“It’s basically going from the rainforest and reef to the dusty desert,” explains Tasia Zalar of the difference between her homeland in Far North Queensland and the set of Australian television series Mystery Road in Kununurra, Western Australia. “It’s completely different!”
Despite the stark contrast, it didn’t take long for the Cairns-born Gurugulu woman to tap into the slow-moving, vast outback lifestyle to play Shevorne Shields – the local barmaid with a troubled past full of secrets – in the second season of the ABC drama, which premiered earlier this month. “We went to a rodeo and that was it … I was like, ‘why don’t I have a horse in the script?’” admits Zalar, stepping into her role (and a pair of dusty thongs) with ease. “It’s the perfect place to study. You see all that red dirt and dust and you suddenly realise you’re in the middle of nowhere, which is perfect for the script.”
While the red dirt plays a central role, the series also stars renowned Australian actors Judy Davis and Deborah Mailman. “[Davis] is quietly confident. She just gets on with her job and I want to learn how to be like that,” shares Zalar, 28, who was nominated for the Graham Kennedy Award for Most Popular New Talent in 2019, and is well on her way to following in Davis’ acclaimed footsteps.
But she has a backup plan, just in case. “If it all fails, I guess I can go into music. I am currently dabbling in producing electronic and hip-hop music. Oh, and I like to rap.” Look out Judy Davis and Missy Elliott, there’s a new multi-talented kid on the block.
Watch Mystery Road season two on ABC now.
Main image photographed by Alicia Jade.