The actor shares the joys and challenges of embodying her character Lisa in Checkpoint Theatre’s latest play “The Fourth Trimester”.

“‘Take a gap year after junior college (JC) to work in the industry and figure out if you’re serious about making acting your career.’ That was what my mum said to me when I told her I wanted to go to drama school.

I’ve always wanted to be an actor, since I was a kid, but I was too shy to express it. I don’t think I would’ve had the confidence to seriously pursue acting as a full-time career if my parents hadn’t been so supportive and encouraging. 

As a teen, I was involved in local TV shows like Moulmein High, and in my gap year, I acted in productions with Wild Rice and I Theatre and on the TV show Light Years.

My gap year experience showed my parents I possessed the self-motivation to live this freelance life. It also solidified my own resolve to be an actor. So in 2004, I started drama school at Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne.

My mum, Sheila Wee, is a professional storyteller. Even though we do very different things in the realm of telling stories, both our crafts require vivid use of the imagination, which she has cultivated in me from a young age. 

In Faith Ng’s new play, The Fourth Trimester, I play Lisa, who’s chosen to be a stay-at-home mum and is at a pivotal moment in her relationship with her husband.

Lisa and I share many similar experiences, but in many ways, completely opposite ones. The desire that Lisa has to nourish her family and care for the people whom she loves, is something I connect with.

Part of the reason why I wanted to be a mother was that curiosity of shaping a life – to give love and a sense of grounding in the world to my son, and then see how he turns out.

The way in which Lisa communicates her feelings is something I’ve been finding challenging to portray. I am in the middle of rehearsals at the moment and just this morning I was thinking, ‘I don’t know how to get into Lisa’s headspace.’ [Laughs] 

I mean, how do I collect all these distinct parts of Lisa’s life and hold them within me to let them out at different moments, right? I don’t quite know yet. But that’s what’s exciting too. 

Our director Claire Wong likes to approach characters from a physical, historical, and emotional sense. And I enjoy coming into rehearsal because she’ll open you up with exercises she comes up with, so I really get to step into and experience this other person’s life.

What convinced me to take up this role were the many cultural touchpoints that I very much identify with. Faith talks about our struggles with work-life balance, societal and self-imposed pressures, and the gender roles that we conform to or rail against.

And the experience of being a first time parent is so astutely captured by Faith. When I read The Fourth Trimester, there were so many moments when I went, ‘Oh I identify with that’ or ‘My husband and I had that argument as well!’ or ‘Oh my gosh, this happens to other people too?!’”  – Julie Wee

Interview by: Cindy Abner