Floating on Cloud Nine
She’s landed a starring role in the highly anticipated TV mini-series cloudstreet, but actress Emma Booth swears she’ll always be a Fremantle girl at heart
WORDS KATHY BUCHANAN
PHOTOGRAPHY CYBELE MALINOWSKI
Currently homeless, actress Emma Booth is sitting in a café in Fremantle, Western Australia, indulging in a full-milk latte with sugar and loving it. “I don’t usually drink coffee,” she explains. “I’m usually pretty healthy, but I was up at 6.30am today.”
Standing tall at 1.73m with striking blue eyes and naturally blonde hair, Booth could pass for a beautiful uni student with her casual-chic outfit of denim shorts, a black singlet, thongs, a sunhat and a crystal chain hanging around her neck.
“I just moved out of my apartment in Sydney, so I don’t have a base. I love spending more time in Perth with my family and with friends in Byron Bay,” the 29-year-old says. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m a free spirit. This is the perfect job for constant change and not being tied down. Not having a nine-to-five job really suits me.”
She adds happily: “I grew up in Fremantle, and I love having a chance to spend time here. I’ll always be a Fremantle girl.” It’s hard to believe this down-to-earth natural beauty is the same dark-haired temptress who starred as the infamous prostitute-turned-police cadet Kim Hollingsworth in Underbelly: The Golden Mile on the Nine Network in 2010.
“I love being a brunette, dark hair is really striking,” she says. “I’m naturally very blonde. I went from really blonde to almost black hair for Underbelly, to white blonde, and then I swerved back to brown hair for cloudstreet. I never even blow-dry it when I’m not working and I hardly ever wear make-up.”
Surprisingly, this gorgeous former model isn’t into clothes either. “It’s fun getting dressed up, but it’s not a major part of my life. I love really cute and quirky stuff.” On location at Opera Bar, Sydney, to shoot these images, Booth’s modelling experience is soon evident, as she moves effortlessly for the camera.
With the only other possible career draw being holistic health, and having used modelling as a stepping stone to her dream job, Booth says she has always wanted to act. “My family has a lot of videos to prove it,” she chuckles. “I was constantly making plays at school and at home. I’ve always loved the idea of playing other characters. It was easy for me to go into acting, because you’re playing characters when modelling as well.”
Although she has no formal acting training, Booth says she has learnt by example. “I did classes at night every Thursday for a term in WA to get the basics down when I was doing a bit of modelling. It was my transition period.”
This quick learner then made the career switch from modelling to her film debut in Clubland, opposite English actress Brenda Blethyn. The dramatic love story premiered to great acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival and Booth’s performance scored her a slew of awards.
“Sundance was quite an eye-opening experience, because I’d only done one film at that point, which had a major premiere there,” she explains. “It was a whole other world — meeting all the casting agents and actors everywhere. Everyone was there — Gwyneth Paltrow and Jared Leto were walking past in beanies and scarves.”
Soon after, Booth played Clive Owen’s love interest in The Boys are Back in Adelaide. “I’d always wanted to work with Clive Owen,” she says. “He’s one of my favourite actors. He kept to himself but he was very down-to-earth and funny. We had a ball on set.”
This natural beauty says she is “mostly vegetarian” since getting into yoga and meditation last year. “I’ve made quite a few lifestyle changes, and I feel much healthier. I’ve always dabbled in yoga and meditation, but I wanted to follow a deeper path. Kundalini yoga is my favourite type of yoga, because it has an energetic flow and is very spiritual.”
Booth is clearly no gym bunny but blessed with a model’s metabolism, she simply grabs her iPod and goes for a 45-minute power walk whenever she feels the need. She adds, “Doing yoga and meditation helps me stay grounded in the acting world. Last year was emotionally draining filming Swerve, and then going straight into filming cloudstreet. It’s really good to have a practice to come back to.”
Scheduled for release later this year, Swerve is a contemporary Australian film noir centred on a dead body and a suitcase full of cash. Filmed in Adelaide, it stars Vince Colosimo, Jason Clarke and Booth as a femme fatale.
When she was told she’d scored the coveted role of Rose Pickles in the televised version of Tim Winton’s award- winning novel cloudstreet, the busy actress didn’t even have time to celebrate. “I was excited, but I was shooting Swerve — and it was a fine line as to whether I was going to be able to shoot cloudstreet too.”
Already a fan of the best-selling Australian novel, Booth says she’s proud to be a part of the mini-series, a drama tracing the misfortunes of two families in Perth during and after World War II, and the post-war years. “When I heard they were making the mini-series, I had to play Rose. I’m so blessed to get this wonderful role. The fact I’m born in WA and telling a story close to everyone’s heart is great.”
The role did present a few challenges, however. “I had to chop my hair off and wear brown contact lenses during filming, which at first I couldn’t get used to,” she says. “It felt like I was wearing dinner plates over my eyes. In the end, I didn’t feel like I was in character until I got my
contact lenses in.”
The ensemble cast also includes Stephen Curry as Sam Pickles along with Essie Davis, last seen in South Solitary and Baz Luhrmann’s Australia, as Dolly Pickles. The three two-hour episodes will mark the 20-year anniversary of the novel’s original 1991 release.
So what’s next for this burgeoning talent? Booth says she’ll continue to call Australia home, but desperately wants to travel through South America, continue to act and live a holistic lifestyle.
“I also want to have a beautiful family of my own one day. In fact, I’m going to babysit my nieces and nephews at my sister’s house right now. Hanging out with them is more fun than anything.”
EMMA BOOTH’S FAVOURITE HOLIDAYS
Byron Bay: “It has the most beautiful, tropical landscape and is really holistic, which I love. It’s a natural healing place and has a powerful energy.”
Bali: “I feel an amazing connection to Bali. I holiday there and attend a lot of yoga retreats there, which are always fantastic.” Margaret River: “I love it — it’s so beautiful. I’m always down south, because I love the beaches.”