Photographer Joshua Shultz
Stylist Ali levine
Location Copper Horse Riding Ranch
Bellus Magazine (BM): How long have you been acting?
Stef Dawson (SD): I discovered a love of acting when I was little, my first role was Mary in the nativity play in kindergarten! That was my first taste of acting and I loved it. I did many plays in school, including my favorite- Kate from Shakespeare’s ‘The taming of the shrew’. Kate is so fiery and cool, that was a real turning point for me, when I really knew that this was my passion and what I wanted to do! I then sought out anything I could get my hands on, other plays and films and made my poor Mum drive me out of my hometown to find them and it all started from there! My first professional role was in a TV show called “All Saints”, where I played ‘Tully McIntyre’, a teenage girl that fell of her horse and became paralyzed, a role that really resonated with me because it could have easily been me, horse riding was my other passion, especially with what I used to get up to!
BM: I hear you did some pretty rad stuff with horses when you where younger. Can you tell us about that?
SD: Horses were such a huge part of my life growing up. Where we kept our horses there happened to be this crazy sport called ‘Vaulting’ which is gymnastics or dance on horseback. It is such a beautiful sport to watch, kind of entrancing, a horse is lunged in a circle and the performer dances on the horse’s back, all to music. My sister and I joined together and loved it so much. It was hard work and we took it very seriously, competing at National competitions around the country. I think it gave us this courage to do things that scared us and a discipline in that art form that turned out to be vital in my ambition to become an actress.
The bond between a girl and her horse is so strong. My horse was called ‘Milky Bar’ and looked exactly like the horse in this shot!! Milky bar was a legend, he survived a bushfire and got quite a few people through some tough times. His favorite thing to do was round up cows on Sundays. He turned a little cray cray with excitement if he figured out he was about to get to round up a cow haha.
BM: What is it like getting to play Annie in the “Hunger Games” films?
SD: I feel so incredibly honored to have been able to bring Annie to life. It truly was one of the best moments in my life to play Annie and I am forever grateful to all those involved, not only to have worked with such an amazing team and these iconic artists who happen to be also so grounded and genuine and playful but also give voice to Suzanne’s stories, which are so important and poignant in today’s world.
Suzanne Collins created such incredibly complex and rich characters and Annie is such a beautiful role with an amazing backstory. She is beloved by the franchise and by me, as I loved the books so much. She has had to survive the odds and fight for love. Finnick and Annie’s love story is a symbol of hope in a dark world. She has such great fragility but fights her own mind to find her strength. I feel so blessed to have been a part of such a great legacy that is The Hunger Games.
BM: What can you tell us about the Lennon Report?
SD: ‘The Lennon Report’ is a film about the events the night John Lennon was killed, told through the eyes of the first responders. I played a young nurse, Barbara Kammerer who was hands on at the hospital and comforting Yoko Ono while trying to keep the media at bay. Many of those who were there that night have come on board this film to tell their story for the first time, hoping to correct a lot of mis-information out there, so it is a fascinating film which is gaining a lot of interest at the moment.
BM: What is next for you?
SD: I have a few other films coming out very soon. I played the lead in ‘Creedmoria’, a coming of age story about a teenage girl ‘Candy’ growing up in Queens in the 80s. I also played the lead in ‘The Paper Store’, a revenge tale about a former college student who forges essays for cash, the client who becomes her lover (Penn Badgley), and their professor (Richard Kind). Earlier this year I also did ‘Clevermann’, an exciting new futuristic drama TV show shot in Australia with a strong indigenous voice at its heart, which has just been picked up by Sundance TV. I am currently back in Australia shooting ‘Nest’, a Chinese-Austalian Sci-Fi action film working with Li Bingbing, Kelsey Grammer and Kellan Lutz and having a blast!
In the near future I hope to give voice to strong female characters and get a few stories off the ground that I am passionate about, with strong female protagonists at their core.
BM: What advice can you give to other aspiring artist out there?
SD: Follow your gut and trust your instincts. You are unique and no one can bring what you bring to the world, so embrace that. Tune out the voices that tell you something is impossible, even if it is your own. It is tough being an artist and it can be scary to put yourself out there or make bold choices. I think bravery is not being without fear but doing something in spite of it. Everyone is different and if you have a burning desire in your heart to give voice to something, do it, it is probably your calling. Oh and play!! Never stop playing J