Modern Miss

Online TV show ‘KateModern’ has made a star of Tara Rushton. She tells Dan Poole about becoming a success in the UK.

Now, I’m no fuddy-duddy (or am I if I’m using phrases like “fuddyduddy”?) but when I first heard the words “interactive multimedia drama” I thought it meant that somebody was dishing out a very personal beating to their broken computer. I was quickly taken to one side by a clued-up colleague,who explained that in fact it was the latest form of online entertainment, involving “webisodes” that last for between three and five minutes and are watched on your computer.

It all started in America with LonelyGirl15, an online series which created such a stir that the New York Times ended up investigating whether or not the videos were real. The same team are behind the UK version,KateModern, which airs on the social-networking site Bebo and is now in its second series, which clocked up roughly 3 million hits in its first nine days.

How very interesting, I thought to myself (as I stroked my long beard and adjusted my comfy slippers). Keen to investigate further, I dusted downmy computer to watch a few episodes – sorry, webisodes – and was soon getting involved with the escapades of Gavin, Julia and Steve. However, it wasn’t long before I identified someone who definitely needed to be called upon for further questioning about this internet phenomenon: Tara Rushton.

“People say it’s a little bit like Lost and a little bit like Skins,” explains the really rather lovely Rushton (who plays Charlie in the show) in her broad, Australian accent.“It is based on five 20-somethings who live in East London and it documents their lives.

But there is kind of a sci-fi,mystery element that underlines the whole story because we’re trying to find Kate’s killer.”

Yes indeed: Kate Modern herself was killed off at the start of the second series; a bit of a bold move you might think, but the format of the show means it is constantly breaking new ground.“You can interact with the story, talk to the characters, comment on the plot – we get feedback all the time,” explains Rushton.

“What I find so interesting is the fact that people are coming together and discussing the show, but they’re also coming together to discuss things that lie outside of the show that affect them. People actually come to you on Bebo and share their experiences and they feel like they’ve got a place to do that. It’s the way that communication is going.”

Rushton herself is planning on going places, but equally interesting is finding out where she’s been. Back in Australia she studied a diploma in journalism before doing a degree in media and communications at Southern Cross University in Lismore, New South Wales.“ We looked at public representation in the media, including things like film studies. We did a lot about the way Asian nationalities have been represented in Australia, how that carries over to today and the role that media plays in that.”

Did she enjoy it? “We had to constantly churn out work – it was really intense.We had to do a lot of presentations but lots of essays too, like, loads of essays! I actually enjoy essays though – I feel that there’s that whole pressure with exams, while essays are more personal. With exams I feel a lot of pressure, a constant strain, and getting through that freaks me out a bit!”

Initially – as you might be able to guess from what she studied – Rushton was keen on getting into journalism, but having done internships at various Australian magazines, she decided it wasn’t for her. She ended up getting into modelling for a year and a half, a profession that took her everywhere from America and Thailand to Germany and the UK.

It was while she was in London that she got an audition for KateModern, almost as soon as she touched down. “I got bored of modelling,”Rushton says. “Coming over to London and getting such a great opportunity was perfect, as it kind of gave me a chance to re-evaluate.With the people I’ve met and working on the show, I feel so lucky to be doing what I’m doing – I’m living my dream!”

As for her future plans, Rushton has already taking courses in singing and vocal technology and will soon be learning about the Stanislawski method of acting at City Lit adult-learning college. Having found a career she enjoys, Rushton seems determined to make her name in it.“I’d like to be able to pop over to LA to have meetings with agents there, and just generally see what’s around,” she says.“In London it is so competitive – you really have to fight for it. It’s really difficult but it’s like that in every industry – you’ve just got to persevere.” Exactly what you’d hope to hear from an interactive multimedia actor.