Claire van der Boom is a self-described “Aussie bogan” and an actor based in LA. Over a bowl of granola (with milk) Billabout catches up with her about the entertainment industry, her childhood and how toilet humour saves her nerves during auditions.
How long have you lived in the US?
It’s coming up three years but last year I only spent four months here because I was working in Australia. I won my green card in the lottery.
What do you think of it?
I do love it but it’s kind of a love-hate relationship. I’m still an Aussie bogan so I need to go back to Australia a lot to see my family and friends.
You’re a Bogan?
You can take the girl out of Broome, but you can’t take Broome out of the girl. I talk about body parts, bowl functions and I really like swearing.
What was your childhood like?
I grew up in Perth in Cable Beach; we had dingo dogs and we lived in a comfy shack. I slept in a little bed next to my mom and dad and my brothers, it was a very simple existence. We didn’t have fancy toys, I just had hand-me-down G.I. Joes and my brother’s pajamas…you know how they build boys’ pajamas with holes? Where the @#$% goes? I used to say, “Mom can you at least sew this shit up? This isn’t fair. You tell me to be a lady and then you give me these pajama pants!”
When did you first realize you wanted to be an actor?
A teacher gave me a monologue for an Australian play about a twenty-something-year-old mum talking about the depression and living in the slums. It’s this beautiful long monologue about living in happy valley and trying to make ends meet. I went home and couldn’t put the thing down, I just learned it line for line. The next day I got up in front of the class and started, and the teacher could see that I had been working on it and knew it off by heart. She said, “Put the paper down” and I was like, “No, no.” I wanted to be cool about it, but I was so drawn to it. She could see that I had been working on it for eight hours trying to decipher what it all meant. She was the one who encouraged me to pursue acting.
Is the industry as tough as it looks from the outside?
When kids ask me, “Should I go into the industry?” I’m careful to encourage it; it’s not easy. I’ve been doing it for five years and I still have my periods of unemployment and moments when you think, “Fuck why didn’t I do something else?”
Tell us about when you first arrived in LA.
For the first few months I lived in a big share house and when I arrived, this guy came up the stairs and was like “Claire what are you doing here?” It was Nathan Butler, one of the boys I knew from my first year at Nida. Most of us in the house were Australian musicians or cameramen. It was a really creative environment, but definitely a fun house too.
What do you make of the Aussies in LA?
There’s a huge network of Aussies in LA. Agents will tell you, “Get off Neighbours, go to LA and get in the next Transformers.” There’s an amazing organization called Australians in Film that organize screenings, but I’m not really good at all that networking. I hate that question, ‘What are you doing?’ It just makes you feel small if you’re not working and if you are working, you don’t want to sound arrogant. Although I actually really like the Australians taking on a bit of the American attitude and just claiming it “I’m an actor in LA.”
How does it differ to being an actor in Australia?
In Australia you’re kind of always apologizing for being an actor and you’re not allowed to be a wanker about it. In our Aussie nature, we work really hard and we’re willing to have a real go, but then we’re not willing to celebrate it or publicize ourselves, and unfortunately that’s a lot of the way that you become a success in America.
Have you ever lied about where you’re from for a part?
I tried it once, and it was the biggest balls on ever. I just gave up halfway through and was like “I’m totally not from Boston. I’m Australian.” The most important thing to me is to remember where you came from, who you are, and what you want to represent. In American publicity, they’re always trying to mold you, “Should we cut your hair in red fucking bob and you’ll be the next whatever?”
How do you get over audition nerves?
I just try to imagine them [the producers] sitting on the toilet.
Which Hollywood starlets do you admire most and why?
I really admire Julianne Moore and Kate Winslett, the women who have babies, families and a career. I like them in interviews, they’re smart women. They’re people that talk about their work and have a life going on that no one knows about, and they’re balancing it the best they can. They’re at a level where they can get nannies and it would be so fucking easy, but they want to raise their own children.
Interview by Pete Maiden