Andrew Steel was just seven when he discovered what he wanted to do in life. His beard was falling off, his stuffing was falling out, but professional until the end, the Year 2 student knew the show must go on.
“I was playing Santa in the school play, and despite the problems, I did a pretty good job,” he said. “That was it for me and as soon as I left school I was off to the Australian Academy of Dramatic Art and NIDA.”
Since graduating from the National Institute of Dramatic Art in 2010, the Avalon actor’s career has traversed stage, film and television, both in Australia and Los Angeles, where he met his Australian wife and actor, Kym Jackson. In just a couple of days he’s reprising one of his favourite roles, The Weasel in Wind in the Willows, an iconic Sydney experience staged against the stunning backdrop of the Royal Botanic Garden. Shakespeare Australia is celebrating 20 years of performances this year – it’s Andrew’s sixth – with picnicking families enjoying the antics of Moley, Badger, Otter, Portly, Ratty and Mr Toad.
“The Weasel is a great character, mischievous, the bad guy, a little misunderstood and petulant, giving me huge scope to play with. I love it when the children get involved and shout something, it’s not to derail you, it’s because they’re engaged.”
This year Andrew will have a new fan, his four-month-old son Jackson will be watching from the sidelines with his actor wife Kym who Andrew met in LA at his own “welcoming myself to LA kind of party”. The couple has acted together in various productions, including Wish Man where Andrew played the lead role of Frank Shankwitz, the co-founder of the Make-A-Wish foundation.
It was while finding his feet around LA that Andrew became aware of the homeless, triggering him to co-found Flicks4Change, a non-profit screening films focussed on global social issues and meaningful change.
“It’s now a platform for many issues and it’s an honour to bring people together and be inspired to take action and make a difference.”
When COVID decimated the arts industry, Andrew and Kym launched the Secret Actor Society, which aims to teach budding actors about the business side of the industry. A career-coaching program, classes and community support are offered to help actors reach the next level in their career, an initiative was inspired by Kym’s book, The Hollywood Survival Guide for Actors, which is included on NIDA’s reading list.
“There was an incredible window of opportunity during COVID to reach out to professionals who all of a sudden had time available,” Andrew said. “We filmed more than 3,000 frequently asked questions, while interviewing top casting directors, technicians and other specialists about the business of acting to help the acting community be more sustainable.
“We also developed a personalised weekly action step called The Success Path which is tailor-made to suit exactly where you are in your career, whether you are starting out or already a working professional. We just wish there was a resource like that when we started.”
Andrew and Kym returned to Australia for Wind in the Willows a little over a year ago, but decided to put down roots in Avalon when COVID hit, although they’re hoping to return to the US this year to be “on the ground” to explore other opportunities.
“Avalon will remain our main base,” Andrew said. “It’s an exclusive little hub, such a different energy from the mean streets of Hollywood with its relaxed vibe and pretty chilled people. We’re just pinching ourselves to be here, it’s like a fairy tale.”
Bring a picnic