Rush: articles

Onscreen and off, Rush's Nicole da Silva shows talent and determination.

Rush job shows staying power

Shoot to thrill, this actor won't take no for an answer, writes Debi Enker.

FOR three seasons on Channel Ten's adrenalin-pumped police series Rush, Nicole da Silva has played a gutsy member of the Tactical Response team. Stella Dagostino can chase suspects up flights of stairs and charge down alleyways or highways without a moment's hesitation. Rebellious by nature and conflicted in her private life, she is a disciplined and courageous cop.

It seems that da Silva carries some of Stella's can-do resolve with her offscreen and it is detectable in the story of how she managed to stage a David Mamet play soon after she graduated from drama school. She had decided to produce and star in A Life in the Theatre, a two-hander about a pair of actors whose career paths intertwine.

A titan of American theatre, Mamet is in part renowned for his muscular dialogue and vigorous dissections of masculinity.

Da Silva intended to change the characters' gender for her play and when Mamet's local agent heard of the plan, she essentially scoffed at the idea that the master's approval might be forthcoming. Da Silva persisted, peppering her with pleas until the besieged agent suggested she contact the writer and explain her idea in order to gain his OK.

On a drive from Sydney to Melbourne, where a play she produced had been invited to a fringe festival, da Silva sat in the back seat with her laptop, agonising over an email to the writer: "I poured my heart and soul into this letter." Within two days — lightning-quick in the literary world — Mamet got back to her, giving her the green light. That lesson in self-belief confirmed to her that "all it takes is an idea and a belief in an idea — just go out there and do it".

Da Silva credits the course at the University of Western Sydney's Theatre Nepean with encouraging her entrepreneurial attitude: "You trained as an actor but when you weren't in a production, you were part of the crew or designing costumes.

"Nepean's holistic approach empowers you because you're out there sourcing your own work, as opposed to waiting for the phone call, which can be so deflating. So I got out and started producing my own theatre."

While da Silva understood from an early age that the unemployment rate among Australian actors was dauntingly high, she aimed to be in the tiny percentage that makes a living from it. So far, so good. As well as generating projects through her production company, she has had relatively steady work in TV and theatre, including the Melbourne Theatre Company's production of A Behanding in Spokane earlier this year. The TV roles started with a 2005 stint on All Saints, followed by a "breakout gig" as EC in the 2007 pay TV drama Dangerous, and a major part in SBS's 2009 detective drama Carla Cametti PD.

Rush producer John Edwards, who cast her in Dangerous, says da Silva's talent was quickly evident, to the extent that they tried in vain to rejig the script so that EC did not die in the fourth episode. "We thought, 'This girl's just remarkable,' because she's not like anybody else: this little Portuguese bombshell who was almost like a tomboy," he says.

When Edwards was assembling the cast for Rush, he wanted her for Stella who, he explains, "was always meant to be the edgiest of our characters".

The fourth season features a central story arc spanning 13 episodes, in which Stella struggles with loss and grief. "The Stella 'meat' that I've had to dig my teeth into has been huge," da Silva says. "We haven't yet seen her evolve into a woman and we wanted to explore that kind of growth and maturity. I was always interested in the level of self-destruction with Stella, the tension between good cop and rebel, and how she could remain likeable yet still do some messed-up stuff."

At this stage, with no certainty of a fifth season, da Silva is going travelling, "living out of a suitcase for a while, like a gypsy".

By Debi Enker
August 25, 2011
Sydney Morning Herald