/News 27.06.24

First Nations Spotlight: Kartanya Maynard

trawlwoolway actress Kartanya Maynard could best be described as an all-round storyteller. Best known for her roles in TV shows including Netflix’s Heartbreak High, Amazon Prime’s Deadloch and ABC’s Gold Diggers, this year Kartanya has returned to theatre, as well as undertaking an attachment role on Netflix’s production of The Survivors – not to mention, she is also a musician. Whether she is in front of or behind the camera, or gracing the stage, Kartanya has proven she is a powerhouse performer and artist – talent that was recognised by the Casting Guild of Australia when they named her as one of their 2023 Rising Stars.

It sounds like you’ve been juggling a few different projects. Tell us what you’re currently working on.

I have! I’m currently performing in Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Stolen by Jane Harrison. I haven’t done theatre since 2020 so it’s been an amazing time. I also have a few other screen projects up my sleeve, but I must stay tight-lipped for now. What I can tell you is that I’ve been cast in a really cool film called COOEE that I’m super stoked to be collaborating on.

How does theatre differ from acting for the cameras, and what kind of preparation do you need to undertake?

Theatre and screen are two very different beasts but there are similarities. Both require text analysis, characterisation and establishing trust with your fellow cast, crew and director.

The adrenaline you experience from theatre is hard to replicate anywhere else, and the ability to be subtle on screen allows you to explore the more delicate side of your craft.

I’m thankful to have experience in both mediums.

How has your experience been working on Stolen with the Sydney Theatre Company, and how does it feel to tell audiences such an important and powerful story?

My experience working on Stolen has been truly incredible. It is an honour to now be a part of the play’s legacy and to help in giving a voice to members of the stolen generations. At times I feel so warm and happy working with my fellow actors, crew and the incredible Ian Michael, our director, but then there are times it feels hard to breathe. The weight of so much trauma and the knowledge that there are many members of our communities that have the same stories as these children we play is heartbreaking.

I have time at the end of the play to look out into the audience and it’s so hard not to cry. I see how moved everyone in that room is, seeing the true power of this story affect people in real time.

Kartanya Maynard in Sydney Theatre Company’s Stolen, 2024. Photo: Daniel Boud ©

Can you tell us about some of the experiences you had working on set for Deadloch and Heartbreak High? What was it like playing two very different characters?

I had so much fun working on both Deadloch and Heartbreak High because not only are they both fantastic projects, but I got to play opposite characters.

Miranda (Deadloch) is this somewhat shy girl who only speaks if she has something to say and prefers to observe those around her. She quietly overachieves in the background and is a constant support for her family and friends around her. Her loyalty and strong cultural morals really shine through.

Zoe (Heartbreak High) is a natural-born leader who has so much confidence it sometimes leads her to a delusional state of mind where she can’t really read the room. She is fiery, passionate about what she believes in and regardless of what people say about her, she always chooses to march to the beat of her own drum.

Both characters have this beautiful confidence – one is just much louder than the other.

Kartanya Maynard and Leonie-Whyman in Deadloch

Recent series that you’ve starred in, such as Deadloch and Heartbreak High, have featured First Nations characters and narratives in a way that feels authentic. How important is it to you that there is representation of diverse First Nations characters, particularly from your own culture, on screen?

It is extremely important for First Nations people to see themselves on screen, in the theatre and across all the arts because it inspires our future storytellers to chase their dreams. Before becoming an actor, I had never seen a Tasmanian Aboriginal character on screen, and then to suddenly go on to be one of the first was a wonderful but dizzying experience! I’ve watched Deadloch so many times, just getting a kick out of seeing my community represented.

It makes me reflect on a lot of what-ifs. What if I had seen something like Deadloch sooner?

Would I have kept my dream of being an actor to myself for so long?

I feel proud and thankful to have played so many staunch and deadly blak women in my career, and I hope to play many more in the future.

Megan Wilding, Mathew Cooper, Kartanya Maynard, Stephanie Somerville and Jarron Andy in Sydney Theatre Company’s Stolen, 2024. Photo: Daniel Boud ©

You also recently worked as a Creative Production attachment on Netflix series The Survivors. What was it like being on the other side of the camera, and how has this experience shaped your future goals?

It was so much fun being on the other side of the camera! Being an actor on set means a lot of preparing for your scene, which can be really isolating at times. During my attachment I got to see and learn all of what needs to happen before, during and after we shoot. I was lucky to bounce around a few different departments so I could learn as much as I could in the eight weeks I was attached to the shoot. This attachment taught me everything that goes into getting a movie or TV show off the ground and, more importantly, taught me that I can do it too. I’ve come off the attachment feeling so inspired to create my own future projects.

What are you hoping to do next?

I’m hoping to go on to act some more because it’s just so much fun and so very rewarding, but I would really like to get some of my own projects off the ground. I’d love to have a go at directing in the future, but I’m honestly just really enjoying where the tide takes me right now.

With thanks to the Sydney Theatre Company for the cover and stage production imagery