Siberia is going strong and attracting wonderful reviews and attention. Which means Esther is also gaining more attention in the US so here’s her first interview straight from LA. Great insight and gorgeous photos!
When we meet in a homey Los Angeles restaurant, Esther Anderson immediately eschews a cocktail and instead orders a cup of mint tea. “We had our premiere party last night, and I can only handle tea right now,” the Australian actress confesses with a wry smile. The Hollywood Hills fête was given in honor of Anderson’s new show, NBC’s supernatural thriller Siberia. A scripted hybrid of Survivor and Lost, Siberia follows a group of strangers who have agreed to compete in a reality show about surviving in the wilderness. Viewers who tuned into the pilot without reading up on the show surely thought it was real; it’s filmed just like Survivor, complete with sum-up confessionals, and the host, Jonathon Buckley, was actually the host for Lifetime’s 2012 reality competition Love for Sail. Considering the state of “reality” TV these days—where violent outbreaks and even suicides are, sadly, no longer surprising—the fact that a Siberia “contestant” dies in the first episode seemed totally, well, real.
To further blur the line between reality and drama, the cast members play characters with their own names, and each of them takes on a stereotypical archetype, like the nerd, the tomboy, the cocky dreamboat…or the gorgeous model. Though Anderson is, in fact, a former model (in person, she’s even more stunning, with flashing blue-green eyes), she’s quick to draw a distinction between the real Esther and the Esther that’s showcased on Siberia. “We are quite different,” she says. “My character’s moral compass is on the wrong setting at times.”
Anderson, who grew up in the Australian port city Geelong, moved to L.A. in 2011, after a four-year stint starring in the Aussie soap Home and Away. “I got my first taste of pilot season in L.A.,” she recalls. “It is so competitive. Everyone in the world is there doing the same thing, but I had to challenge myself to do something different, and Siberia is unlike any other drama.” While shooting, the show runners kept much of the plot confidential to maintain an authentic reality show feel. “I don’t want to give too much away, but someone did really get hurt on set and we all reacted to it in a real way,” adds Anderson. “It will make for interesting television.”
Five years before booking Siberia, while hosting a travel show called Postcards in Australia, Anderson visited a clairvoyant at a mind, body, and spirit festival in Melbourne and was told she was destined for a great life as an actress. “I’d always wanted to get into acting, but it was that fear of whether you can or you can’t,” she says of her initial doubt in her ability to give a believable performance. She had started modeling as a teen, doing promotion for her mother’s boutique and her father’s bridal shop. “My mom encouraged me to call some modeling agencies, and I remember being so nervous because I was only 5 feet 7 inches and I thought all models had to be 5 feet 8 inches,” she explains. “When I rang one I said I was 7 feet tall and hung up on them when I realized what I’d said!” she adds with a laugh. She eventually snagged an agent and was backpacking in Europe when recruiters came calling. Asked to furnish photos of herself in a bikini, she hustled to get them done in time. “I’d met this guy in a museum who’d painted my portrait,” she confides. “We’d had a bit of a romantic rendezvous, and I had to say to him, ‘Will you take some photos of me?’ You should have seen me in the backyard of his apartment, trying to pose in a bikini! [The photos] were horrendous, but they still hired me.”
When she arrived in Tokyo, Anderson began to book commercials, which spawned her love of acting. “I had, like, no lines and I was doing deodorant and toilet paper commercials, but I loved it!” she enthuses. After moving back to Australia in 2005, she studied acting for about four years before booking a role as a lesbian cop on Home and Away. “That role certainly made the headlines,” she says with a chuckle between bites of shrimp and grits. Now in Hollywood, Anderson’s role in Siberia, is “a real shift,” she says. “Acting is something I can do for the rest of my life. I never get bored and never stop learning.”