How did she do that? Kate Elliott on becoming an actor

Kate Elliott

In the first of our new online series, Fashion Quarterly editor Sally-Ann Mullin talks to successful women about their careers and how they have got to where they are.

I’m constantly blown away by women. To me, it seems the majority I come across are driven, tenacious, creative and strong; yet somehow manage to juggle a career with being mothers, partners and great friends – all while looking great. These women inspire me daily. A few of them I know personally, but there are also many I look up to and admire from afar.

I know each has a story to share about how they have got to where they are, so I have created a weekly feature on where I’ll ask each woman questions about how she got to where she is now and hopefully we’ll all learn something along the way.

The first person I have spoken with is New Zealand actor Kate Elliott. I first met Kate about ten years ago on a shoot I was working on to launch Stolen Girlfriends Club’s season one which starred Kate and her then-husband, Pluto frontman, Milan Boric. She was incredible to watch on camera and I was in awe of her beauty. Kate has gone on to have a successful career as a lead actor, securing many roles.

She shares her story below:

Kate Elliott

Age: 35
Location: Right now… Auckland

What did you want to be when you grew up?
An actor. A storyteller. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.

What single book, film or album has had the greatest impact on you?
Impossible. A single one? I have new ones for every role I play, I create a playlist and find a theme song that goes with each character. For Jean [Batten], her theme song was ‘Suzanne’ covered by Nina Simone. I would listen to it before shooting. For me it embodies the youthful exuberance of the beginning of an adventure.

When do you go to bed and when do you get up?
11pm-8am. I love sleep. I’ve tried to be a night owl… but I’m at heart a Nana.

Who would you most like to be stuck on a desert island with?
My husband David, our girls and all our close friends. I know that’s cheating… but that sounds like paradise.

Get off your phone @davidbenge #stuckinanuber #nzmusicawards 🌧🌧🌧

A post shared by Kate Elliott (@mrskatealexis) on

Can you explain your career path to date?
At 14 I landed my first lead TV role: a bulimic, self-mutilating sexually abused teenager and from that role, more gritty roles came. It’s not really a path, more a pattern of strong characters.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome, as it relates to your career or industry?
The realities of being an artist in New Zealand – there’s a low ceiling and varied workload.

What motivates you?
There is nothing in the world that makes me feel more at peace and more alive than acting.

What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career?
To take every chance and treat every opportunity presented as if it was your last.

What do you believe has been the key to your success?
Talent and damn thick skin.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
The awards I’ve won feel good. But honestly, playing Katherine Mansfield and Jean Batten – heroic Kiwi icons – is an honour and a privilege.

The next four days

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What is your life motto?
A Mansfield quote: “Risk, Risk anything.”

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Be kind.

Who do you most admire in business?
People who can create their own work. There’s not enough in this country and the ability to create is an invaluable skill.

What do you believe is the secret to success?
Whatever it is I don’t think I’ve figured it out. Yet.

Who do you turn to when the going gets tough?
My husband David. He picks me up and wipes tears away when I miss out on roles I really wanted.

Spam alert but I’m allowed 🌴

A post shared by Kate Elliott (@mrskatealexis) on

What are your favourite traits you are drawn to when working with other actors?
Fearlessness, presence and openness.

You have already achieved so much, but what’s next for you?
Today I missed out on a huge role I really wanted. So for me today it’s about keeping the dream alive, picking up the pieces and moving on. In the future it’s about exploring the opportunities coming to me out of Australia and the US and broadening my reach.

* Kate is nominated for best actress in a feature film and best actress in a short film at the New Zealand Film Awards (Moas) this evening.