Interview : Nathalie Kelley


The star of “The Fast and the Furious : Tokyo Drift”

Australian Actress Nathalie Kelley seems genuinely pleased to hear an Australian accent on the other end of the phone. Not surprising, considering she’s been away from home for a good year now.

The rising young star – who originally hails from Redfern, in New South Wales – has spent twelve months away from: her friends, vegemite, live footy matches, and her preceding life as a youth worker, to mix it up with the big boys. When a Hollywood producer comes-a-knocking though, you answer.

“This has all happened in a year”, gushes the amiable Australian actress, on the line from Los Angeles.

Like a lot of hopefuls, Kelley came to L.A with big dreams. “I’d wanted to be an actor since I was 12 years old – I’d done programs, I’d always done it in school – it’s just something I always wanted to do, and I knew I had to go out there and get noticed. It wouldn’t come to me”, the actress, who attended the same school as Nicole Kidman, explains. “I didn’t have stars in mind eyes though, I had a head on my shoulders, so I think I went around it the right way”.

Upon arriving in Lalaland, Kelley “ended up getting the lead in a pilot for the WB [called “Mermaid”]. It didn’t happen”, she says. “But this did”.

This is “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”, the anticipated third instalment of the popular ‘hot rods’ and ‘hot bods’ series that turned Vin Diesel and Paul Walker into superstars. Kelley was a little shocked that they wanted her. “I wasn’t like Eva Mendez (from “2 Fast 2 Furious”) or anything, someone super-sexy like that, I was just going to be this young schoolgirl. It was brave. I couldn’t believe it”.

Kelley plays the love interest of the main character – trouble-making revhead Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) – an Australian schoolgirl who’s mixed-up in the underground racing community in Tokyo. The reviews have been rather positive for the film, and Kelley isn’t surprised at all that it’s catching on with cinemagoers.

“It’s not even fair to compare it to the first”, Kelley, who now has a three-picture deal with Universal, says. “I think it’s a film that will really surprise people, because [director] Justin Lim really bought something new to it. The studio wanted to try something new this time – and they’ve really bought it.

“My girlfriends were all like ‘Oh, that’s not my type of thing’, and I was like ‘it’s not my genre usually either – but, trust me, you’ll like it’ and they did. They loved it. That meant the world to me – that’s a real honest opinion.

“Granted, I remember I actually really liked the first one, too. I was about 16 or 17 when it came out, and it just blew me away. Vin, Paul, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster were all awesome in it. So yeah, I was confident my girlfriends were going to like this one.

She is also excited for her old work mates and students at the Youth Centre she worked in, in Australia, to see it. “They’re so happy for me, so happy. I can’t wait for my kids to see it. They’re really excited to see it – and I’ve a feeling they’re going to be going off when I come on the screen”.

Her family and friends will also be glad to hear that Kelley gets to keep her Australian accent in the film. “Funnily enough, I’d come out here and tried to teach myself to lose it. Then, they decided they wanted it for this film, so I had to sort-of re-learn it. It made sense though, my character goes to an International school – why wouldn’t there be an Australian there”?

She was honoured to be working with young Lucas Black, a veteran of the industry having been working since he was a tyke, in shows like “American Gothic” and films like “X-Files: Fight the Future” and “Sling Blade”.

“He was amazing. I couldn’t believe they wanted me to work alongside someone that’s so experienced. Here I am, having all these takes, and he can do his lines in like, two, or something. He is brilliant. He’s also a real sweetheart”, she says, adding. “And Bow Wow? Wow! He’s great. He’s all grown up too, like Black, and has turned into quite a fantastic young actor”.

A large part of the movie was made in Tokyo, a place Kelley can only describe as “cold”. “The locals would say, ‘you’re so lucky, we’re about to have a cold front’”, she laughs. “How is that lucky?!”

It was quite an experience working there, she says. “Some of the scenes from the movie were things that were actually happened. In one scene, there are people playing tennis on a rooftop in the middle of the night – that was actually happening. It was like 3am in the morning. I kid you not. It never ends there”.

Though she doesn’t know what her next move is, Kelley says she’s keen to hang out and do something smaller, say an independent movie. “I have to hold out for the stuff I want to do. I’ve got to stick in there, and not just jump onboard the next thing that is offered to me”.

And though rumours are swirling that original series star Vin Diesel may return to the drivers seat for “Fast and the Furious 4”, Kelley is hoping the ‘Tokyo Drift’ crowd get a look-in, too. “I’d love to see this story continue onto another film, with us. I think that would be good”, she says. “They’ve got the option to do that, but at the moment, we know nothing.”