We had the good fortune of connecting with Ros Gentle and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ros, what role has risk played in your life or career?
There’s a quote I have carried with me for 40+ years. I found it when I was just an actor newbie and I share it with the actors I teach to this day. It was attributed to Robert Redford… who knows if he really said it ….but it goes like this…. “you’re only as good as you’re prepared to be bad!” And this to me is a great definition of risk in both the acting profession …and indeed in life. You have to be a little adventurous as an actor AND as a human being. Just as a child does, I believe we grow and discover more about ourselves and life when we take risks and explore new things. When we stop learning, we die. When I was 21 I travelled from Australia to Europe touring several countries by train. It was an eye-opening experience at that age. I came home with a whole new perspective on the wonderful diversity of life. And having spent time in countries where they spoke no English made me so much more tolerant of visitors and migrants in my own land…just one of the many things it shifted in me. It also gave me an amazing confidence that was not there before. At 45 I took an even bigger risk and decided to moved my whole life to another country where I was met with challenge upon challenge and somehow survived and thrived! But risk taking is an everyday occurrence in my work as an actress which is what makes it so exhilarating and joyful. There are so many actors out there now that you have to find an authentic way to stand out. And that sometimes means taking BIG risks. It’s rare that I feel confident I can do something when I first read the script but once I’ve said ‘yes’ somehow magic happens and the abilities, skills, ideas, creativity all begin to flow. Undoubtedly, courage and risk-taking go hand in hand. After many years I have the knowledge that if I take a risk and do not succeed in what I was hoping to accomplish I have at least strengthened my ‘risk muscle’ and that’s a good thing! Of course, the spiritual side of all of this is to make sure your self-worth is not dependent on what you do or do not achieve! But that’s another whole topic!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
A big topic… that could probably be a novel!!! Currently I’m a working actor and educator. I have been acting now for 45+ years and teaching for close to 50 years! My teaching has run in tandem with acting my entire professional life. Along with acting classes, the course I introduced to NYFA https://www.nyfa.edu called Psychology of Performance, is a course I’ve run for 25 years in various forms. It involves a combination of the acting course I developed back in Australia in the 80’s that included many meditational techniques and use of conscious mind play which I believe is crucial for actors today with all the blue screen/green screen work that has to be done. They need to be able to create the reality of what is NOT there and hold onto it. From childhood they have had their minds manipulated by the media in so many ways and acting requires focus , concentration and visualization abilities like never before. Along with the acting aspect, the course also involves the actor taking a good hard look at themselves to really uncover their strengths and weaknesses, identify their purpose, vision and values, what is blocking them and how to get through those blocks… It’s a great course that I myself went through and is one of the most popular courses at the school. I am very proud of that! So many lessons learned along the way!! One is that as an educator the students have taught me as much as I have taught them probably… And continually running this course keeps me on my toes in checking in with myself if I am doing all the things I am asking of them. It’s a constant reminder that helps me in my acting and in my life. I cannot teach theoretically, I have to teach from experience. So I am always testing what I’m teaching in my own work and trying to analyze what I’m doing so I can teach it! I love teaching and it is regular and consistent!!!! I always think it’s very important for an actor to have some other source of income that is flexible and something they also love so they are not desperate going into auditions… “between Jobs” can be a long time sometimes!
