The truth about acting with Tula Tzoras

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What does it take to survive in the entertainment industry? Tula Tzoras tells Clare Kennedy.

After about twenty–six years in the entertainment industry as an actor and presenter, Tula Tzoras has picked up a few lessons she believes worth sharing.

Persistence is important, but developing a strong sense of your authentic self – and prioritising your health are a few of the lessons in her career guide for creatives.

Written in a warm and conversational style, and full of practical tips at each chapter's end, The Truth About Acting is laced with anecdotes that illustrate the traps for the unaware.

Perhaps the first hard lesson came when Tzoras was a university graduate, and offered a role in a pilot being shot for a new series. Her joy at winning the role suffered a blow when her fiancé gave her an ultimatum because there was a kissing scene.

She chose the man, not the role, and lived to regret it – especially when the engagement ended in tears. "Never again would I deny my own truth and my own work. I had to be accepted for who I was," she writes in the book.

One thing Tzoras has never lacked is persistence, imagination – and a bit of cheek. Aged 20, and nursing dreams of landing a serious acting gig, she posed as a courier at Channel 10 in a bid to get a meeting with a then powerful casting agent for a high profile Australian series.

All went to plan and she scored an appointment with the formidable gatekeeper. But sitting in the meeting, surrounded by promo shots of established actors looking down, reality set in. "The agent tore strips off me for wasting her time when there were so many trained actors asking for a gig," she recalls, ruefully. (Years later she'd win two guest spots on that very show, but many bridges had to be crossed first.)

After that meeting, Tzoras was inconsolable for a week – but pulled herself together to meet the director of a rival TV production company. At the time, she says, she'd thought it was her last chance to get a break.

What a difference a few kind words can make. "He said, 'I can see you've got something and I'm going to help you,'" Tzoras recalls. She left his office with a list of instructions, including classes he recommended she attend, and an appointment with a reputable agent. "I had gone from devastation to absolute elation. I was flying so high! From then on my career really began," she writes in the book.

Actually, it was just the beginning of a rollercoaster ride that lead to the highs of touring with the Victorian Arts Centre, performing as a walking talking dictionary in rock musical Therapy and playing Con the Fruiterer's daughter, Toula, with The Comedy Company, which gave her the thrill of riding on a float at the Moomba Parade.

Although her career seemed to be taking off, she was struggling to deal with the time spent in between waiting for each new role. "I would behave destructively because I was so disappointed. I took every rejection personally," she says.

A move to Sydney opened up new opportunities and drew the actress into a new circle of artistic friends. She began making short films and was a finalist in the Tropfest Film Festival with She Saw the See Saw, about a girl who was both a victim and an empowered individual – a theme Tzoras could see playing out in her own life.

She had suffered from anxiety from a young age, and decided it was time to take stock and to begin the quest to live a healthy life. However, this did not stop her overdoing things, she says, leading to her collapse with chronic fatigue syndrome – something she manages to this day.

The ability to bounce back after a setback came to her aid. The illness, she says, led her on a tour of self–discovery and ultimately, a journey towards a healthy and balanced life.