Xenia Goodwin shooting at the Opera House.

Xenia Goodwin made her acting debut in ABC series Dance Academy, which ran from 2010-2013. Three years after the show wrapped, Goodwin returned to the role of Tara Webster for a Dance Academy feature shot in Sydney and New York in the middle of last year. She talks to IF about reuniting with old friends and commiting to a career as an actor.

Was it strange returning to Dance Academy after so long?

The idea of it was, but once I got back in it was like we never stopped. I guess I felt like I belonged there. It was my life, and I missed it a lot. 

How old were you when you started the show?

I was just turning 15. I was quite young, and determined to be a ballet dancer at the time. I’d left school and I was doing that vocationally. I hadn’t done any acting. 

How long was pre-production on the feature, given the extensive choreography?

I got a month, which is a very long time and good of them to give me. We had four weeks of pre working with insane choreographers (laughs). Some of the hardest stuff I’ve ever done. We were lucky we had so long. Still not long enough. 

Did you have more time on the feature compared to the show?

We shot it very quickly, but I think a couple of things helped us. It was a lot of the same people working together, so we slotted back in to a good working schedule, and it didn’t feel too fast. And the other thing, which made a massive difference to me, was that with a movie script, you’ve got it from beginning to end. So you can track your path the whole way along and know exactly where you want to place it. Whereas the TV scripts come through, they’re not all done, [and] they’re constantly changing.

Goodwin and director Jeffrey Walker in Times Square.

The film really showcases Sydney as a glamorous location in a way very few Aussie films have.

Through the series that was a massive point as well. The series was co-produced by Germany, ZDF, and they wanted to see all the beautiful Sydney scenes because they love Sydney like we love Paris. And Martin McGrath came on and did the cinematography and he’s got such an eye. We were really blessed with the film to have him back. 

What was Jeffrey Walker like to work with?

He’s my favourite director. I’m probably biased. He was my first director when I was 15. He did the pilot and he did a really good job of it too. He has this particular way of working with me where I think he figured out my personality and how stubborn I am (laughs). He never directed me before I’d done anything, if that makes sense. I respond to criticism, not being told what to do before [the take]. Which I’m trying to change, because it’s not necessarily always a good thing. 

Were there scenes that were particularly challenging?

I did have quite a few frustration moments, where I thought I wouldn’t be able to pull off the level of acting required. And I still haven’t seen it, so I don’t know if I did. And I don’t think I will ever think I did. There was a scene where I had to not only dance at the top of my ability but act in a range that I’d never been asked to go to before. And it was a feeling that I had personally experienced, so I had something to relate it to and wanted to hit that mark. There were a few highly emotional scenes I could relate to and I think that made it almost harder. 

What’s next for you?

Since the film wrapped I’ve gone back to dancing, and I’m trying to do as many auditions as I can. I’ve been doing some accent coaching, looking at how I’m going to do this acting thing for real. It’s been an interesting ride, because there’s only so much preparation you can do.

Dance Academy is in cinemas around the country from today.

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