Aliandra Calabrese.

Queensland’s COVID production boom not only attracted overseas stars to the state but also served to highlight the emerging talent in its own backyard.

One such example is Italian-Australian actress Aliandra Calabrese, who appeared NBCUniversal’s Joe vs Carole and will next be seen in CJZ/Acorn TV’s mystery drama Darby and Joan alongside Bryan Brown and Greta Scacchi.

In the former, currently screening on Stan, she plays the wife of Jeff Lowe, a former business partner of wildlife park owner Joe Exotic, who eventually takes over his zoo.

The story is based on the Wondery podcast about the former Oklahoma zoo operator and big cat breeder who was put on trial and sentenced to 22 years in prison for plotting to murder another big cat enthusiast.

Calabrese joined fellow Australians Marlo Kelly, David Wenham, Will McNeill, Jack Scott, Nic English, Benedict Hardie, Shereena Clanton, Alexandra Jensen, and Anthony J. Sharpe in the ensemble cast for the series, which also included Kate McKinnon, Kyle MacLachlan, John Cameron Mitchell, and William Fichtner.

Having shot her scenes in the August/September last year, she told IF she felt “very fortunate” to be cast on a series with real-time subject matter.

“I think the intrigue comes from the fact there are always more stories to be told and that saga is unfolding as we speak – there are always updates about something else having happened,” she said.

“It’s been a really interesting project to be part of and I feel very grateful.”

Aliandra Calabrese with Dean Winters in ‘Joe vs Carole’.

She went straight from Joe vs Carole to CJZ’s Darby and Joan, an eight-part series that stars Brown as a retired Australian policeman with a dog as his only company and Scacchi as a widowed English nurse. The pair meet each other and embark together on an epic odyssey in the outback of northern Australia.

Created by Glenys Rowe and Phillip Gwynne, it will premiere on Acorn TV later this year.

Calabrese, who plays Maddie, identified working with Scacchi as a highlight of the production, which she also said allowed her to broaden her horizons.

“Being part Italian, I’ve grown up watching Greta Scaachi so that was a very cool parallel to draw between having watched someone and actually working with them in a show,” she said.

“[It was] a very exciting role for me and something different to what I have done in the past, in the sense it is an adventure throughout the Australian outback that’s got do to with a little bit of crime and other things.

“I have not been part of a production like that.”

The Queenslander’s burgeoning career comes from a life-long passion for the performing arts.

Calabrese began studying music at the age of four and spent time at Young Conservatorium of Music and the Trinity School of Musical Theatre in London during her teenage years.

Since deciding to focus on screen acting two years ago, she appeared in shorts ISOLIS and Dreams Inc, as well as web series Perfect Messy Love.

Following on from Joe vs Carole and Darby and Joan, her future projects include an upcoming Australian feature film that has been delayed as a result of COVID.

Calabrese also expressed a desire to work on projects that “challenge stereotypes and bring awareness to causes that need it”.

“At its core, Joe vs Carole sheds a light on the need for more activism in that area across the board, not just in the US,” she said.

‘I would love to be involved in more projects that make social commentary on things that really need more attention.”

Despite an “absolutely booming” Queensland industry, she was interested in taking her talents overseas.

“We’re sort of getting a little bit of intel here and there on what’s shooting and what the possibilities,” she said.

“The opportunities in Australia across the past two years have been abundant and we’ve been incredibly lucky but I’m looking at travelling interstate and overseas to really experience the industry in the epicentre of where it occurs, in the US, because we haven’t had the opportunity in the past three years.”

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