Tess Dobré talks with April Shepherd about all things Sugar Cube, Melbourne’s hospitality community and portraying strong female protagonists.
Hey Tess! All of us here at Janks Reviews loved your new film Sugar Cube, it was so interesting to see the underbelly of the Melbourne hospitality scene on the big screen.
Have you yourself ever worked in hospitality?
Yes, I have, as an actor, I’ve spent heaps of time in hospitality! Melbourne specifically. For a while I worked in St Kilda.
How did you go bringing to life the people of that community?
I don’t really think I did that on my own, I think as a collective, everyone that works at the café in Sugar Cube did.
One of the things that speaks to me is that community and the spirit and the humour from just going through the day to day life, working in hospitality; it’s such a community thing of going through it all together with the people that you’re working with.
All of your lives blend together. There are so many creatives and everything is shared with everyone else – like if you need a shift covered for an audition then everyone knows about it and everyone asks how you went. You are truly in it together.
How was filming Sugar Cube in Melbourne, seeing as you’re based out of Sydney? How did you get approached and choose to take on this project?
I was living in Melbourne at the time and I’m in Sydney at the moment. I go between Sydney and Melbourne, depending on what I’m working on. I had at that time been living in Melbourne for five years. I was in Adelaide over Christmas when I first read the script and I just liked that Sarah’s character was so fleshed out and had this distinct voice and journey she was on, so I sent a self-take in January.
How was this project different from what you’ve been doing recently in your career?
At the time I had been doing a lot of improvised comedy with the Improve Conspiracy in Melbourne, so I was in a comedy troop called Skeleton Kisses.
I’d been doing a lot of comedy on one hand and then in a lot of my training that I did in Melbourne, had been working on a lot of dramatic pieces. So I sort of had this weird combination of doing a lot of training in comedy and a lot of training in drama.
The timing of Sugar Cube brought together the two beautifully because it was initially a comedy (Sugar Cube), but I guess as I connected more to the truth of my character, it became more a dramedy.
How was representing Sarah refreshing for you, how did you do her character justice?
When I went to the cast and crew screening I had such a weird reaction seeing it for the first time, because when working on Sarah you look at everything she’s going through and then you take off all judgement and make that true to you and go through it as her. But then watching it back, I was in the cinema and after half way through I was just watching it like ‘oh my gosh girlfriend get your shit together’!
I loved that she wasn’t just serving a role as a love interest. I’ve gone for so many roles that were exactly that, or playing like ‘flirty girl’ or ‘the hot friend’, which are some of the auditions you go for sometimes. It was so refreshing.
I loved that she was just a real living, breathing, young lady trying to work out her place in the world and that attracted me to her. I could really relate to her stage of life, trying to make sense of who she is, and what was important to her. And she stretched me in many ways; the way she just shows up in the world and her voice is so different to mine, which was part of what was so exciting to play her.
She was so refreshing, her potty mouth, her messiness. She’s like a great manager and very capable but behind the scenes, she feels like she’s falling to pieces. And I loved that about her, I think we’re seeing more and more honest characters gracing our scenes which is fantastic because that’s what people love right? Getting to see all of someone, not just one layer or one part.
The film is written, produced and directed by Luke Jacobson, who also plays a supporting cast member, how was it working alongside Jacobson (and taking him seriously whilst his character was so cheeky)?
Luke is fantastic, his character is so cheeky and when you wrote that (interview question) I realised that I didn’t really see Luke when he was filming his parts, so it was such a delightful surprise to see the joy and the cheek that he brought to the film when I watched it back for the first time.
My relationship with him over filming was very different. I rarely saw that cheeky fun side that was his character when he was filming his parts. He really set out to create a story that shone a light on Melbourne’s coffee scene whilst telling the story of these characters who were both complex and flawed and it’s such a credit to him that he boldly set out to do that.
There’s a lot of coffee art featured in the film, were you guys making it yourselves or fuelling your caffeine addiction elsewhere?
I love this! A lot of the barista artwork was made specifically by an exceptional barista they called in.
What’s next or you?
I’m auditioning for a few roles in Australian projects at the moment, which I probably can’t say the names of just yet. As well as some US work which is exciting so we’ll just see. Since Sugar Cube I’ve done a really small role on Home and Away and some other films. I’m excited to just keep growing in our industry and bringing to life flawed, big-hearted and ambitious characters.