It often pains a writer to admit a picture can paint a thousand words, but the one taken for this story about 17-year-old local actress Eva Lazzaro, whose filmography includes the movie Jindabyne, as well as TV series Underbelly and Tangle, does just that. The scene was Prahran station and the idea a good one – to capture Eva in headphones, perfectly still, with the slow shutter speed smearing passengers around her crisp figure as they disembarked the train.
There is much truth in the story suggested by this image. Lazzaro is a girl curiously out of time and in a quieter, more focused place than most in her generation. A wider pan of this picture would include her pile of things: her glasses case and a battered copy of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.
She is the only 17-year-old I’ve ever heard refer to the most popular social media platform on the planet as “the Facebook”. “I don’t have a Facebook, or know how to use any of that,” Lazzaro says, sounding like my grandfather, who is 91. “I quite enjoy looking at my brothers’ page to see what my cousins are up to but I’m a vicarious Facebooker, I don’t want my own one.
“I’ve never really been a teenager,” she continues. “At my age, it’s almost like you have to be this full-on party type. Not everybody’s into that. Some people are adults when they’re born, some are children when they’re old and some are a bit of both. I’m pretty sure everybody thinks I’m about 10 or 11 anyway because of the roles I’ve played.”
There’s an interesting irony about child actors. Everybody sees them as permanently young in their minds, while in reality they have grown up on TV and movie sets with adults and often feel they’ve “skipped” their own childhood. Lazzaro, whose first role was on Blue Heelers when she was seven, fits the child-actor profile, but there is no tears or nostalgia for “something lost”.
“I’ve always been better at socialising with adults than with people my own age,” Lazzaro, the eldest of five kids, says. Her heroes are a mix of both. On the one hand Julianne Moore, the consummate actor’s actor, is named, but so is 22-year-old Australian Mia Wasikowska, whose worryingly perfect performance in season one of HBO series In Treatment reset the bar for Lazzaro. “I loved her in Gus Van Sant’s Restless too. She sticks out for me as remarkable: really, truly remarkable.”
“I was with so many amazing actors ... but I didn’t know who any of them were!”
In Treatment stars Irish actor Gabriel Byrne, who Lazarro coincidentally worked with in Jindabyne. If only she’d known at the time. “I was on set with so many amazing actors like Gabriel, Laura Linney, but being nine, I didn’t know who any of them were!”
Lazzaro’s urge to be under lights was in-built. Rather than pushing her towards show business, her “not at all artsy” parents initially felt “ambivalent” about her career choice but have come around and realised “it’s my thing, it works for me and the person I am. Sometimes I’m a little bit too driven.”
This uncommon mix of talent and tenacity is probably why Lazzaro is being touted as a star. Reporter Renee Brack describes Lazzaro as “incredible”, and prefaces an online interview by warning “set your faces to stunned”. Asked bluntly if Lazzaro aims to make a career in film, she says, after waiting a beat, “Yes. Yes I do.
“I was afraid to say that I wanted to work in the film industry because it’s so competitive and it’s not the kind of career where you get a job, and then get rehired,” Lazzaro says, admitting that her flair for debating seemed to point in the opposite direction to law. But her role as troubled teen Gigi Kovac on the Showcase Network’s Tangle, a series about blended families and how they can “twist you into knots”, gave her the confidence to believe in herself. “The people I work with on Tangle are inspiring. From Justine Clarke (Love My Way), to Blake Davis (The Slap) and Kat Stewart (Underbelly), I have mentors all around me.”
Her acting is likely to come to your attention first, after she’s finished year 12, that is, but her filmmaking is worth looking out for. Last year, at 16, she wrote and directed a short film about miscarriage called Alice’s Baby. It’s a heavy, poignant and patient first effort that was a finalist at Tropfest 2012.
“[Miscarriage is] a subject that many people have experienced but that’s not often discussed. The film was the first thing I’d ever done, so having that kind of success really early in the piece was pretty exciting.” Lazarro was not only the youngest ever filmmaker to make the finals, she was the youngest director too.
When it comes to TV, Lazzaro is a fan of local produce – she mentions world-class series The Slap and her own three-season Showcase staple Tangle again – and the format in general.
“There’s some really exciting television coming from Australia,” she says. “Everybody should be excited about what’s coming up in the next 10 or 15 years because I think it looks hopeful at the moment, definitely.”
Watch » The series of Tangle is available on DVD.