Tatiana E Silva – The next door is a footstep away

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There’s hardly a day of the year when phones run hotter than a birthday. Whether it’s the jingle of a call tone or the buzz of a text message, our mobiles are a hive of activity on our special day.

Tatiana E Silva received one such call on her 22nd birthday on 22 June 2020. It was a call she never expected, yet it was the best possible gift she could have received.

She answered the call, and on the other end of the line was the Equity Foundation.

“I thought … (it was) something to do with my membership, like it had expired or I had been overcharged!” Tatiana happily recounts.

But Equity had called her with good news. Tatiana was the recipient of the coveted Neighbours internship program, an invaluable chance to immerse herself on the set of the iconic Australian soap.

She had auditioned for the program a few months earlier, expecting little of it.

“I was so excited,” she says. “We’re always told at uni that the very first step is networking. You have to get out, meet as many people as you can, show your face.

“This internship has almost given me that opportunity without having to start out doing it myself.

“I called my mum afterwards. She was like, ‘oh my god, I’m so happy for you!’ It was so exciting.

“I just couldn’t believe it, especially because it was so forgotten - it caught me off guard.”

That Tatiana called her mum straight after speaks volumes of her connection with her parents and two older brothers. Her parents fled East Timor to Portugal amid the ravages of war, where they eventually met before moving to Australia and settling in Darwin.

The Top End capital is where Tatiana lives at the time of writing, having briefly moved to Brisbane to chase her dreams at university.

She describes her family as a tight-knit unit and attributes her acting ambitions to her parents’ real-life experiences.

“I have a great passion for true story acting and documentary-style film, and I think that has a lot to do with my upbringing,” she explains.

“I’m quite close with my family and mum and dad always told me stories about when they grew up in the war and what it was like when they had to move to Portugal. It’s just so inspiring.

“My father was 22 when he fled to Portugal by himself with only $100 in his pocket. He had to start from nothing. That just blows my mind! I grew up in such a stable and secure environment, and that is the environment they provided for us.”

Like every aspect of life, COVID-19 threw up its share of curveballs, but Tatiana eventually found her way to the famous Ramsay Street set in Melbourne.

It’s a setting steeped in Australian folklore whose reach goes as far as the United Kingdom, where Neighbours is a regular fixture.

The show’s alumni are a who’s who of Australian acting: Holly Valance, Liam Hemsworth and Margot Robbie just to name a few. They’ve become household names internationally, starring in a host of blockbuster Hollywood productions in both film and tv.

Tatiana’s own experience on the Neighbours set was as rich and fulfilling as she could have hoped, and then some.

She met Neighbours Casting Director Thea McLeod, who quickly proved an invaluable connection and something of a launch pad.

She explored a range of production aspects alongside acting, describing it as a “full-circle” insight into life as an actor: “Having never been on a professional set before, it was completely new ground for me and it was very necessary as well.

“I think a lot of actors and people who would like to pursue acting lack industry knowledge and maybe just don’t understand that – at the end of the day – it is a job.

“Of course it’s a passion, but it is a job and you’re working with a huge team of people and you really are just a little blimp in that team. You need to deliver whatever it is you’re there for; acting, for example.

“Getting to see what it’s like behind the scenes… I didn’t just do acting-related stuff. I went into sound, editing, plotting, costume, set, everything … I would just be on my feet jumping from department to department, listening in, seeing what it’s like and learning from everyone.

“It gave me a very full-circle idea of what it takes to be an actor and where my role falls and why it’s so important.

“Now that I have that knowledge to take with me I realise it was needed. I’m very, very lucky to have had the experience.”

Add that to Tatiana’s burgeoning performance repertoire – trilingual, acting, dancing, singing and guitar – and the foundations are set for future stardom.

Looking ahead, it’s no surprise Tatiana sees herself performing roles in true stories; in particular, true stories that instil hope in the audience.

“I have learnt a lot from them (mum and dad) and a lot from my own growth, and there are so many films that tell stories like that; films I’ve watched that inspire me in so many ways,” she says.

“I would love to be in a film or to tell a story that’s true and that’s inspiring, that gives you the sense that anything in life is possible.

“You can start from nothing and be anything you want; life is your oyster.”

Asked what her dream role looks like, Tatiana confidently replies: “In a film with Will Smith. That would be a dream come true! I think he’s fantastic. Or in a film with Emily Blunt. I think she is brilliant.

“In 10 to 15 years’ time, I’ll be there.”

We’ve little doubt that soon enough, Tatiana will pick up the phone and hear Smith or Blunt’s voice on the other end. Maybe even on another birthday.