my friend. A truly inspiring company to be a part of, I learnt so much just from sitting and listening to people who care about their craft.

You currently star as Kiki Gangi-Roth in Series Two of Australian TV drama The Code. What was it like working in TV, alongside so many talented actors such as award-winning Australian actor Anthony Lapaglia?

Hard work yet incredibly rewarding. I learnt a lot about my role in the medium of film and how it’s just one piece in the jigsaw puzzle. Having come off the back of a play that has been re-produced again and again for more than 50 years, it was refreshing yet challenging to create a character from scratch, particularly one as complex as Kiki. And it’s a story that I care very much about as a Melanesian woman so it was a true honour to tell that story and give my character, Kiki, a voice.

Going back to your days before NIDA, was acting something that you always wanted to pursue?

No, absolutely not. I wanted to be a humanitarian worker. I actually got into acting through music. I grew up singing and playing piano and loved it, and that led me to my school musical and before I knew it, I had deferred my university acceptance and was auditioning for drama schools.

How did NIDA training set you up for your acting career?

There's too many ways to really write down to be honest. I can't deny that the fact that NIDA is right in the heart of Sydney's industry is an incomparable asset and one that shouldn't be taken for granted. As someone who moved straight from Perth fresh out of high school, I didn't know anyone or anything about the industry really or even Sydney as a city, so studying in the city I was about to work in was incredibly useful and made the graduation transition smoother because I didn't have to work as hard to learn about what was happening and who was putting it on or orientating myself with the city.

During NIDA’s Industry Week, you talked to our graduating students about the world outside the NIDA walls. What advice do you have for the third-year NIDA students about to branch into the industry?

Seek inspiration outside of your own circle and don't let fear lead your life. Go see art, listen to live music, take dance classes, or book a holiday! Think of your time outside of drama school as a chance to seize opportunities that can enrich your skills as a storyteller rather than denying opportunities in the event that something might happen.