For our next cast Q&A, we have Robert Miniter, the actor behind my favourite character, Nathan.
After Nightfall is a huge ensemble cast of interesting and complex characters. Tell us about your character and how they fit into the story.
Nathan Kelty is the only son of Pat and Ed Kelty and the ex-boyfriend of Troy McLeavey. He lives in the small town Australia struggling with divergent paths that lay ahead of him.
The product of two worlds that battle away internally for control of his identity, his internal truth and an external persona. His parents are religious, overtly conscious of how the community sees them. They maintain the respectable appearance of the class nuclear family (minus the daughter, which I’m sure carries a lot of anxiety). Nathan must fit into this mould. However, he conceals a truth centred around his sexuality. Fearing the shame of his family he hides it away fastidiously.
This world is all threatened to come undone by Troy, who upon falling in love with Nathan wishes to free him by publicly declaring their relationship. Keeping in mind the fear of his parents (rightly so, mind you), Nathan abandons the relationship and hides any evidence from his family. His crafted world intact. That is, until Ed and Pat find the letters that Troy sent Nathan stashed in his room, setting in motion a chain of traumatic events Nathan would endure culminating in a discovery of courage and identity.
Nathan is afraid of the power of his own identity to reshape his reality, truth would mean to relearn everything it is to be himself. What kind of man that would make him? Nathan is on a journey discovering a new way of living, an independence in himself.
How did you become involved with After Nightfall and what made you want to be part of it?
Wayne Tunks came to me with the role. In the past I had performed a thematically similar role at Short + Sweet 2017 (a devised piece lovingly mostly-written by Erin Middleton while I tried to help), when Wayne was the Festival Director, so in a way I guess that was my audition. Working with Wayne is always a pleasure. Immensely hard working and driven to create HIS work. If Wayne comes with a role, you pretend to read it, then say yes.
When Wayne came to me with the part I saw quite a lot of my own anxieties of identity interlaced in Nathan’s story. My formative years were a bit tense between myself and the family at times, and like Nathan a lot of my adolescence was plagued with the struggles of fitting in. I saw a lot of potential to reflect that side of Nathan and was ready to offload my years into his story.
What made you get into acting?
Drama in Year 7. Like a lot of young theatre kids I found a confidence on the stage that I lacked in my everyday life. Investigating another struggles can tell you a lot about how to address your own. So, the stage really shaped my growth as a young boy, and helped immensely with school.
However, I played a cameo role in a year 7 play and had an awful night on stage, was scarred for two years. Still did Drama at school, but it wasn’t until year 9 when my teacher forced me to take a small bit-part in our biannual school musical (Guys and Dolls) that I got back into it. After that it was as many school productions as I could manage, then HSC Drama and immediately heading to training at Sydney Theatre School after Year 12.
What is your favourite memory on set?
The night where Nathan first kisses Yardley. I’ll be honest, I had never kissed a man before that night. Not only was I nervous about an intimate scene (as you get anyways), but for some reason I had a swell of anxiety about what that would mean for what people I grew up, or people in general.
Of course, immediately after the first take I felt all of that wash away. All of a sudden I realised how silly I was to think it was anything other than two people sharing a loving moment. Honestly I was quite embarrassed at myself for getting so worked up.
That whole night on set was such a great lesson for me personally and professionally. The scene gave a great freedom to Nathan, it was written with such care. As an actor you yearn for those scenes to really flesh out such beautiful moments. Everyone has them, that rush of adrenaline as you kiss someone for the first time when you were younger, beginning to discover love in your life. It’s a wild time, one I remember so fondly. To explore these universal coming-of-age moments reverberates to audiences everywhere.
None of those scenes are possible without having a kind and supportive team there with you. I’m so thankful that Adam Haylock was my Yardley. With Adam there, Wayne and Nic too, the whole shoot was such a pleasure.
Were you shocked by the killer’s reveal in Season 2?
I mean, COME ON! How despicable, how deplorable, how inconceivably abhorrent would you have to be to do something like that!
Won’t say who, but my word was I shook. Truly, didn’t see it coming. Had my suspicions firmly placed elsewhere…
What do you love most about the role you played?
Nathan is the embodiment of what so many of us struggle with in our adolescence. Thought it may not be the same narrative. His journey brings forward those questions of individual identity that we have to answer as we shed off the impressions our upbringing has on us. Discovering who we want to be means departing from what others wish us to be, potentially causing conflict. Having the chance to revise those moments from my adolescence and reflect on them now was a gift that Nathan gave me.
Nathan was by far my favourite character in the series, because he reminds me of a close friend who went through very similar circumstances to him. What was it like, playing a character in such a terrible situation, especially considering this really happens to so many people? Do you think Nathan would ever be able to recover from what happened to him?
Wayne gave him such an authentic arch and I’m so thankful to have been able to walk in his shoes albeit for a brief time. He embodies a terrible struggle that so many experience on a daily basis.
It’s hard to play Nathan, I think. I mean that as; how as an actor are you able to comprehend such an inner war occurring every waking moment within people that cannot be themselves, and must maintain an iron clad persona. Knowing that so many people experience this trauma there is a weight of responsibility to give it your full respect and do it right. For many it is akin to life or death. Such gravity means you must give this story the same deep truth it has given you, you must lay yourself out just as those who experience this do. For me, that meant investigating my formative years. Asking myself tough questions of the person I was pretending to be towards the end of school. How that has impacted my emotional and interpersonal identity as an adult. There is of course more to it, but thats between me and Nathan.
Nathan will recover I think. Nonetheless he won’t ever be the same, nor will he ever be able to shed his trauma. His experiences, like us all, shape his character. Although it is awful to say, from where I stand I see his trauma as a necessary evil to him embracing and finally loving himself. Ultimately, cards Nathan and others were dealt are vile. To regain his power he had to fight back. No one should ever have to experience such trauma. No, it’s truly an injustice that a person would put with such pain. Fighting back gave Nathan, and I think it gives others experiencing this, the necessary power to take back control of their lives. Never hiding the scars, instead finding power in that pain, power they can use against those who deny them justice. To find themselves, at last.
The scenes where Nathan was tortured was hard to watch. But often on movie sets, the most intense scenes can be the most lighthearted when the cameras aren’t rolling. Was the scene as hard to film as it was for the viewers to sit through?
Those days on set are always a balance of keeping it professional, and a bit relaxed. You don’t want to end up with a joyous atmosphere whilst you attempt to delve into pain, the same said for the inverse. On the day we had a great balance of focus as we shot this distress, balancing it out with light hearted banter to keep us all energised. It’s something you never plan or discuss, just the result of a great understanding team.
I’ve never been tortured, so what would it be like? Wayne and Nic found us a great scary shed, equipment and lighting. Even the battery sparks were real. It was all very authentic. You are aware that everyone else has done their job so well, all you need to do is commit, and avoid taking the piss. Finding authentic pain, without going over the top is key.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned or taken away from this project, either personally or professionally?
Personally, understanding yourself is crucial to bettering yourself when departing on life’s journey. Being true to an inner truth, disregarding what people want you to be. Professionally, tools and work ethics to better understand and authentically embody a character. Connections to great, hardworking people that I aspire to work with again.
What’s next for you?
At the moment, I’m on exchange in Canada for university until December. After travelling more I come home in February and finish my last year at RMIT. Next year I hope to make my own film, land some roles and properly commit to a career in acting. Perhaps move back to Sydney? I don’t know. But I’m over here in Canada having a hard look at myself, figuring some things out.