Fiona Victoria Hopkins, originally from the Central Coast, NSW has loved acting since she first treaded the boards in Gosford Musical Society’s performance of the Wizard of Oz, as the lead Dorothy at the age of 13. After winning the 1997 Taree Flair Fashion Awards Designer of the Year at the age of 18, she set off on a path as an Artist. She travelled extensively with her sister through China, Tibet, Nepal, India, Malta, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan. She has studied and worked professionally in the UK and Europe for over 14 years as an Actor and Costume Designer.
In 2003 Fiona was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in Costume Production from Rose Bruford College and in 2005 a Masters in Classical Acting from the Central School of Speech and Drama, London, headed by Dr Robert Clare. Later she spent extended periods in Los Angeles in 2007 and again in 2014 studying screen acting under international acting coach Lisa Pescia. While in L.A. Fiona also performed in the Hollywood Fringe Festival in the award-winning premiere of Natacha Astuto’s Le Train Denier. She has performed widely in the UK and Europe, appearing in a number of films, including the international success features Landscape of Lies (2018) and Doghouse (2009) and soon to be released Little Necro Red. Hopkins has also completed two Seasons in the Canadian TV series Clays POV (2014-16) in the lead role of Neptuna. Fiona will take up the role again in their 3rd season. Fiona is also delighted to announce her debut as Director on a Feature length thriller already in preproduction set for release in 2019.
Hopkins proudly brings all her experience and passion to her students at the Canberra Academy of Dramatic Art.
The Street talked to Fiona as she prepares to bring her character, Jacinta, to life in David Atfield’s new play, Exclusion.
YOU HAVE CREATED A CAREER ACROSS THE STAGE, TV AND FILM – CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE PLACE AND EXPERIENCE OF THEATRE FOR YOU IN THE MIX?
Theatre gives a fantastic grounding for you as an artist to work all your muscles in front of a live audience. It is authentic, fresh and each performance is unique. Theatre builds on my versatility as an actor and keeps you grounded in your craft.
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO DAVID ATFIELD’S NEW WORK EXCLUSION?
I wanted to be challenged as an actor and personally. It is a real honour to work with David and the Street Theatre in Canberra. The combination of this artistry has allowed me to be true to my own mantra that: In any given time or place, arts is the barometer of society – it tells our story, teaches our past, and touches our future – in ways that reach everyone.
THE WORK DEALS EXAMINES THE MEANING OF EQUALITY, THE COMPLEXITIES OF SEXUALITY AND THE EXPLOITATION OF HUMAN VULNERABILITIES IN THE QUEST FOR POWER. HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THIS?
It has been a fascinating process as an actor for me and has challenged me on every level. It has opened my eyes to societies’ layers of unconscious biases and my own views – it has given me a rare and unique opportunity to explore these vulnerabilities with an amazing group of people and has enriched me as an artist.
TALK US THROUGH BRINGING YOUR CHARACTER, JACINTA, TO LIFE AND YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS IN A WORK LIKE THIS.
In bringing Jacinta to life, I have tried to embrace her flaws and her heroism. I am constantly exploring every angle and curve to find her truth.
WHAT IS IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO A SUCCESSFUL AND FRUITFUL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AN ACTOR AND DIRECTOR?
The ability to communicate freely to challenge each other’s views and come to a common understanding of the direction I must go. I am really enjoying being able to explore with David the full range of issues not only with my character, but the complexities that this play is seeking to articulate.
THERE ARE FIVE ACTORS IN THE WORK. WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR WHEN WORKING AS PART OF AN ENSEMBLE?
I look to the advice of my former professor and now friend, Dr Rob Clare and quite simply ask myself: “Could I camp with these people?” I want to work with colleagues (like myself) that want to bring the best version of the character to life without more.
YOU HAVE COME TO CANBERRA AFTER MANY YEARS LIVING IN EUROPE, THE UK AND USA. WHAT’S YOUR IMPRESSION OF THE PERFORMING ARTS HERE?
It’s fresh, innovative and Canberra has a lot of talent. It’s also welcoming, accessible and diverse. In a relatively short space of time, I have become part of a thriving arts community.…and I love it! Coming home has given me a wonderful space to allow all my skills to come together.
YOU ALSO TEACH AT THE CANBERRA ACADEMY OF DRAMATIC ART. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING ACTORS?
I consistently advise my students in my classes to ‘give themselves permission’. Such permission to allow themselves to experiment, let go of their inbuilt structures and bias and to simply play! To commit to making strong choices, be fearless and test their comfort zone(s), and to tread without caution – not just to stretch yourself now and then but to continually grow and challenge yourself. I also say that it’s ok to break a few rules, in this way, you build trust in yourself, your teachers and your cohort. I also adopt the advice of my LA-based mentor Lisa Pescia who taught me that ‘I am Enough’- always be a person, not an actor as we all have our own unique individual thumb print, which identifies our story.
WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?
Recently, I have been introduced to local author Yuan Jur. I have had the privilege to be able to contest my ideas on the role of the writer and the role of the actor. I am learning about the fluidity of movement and that there is ‘no wasted movement’ and that we are the sum of our decisions. This has led me to explore the narrative and the arc of a story; how writers write; what is included and most importantly what is left out…this (I believe) is where the actor comes in and possess our unique signature to inform a character and the opportunity (if we allow it be so) to build the profile and the person as written – we bring the life and breath to the character and a version of truth to our role. I strongly believe in many ways that this is our duty of care as artists.
WHAT ARE YOU READING AND WATCHING CURRENTLY?
Ernest Hemingway and Stephen King on writing – two very different authors in two different timescapes. I am planning next year to debut as a Director of my first feature film set in a prison. I am therefore avidly watching crime dramas and documentaries and speaking to practitioners in the field of mental health.