We chat to the young stars of Plausible Deniability, a new Australian comedy. Meet Naomi Ejigu, Lennox Lee, and Mae White…
What made you keen to be part of this show?
Lennox: I liked the role – Tron’s sarcastic and witty character interested me. Also the fact that they wanted [to cast] someone with Vietnamese heritage.
Mae: It was learning about my character, Harriet. I realised she was in a very serious situation.
Naomi: When I got the brief, I did some research on homelessness and got really interested. I wanted to help bring awareness to the issue.
Tell us about your characters. Do you share any similarities with them?
Mae: Harriet always wants to know the truth. She’s curious and doesn’t like being lied to. She’s very close with her nan. We’re similar – I’m very close to my grandparents, and I like to know what’s happening.
Naomi: Abeba is very serious. She does well in school, she’s a good leader and likes to be in charge. We’re quite similar – I’m a very organised person, quite responsible. I like to get my projects done well before the deadline.
Lennox: Tron’s sarcastic, a bit cynical, and very distrustful of adults. He likes to call them out using his dry wit and sarcasm. But with his friends, he’s kind and protective. I can be sarcastic, but not like Tron. He’s much more aggressive and suspicious than me.
How did the audition go – was it nerve-wracking, or did you feel confident?
Naomi: This was the first time I’d acted. I’d never done a face-to-face audition, so I didn’t know what to expect. I was a little nervous. But everyone made me feel really welcome.
Mae: I’d done ads before, but not TV shows or movies. So it was kind of scary. But like Naomi said, they made us feel welcome. I had a really good time.
Lennox: I was in middle of filming a kids’ TV series (Spooky Files), so I’d been playing another character for two months. He’s really different from Tron, so switching between them was a challenge.
When you landed the role, how did your family react – and how did you feel?
Mae: Mum told me in the car after school. I was so excited! My family liked the script – it’s a serious issue, but it’s done in a fun way.
Lennox: We went out for dinner to celebrate. I was very happy, because it’s hard to get acting jobs.
Naomi: My mum was texting our family back in Ethiopia. They were proud of me. I was really excited, but nervous too. I was worried about memorising such a big script and acting in front of all those people.
Has the series sparked off any conversations at home?
Lennox: It gave me the opportunity to explore homelessness a bit more by talking with my dad – trying to understand what life is like for Tron, and others in that situation.
Naomi: My family was surprised that such a wealthy and developed country has so many people who are homeless.
Mae: We talked about how not everyone is fortunate in life. And that when people are homeless, that’s not their fault.
What was the best thing about starring in Plausible Deniability?
Mae: It was fun making new friends. It was cool meeting new actors, all the cast and directors – and having a new [character] come in every day. And I liked playing Harriet.
Naomi: I really enjoyed being on set with everyone. I loved the environment, the acting, the opportunity to work with all these different actors. When you finish filming for the day, it feels really rewarding.
Lennox: Working with experienced actors – seeing what they did with the scripts, the decisions they made.
Do you have a favourite scene?
Naomi: When Abeba gets scared, and I hide under a chair. You see a different side of her in that scene. I really liked that.
Mae: I like the scene where the politician “pivots”.
Lennox: What about the fire extinguisher scene?
Mae: I forgot about that! That was really fun.
The series just launched online. Who do you hope watches it?
Lennox: Maybe people in positions of power – like the people we interview in the show. It would be great if they got inspired to help solve homelessness.
Mae: I wish everyone would watch it. If politicians watched the show, they might realise, “This is not good. We have to change this.”
What’s something you wish more people understood about homelessness?
Naomi: That homeless people are not lazy, or druggies. They’re normal people, just like us. They’re just struggling.
Mae: It’s nobody’s fault if they’re homeless. It’s not a nice thing to go through. They’re human beings, and they deserve the same as everyone else.
Lennox: I wish more people realised how big the issue is – it affects over 120,000 people in Australia. But everyone can help. The three of us have started a fundraiser to raise money for youth homelessness.
Interview by Meg Mundell. Declaration of interest: Meg worked on Plausible Deniability as script producer and episode writer. Created by Random Pictures (Iain Crittenden), the seven-part series is screening online now via Facebook.