As far as acting goes you can find most of my screen work on IMDB https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0313139/?ref_=nv_sr_1 And you can currently see me on Amazon in Picnic at Hanging Rock, and on Hulu/Netflix in ACS: The People V’s OJ Simpson, Becoming Bond, Lucifer, Hello Ladies and probably a few others .. I don’t know! I think what sets me apart in my acting is my sincerity and authenticity… at least I hope that’s the case! Has making acting a career been a struggle?.. Yes!!! Lol! I started out when I was 25 when I left full time teaching back in Australia. At 29 I decided to go back to school full time and received my BDA from NIDA/Uni of NSW (https://www.nida.edu.au/). I paid my way through with waitressing and doing backup vocals for celeb in the clubs. It was tough as NIDA was really full time plus! My first big job out of school was a 3 month run on Prisoner (set in a women’s prison) in which I played a woman with multiple personality syndrome. To this day the show has an amazing cult following and on FB I still have many fans, some whom were not even close to being born when I filmed it in the 80’s. So it’s reaching a whole new generation. For the next 10 years in Australia I had a great run with many good series recurring, guest star and lead roles mostly in television. Then I decided to come here to the US where I literally had to start all over again. Nothing traveled from country to country, back then. I had to do extra work to get my SAG card and the first 10 years was one struggle after another but I stuck with it while doing all kinds of jobs to survive, including selling Chinese advertising to Chinese TV stations! (I ended up having to rewrite all their materials for them!!!) In 2009 I shot a film back in Australia called Suing the Devil with Malcolm McDowell. His manager, Chris Roe, came to set and on our return to LA I asked him if he would represent me. Long, fun story, but he said “yes”!!! I finally had decent representation in town…a big step. And in the past decade, in my 60’s some of my best jobs have emerged and I’ve had more success than the entire time I’ve been in the country, (26 years) which is amazing given Hollywood is not really friendly to over 40’s women and usually one’s career starts to peter out as you get older, but mine, touch wood, is heading in the right direction.. YAY!! In fact, I was due to start filming a feature literally the day LA closed down and all filming permits were withdrawn for Covid. Hoping it comes back! Also on hold is a four part docudrama, we are in the middle of, about the unsolved murder of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen in 2010, 6:38 the Death of Ronni Chasen. I play Ronni, and a Sci-fi feature with director Tony Prescott. But film and TV are slowly starting to come back having been completely on hold for 7-8 months. I am currently filming an Episode of Wild West Chronicles.
I think my loveliest experience in film here though, I have to say was actually working with Charlize Theron and director Jay Roach on Bombshell. It was probably the most high profile feature I’d worked on since coming here and I had two small, but really nice, scenes with Charlize… but the whole experience was one in which I was treated the way I remember being treated back in Australia when I was playing leads. I had a very small part but was treated with such respect and care by everyone from wardrobe to makeup to food (so good!). But especially by Charlize (who was also producing) and lovely Jay (such a humble, kind, and simply delightful man). I remember after finishing the scenes both of them individually came up and thanked me for giving them so much in such a small scene (a reaffirming experience!). Of course as happens when they need to cut a film it’s usually the smaller linking scenes that go. So while I have no remembrance of this beautiful experience on film….it is etched in my heart.
It’s always a joy to do theater, as well, though mostly in LA it’s equity waiver so it’s difficult to justify the time and energy it takes for VERY little compensation, if any!. But when you get a great writer, director and cast together … it’s hard to say no!!! In 2017 I was fortunate to perform in the Australian Theater Company’s, Broadway World’s award winning play Grey Nomad (I also won Scene Stage LA’s Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy). Over the years I have done a lot of theater including musicals plus four one woman shows. Commercials too have always been kind to me and here in LA I’ve shot, I’d say, close to 60-70 over the years, including being a spokesperson for a precious metals company (Monex) for 13 years. Acting has always been close to my heart and even though I went into teaching first because I just didn’t know if I could be a good enough actor to make a career out of it, once I took the plunge, I never looked back. It warms my heart to be in communication with others, and acting, whether on a small set with one or two others or on a stage with an audience of 1000, is above all, communicating. We are communicators… reflecting a world that is or was or showing a world that could be. And in order to do that we have to be able to span the whole gamut of human consciousness. Being able to touch people’s hearts with humor or compassion or kindness, with something inspiring or educational or confronting or informative or just plain entertaining is an honor and a privilege. I have learned so much about myself through every character I get to play whether it’s how deep my love can go or how much corruption, pain and vileness is so easy to access… so I can love it to death..quite literally! It has taught me how I am not my emotions and how I can detach from them when needed and employ them when needed. It is a study in human consciousness and that