Robbie Felt An Adverse Reaction To Naomi The First Time She Read The Script
In the first draft that I read it very much seemed like a transaction, and that's why I didn't like the character when I first read it. I was like, she's a gold digger, very superficial and very transactionary. I thought it didn't seem much deeper than that. But the more we worked on the character the more we kind of beefed it up and the story and the relationships developed and became multi-faceted. It was like a complete marriage. They had kids over those years. I think it was more that she got caught up in the whirlwind and that was fine—she enjoyed the lifestyle. But when that lifestyle stopped and that coincided with his drug habit, it became more of an issue and more dangerous as opposed to a fun by-product of the lifestyle. She had different priorities, so that's how I see it. I guess everyone sees it from their character's perspective.
On The Surprisingly Complex Journey of Naomi’s Accent
This is how specific I was hoping [the accent] to be: she was meant to have a Bay Ridge accent from the beginning, and then once they were living in Long Island I wanted it to have Long Island influences. I also wanted her to have made a conscious effort to dull down the Brooklyn from the accent; I wanted her to be aware of the fact that she was hanging out with people with a lot of money and she would be a little embarrassed of her original humble beginnings.
Something I realized when I moved to America: people get these general American accents, but when they get angry or upset or excited their original accents come out. It's something I noticed with my manager, because he's from New York, and the first time he got angry he suddenly had this accent. I was like 'What is that?" So I thought whenever Naomi's excited or yelling or whatever the accent should come out—which happens to be most of the scenes, so the accent is upfront anyway.
[Later, we continue the conversation with Robbie, one-on-one]
Did you have a very specific gameplan when planning your move to America from Australia to act?
Yes, well when I was planning my move to America I was living in Melbourne working on "Neighbours." I worked on the show for three years, and it was probably a couple months into it when I decided. Up until then I had no idea that you could even do acting as a career, or that people could make a living out of it. It was just kind of like this fairy tale sort of life, so once I met people who were doing that as a career and could actually live off it, I started thinking, "Okay, what's the next step?" America's really the furthest you could go, because there's really a limited industry in Australia.
Did you have any Australian actors as mentors that you looked up to?
There were a lot of people that I was working with, but they all worked and lived in Australia on the show that I was working on, and like I said it's a pretty limited industry—very comfortable. If you have a family and you're happy playing the same character for 17 years then you can make a really happy, stable lifestyle out of that. But for me the idea of playing the same character for a number of years sounded suffocating. So I utilized my time on “Neighbours” to a) save my money so I had enough to live unemployed in America for a couple of years if need be, and b), use whatever time I had to do acting courses on the side—not that there was much time because we worked 17-hour days, five days a week, year-round with no hiatus.
When I first tried the American accent, for a moment I thought I could never be an actor, because I just could not do it. But then I thought, "Okay, it'll just be something that I work at until I get it." Someone told me that you could learn to sing, and that there are muscles that if you build, you will sing. So it was like that: I was just going to build these muscles until I could do an American accent. I had this brilliant dialect coach in Australia, Anna McCrossin-Owen, and I would just see her as often as I could. I learned all about the muscles and bones, and the structure of your mouth. When we had our first lesson she asked, "Is that voice the front, center, or back valve?" and I had no idea. "Am I resonating through my cheekbones or my forehead or my nose or chest?" No idea. Now she'll just pick a dialect and I can pick where I'm going to resonate from. Now that I've got all the technical training in place it's easy to adapt that foundation to any kind of dialect.