Rising star Hunter Page-Lochard comes up swimming

Originally published on Hijacked (20 March 2015)

With a ballerina mother and a choreographer father, Hunter Page-Lochard is performing arts royalty here in Australia. Hijacked chats to the rising star about family, theatre and breaking into Hollywood.

At just six months old, he debuted on stage, held aloft by his father, the renowned choreographer, Stephen Page, in the Bangarra Dance Theatre production of Praying Mantis Dreaming. By age seven, he had guest starred on the television series Water Rats and performed in his own right in Skin, another creation of the Bangarra, now our leading Indigenous arts company.

Today, his credits range from SBS’s East West 101 to the Queensland Theatre Company’s production Black Diggers and on further still to feature films such as Bran Nue Dae, Around the Block and The Sapphires.

But, if you’re feeling intimated, don’t.

For Page-Lochard, artistic success is all about passion. “You’ve got to be hungry for it,” he tells Hijacked. “You can easily get picked up by someone, but talent will only take you so far. At the end of the day, it’s all up to you. It’s endurance.”

And, in Page-Lochard’s case at least, that passion may have been inherited. His mother, Cynthia Lochard was formerly a ballerina with the New York City Ballet and appeared on screen (and in legwarmers) for the ’80s classic Fame. Numbering among his uncles, meanwhile, are performer and composer, David Page, and the late dancer, Russell Page.

“I knew what that world was early on,” says Page-Lochard. “I think I fell in love with it straight away.”

Indeed, much of his childhood was staged under the bright lights of the Bangarra Dance Theatre, where his father has long worked as artistic director.

Page-Lochard recalls those days as “a beautiful blur,” speaking of times when he would be “dressed up in front of the family” to perform a little piece of dance or theatre.

“I guess I was thrown in the deep water,” he says. “And I came up swimming.”

But, growing up in stage wings didn’t automatically guarantee him a smooth ride into the world of professional acting.

“I used to struggle a lot with racial type-casting,” says Page-Lochard. “It made me feel at one point that that was all I could do as an actor. But it gave me a certain kind of fuel to do more as well.

“And it is changing quite a lot these days. People are starting to see talent instead of just a character that they need this blackfella to play because in their mind it’s a blackfella character. It’s cool to actually be recognized as an actor.”

This month, Page-Lochard is playing the leading role of Orestes in Belvoir’s reimagining of the classic Greek tale Elektra/Orestes. But, while the show opened Tuesday to what he considered “a great response,” this is one actor who won’t be reading the reviews.

“I have a rule that I don’t read reviews,” he says. “I let other people tell me how my work was perceived. Then again, if you become an actor, you need to accept that criticism, constructive or otherwise, is the one thing that you’ll be dealing with for the rest of your life. You can’t let it bring you down.”

While Page-Lochard is still very much on the rise in Australian theatre, receiving a Sydney Theatre award in January for Best Newcomer, the young actor also has his eye on film.

“I’d love to write and create my own movies one day and I’d love to try my luck in the US as an actor,” he says.

“In Australia, we make some great films but we also tend to be spoon-fed the same family dramas and Gallipoli stories. No wonder so many actors want to go to America and Europe. There we can play an emperor’s son or a junkie in a cool indie film. I think that’s why a lot of Australians do theatre too. That’s where they get that fun.”

For his fellow young thespians, Page-Lochard leaves behind this advice: “In our industry, it really is about your credits. Like a dancer, every time you learn a new step, your body gets stronger so get as many credits as you can and grow from them. Most of all, find what your passion and soul is and do that.”

“Die trying,” he adds with a laugh.

By Sherryn Groch

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