is what I love most! And as you asked and have given me a soap box here I would like to give a shout out to three organizations that I support on various levels because they are doing the tough work! First is Shared Hope International https://sharedhope.org/ .These folks are doing the extraordinary work of helping to turn around the very real issue of Sex Trafficking of Minors both here and abroad. Headed by former US congresswoman Linda Smith they are raising awareness in the community, helping girls (and boys) once they are out of ‘the life’ and very importantly changing the laws and culture around the issue at both a federal and state level. Next is FCNL (Friends Committee on National Legislation) https://www.fcnl.org/ . I am not a Quaker but these guys have gotten lobbying down to a fine art and know how to get things done at, again, both federal and state levels in terms of policy and legislative changes and my values, as well as the important issues of the day, align strongly with theirs. So instead of reinventing the wheel I can join many working for the same goals. They train people on how to lobby their state reps and no pressure to join the ‘clan’! And finally EDA (Economic Democracy Advocates) https://economicdemocracyadvocates.org/about-eda/ . I am a firm believer in the management of the commons – fair use of common resources of the area so everyone’s needs are met. While this group is relatively new they are addressing some of the most important economic issues of our time with some extraordinary people involved. I believe they will be quite a force to be reckoned with in years to come and I’m happy to be in at the ground level! I encourage you to take a look at all three and see if anything speaks to you!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’d definitely take them to Yamashira’s for dinner.. One of the best views of the city…a great intro!! The Griffith Observatory.. Another great view and experience.. Wait for the evening so you can get to look through the telescope, especially if it’s a clear night. If you know in advance, see if you can book well ahead for Stahl House in the Hollywood Hills. Many movies and photo shoots have been done there. Wall to wall glass house high in the Hills. Very small groups of 6-8 people a day. Sun Cafe on Ventura in Studio City is one of my fave vegetarian eateries. Aroma Cafe on Tujunga for ambience and good food or just a coffee and chat. If they are new… then the Getty (either the big one or the smaller one of Pacific Coast Highway) and I don’t know how many times I’ve been to Universal Studios but guests usually ask for it!! Though last time I went it just seemed like one 3D VR ride after another.. Just sitting inside a box… so my favorite thing to do always is to take them to Water World… get a raincoat and sit them close to the front…Sure to get drenched!!! So go in summer! I love the Reagan Library also ..it usually has a new exhibit so check out what it is. And I haven’t been yet but want to go to one of the two wolf ranches here in LA County Wolf Connection or Wolf Mountain Sanctuary. And of course if there’s anything good at the Hollywood Bowl while they are here… go… an experience! I always enjoy walking around the Grove in West Hollywood as well and a new adventure I experienced just recently at Century City Mall was Dreamscape …one of the best VR Experiences around… you have trackers on your head and hands and feet and as you look at your body and those of your group they are all in avatar suits and you are walking around this virtual space with them.. Totally trippy! Finally, a secret I discovered in Studio City also is the Radford Art Walk close by CBS. It’s beautiful sculptures right on the street almost camouflaged if you didn’t know to look. But once you see it you can’t miss it! Oh, and I would certainly have them in my garden for a lunch with the chickens (soon to be ducks and rabbits!!!!!)
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Well, I think two people/organizations come to mind immediately that have impacted both my acting/teaching careers as well as my personal life. The first is my first wonderful acting coach, Betty Williams. I took weekly evening classes with Betty who also taught at NIDA at the time… the preeminent acting school in the country. From day one I knew I was home. She asked questions constantly about the psychology of the characters and that’s what drew me in. I knew I was a natural performer but I had no idea acting was delving into the psychology of human behavior which had always fascinated me. From that moment I knew what my career was going to be! I studied with her weekly for 4 years and then decided to bite the bullet and go back to full time school for 3 years at NIDA and was one of the 25 chosen out of 2000 auditioning that year! Currently, along with my very busy (fortunately) acting career, I also teach the Psychology of Performance (a course I introduced to the school 10 years ago) at NYFA https://www.nyfa.edu/
The second is the meditation/spiritual practice I participated in for 28 years with the Brahma Kumaris. I taught for the organization as well, during that time, everything from meditation & stress management to self-empowerment & leadership. It gave me tools to deal with the industry in a way I would never have been able to had I not experienced those teachings and practices. That deep study of consciousness and mindfulness underscores everything I teach actors today and helps me maintain self-respect in my life while staying grounded, purposeful and calm.
But everyone I have ever met has brought something to my life…whether it was the beauty of their humanity, their kindness, their courage or their resistance and rejection that taught me how to stay strong and in my power. I embrace them all and bless them all!