Home and Away has given us some of Hollywood’s greats – Heath Ledger, Chris Hemsworth and Isla Fisher, to name just a few. Next to take her rightful crown is Raechelle Banno, who landed her first major role as Olivia Fraser on the Aussie soap back in 2015. Since then, her career has gone from strength to strength, now living out her dream of performing alongside twin actress Karina Banno in TV movie series V.C. Andrews.
Ahead of what’s set to be another incredible year for Raechelle, we caught up with the Australian-born performer to see what lies ahead in the next leg of her journey.
Most performers don’t choose their creative path, it chooses them. Like any born-talent, it’s an itch that must be scratched – and this was certainly the case for Raechelle Banno, who’s been dancing for as long as she can remember.
“I grew up dancing from a really young age,” she tells Student Pages. “That was my first form of creative expression. When dancing, you often create characters to enact and I always found it really exciting bringing them to life. As I got older, when movies and television became more and more the focus in my life, I started exploring acting as a new form of creative expression, and I kind of haven’t looked back since.”
Thinking back to those earlier days, Raechelle shows massive admiration for her family who supported her every step of the way. We’re all faced with roadblocks at some point in our life, and unfortunately for some young performers, this can come in the form of their support network not wanting to come along for the ride.
For Raechelle and her sister, their situation couldn’t have been any more opposite: “I was fortunate enough to have a family that didn’t just support me, but were also able to take me to auditions and classes when I was far too young to do it all by myself. My sister Karina and I are the first ones in our family to participate in this industry, so having a supportive family to ground you when you’re going into a really tricky industry has been such a saving grace.”
It won’t be news to tell you Home and Away is loved the world over. The Aussie soap is a household name, not just in our homes here in the UK, but in living rooms right across the globe. Due to its worldwide presence, the show has launched the careers of several Aussie megastars – and with all the feats Raechelle has achieved since waving goodbye to Summer Bay, it’s safe to say her name is certainly among that pack.
Reflecting on her time on the globally renowned show, Banno looks back with fond admiration. “Working on Home and Away was so many things to me,” she recalls. “It was my first step into the world of publicity, a place where I really started to find my voice as an actor. It’s a place I learnt so many things. The people that work for that show are fully aware it’s such an institution, not just for the people that watch, but for the many, many actors and crew members that walk through those doors every year.”
Grateful for all the lessons the show flung forth her way, the actress’s fondest memories came from being given the opportunity to experiment with her craft. Better still, Raechelle tells us that the cast and crew remain close to her even since leaving Home and Away – taking everything they taught her to each and every job.
“It was an awesome environment to try new things,” continues the Australian actress. “I got to fail and ask silly questions. I feel so grateful I got my start there, because every time I start on a new job, I always think of my Home and Away family. I feel like I get to carry them with me to every production, which is wonderful.”
Lifetime set its latest V.C. Andrews series off to a flying start this year, and it would be an understatement to say lead actress Raechelle Banno stole the show. Adapted from Andrews’ best-selling Landry novels, the four-part TV movie aired in March 2021 and kept audiences captivated from the moment they hit play.
Unsurprisingly, fans and critics alike praised Banno for her uncanny ability to capture emotion in the purest form, using her born talent to bring character Ruby bursting into life. Thinking back to filming during a pandemic, Raechelle told Student Pages that working on the movie series was a highlight of her career so far. Aside from being able to live out her dream of starring alongside sister Karina, the actress experienced a sense of togetherness on set unlike anything she’d experienced before.
“The entire cast and crew on this production made for an incredible experience,” she reflects fondly. “I think we’d all been through something together with the pandemic, and that probably contributed to the overwhelming gratitude that was felt on set every day. But even before COVID hit – from day one, we worked with such respect for, not just the project, but everyone involved.”
When you’re working quickly with so much material to get through, feeling akin to your co-stars is paramount. Luckily for Raechelle and everyone on set, the feeling was mutual from director all the way to runner: “It makes all the difference when you know everyone’s going to be treated with respect, and there was just such an air of joy each and every day.”
We’re told that doing something that scares you every day is good for you – and in the acting world, this couldn’t be more accurate. When asked about her goals for the future, Raechelle says she’s most looking forward to stepping completely out of her comfort zone.
On the lookout for a character that genuinely terrifies her, Banno tells us that playing a character that doesn’t challenge you in some way can bring about a certain amount of complacency and boredom that’s often noticeable on screen. “Future Raechelle might hate me for saying that,” she laughs “but so far, not being 100% certain on the character I’m playing has allowed me to feel really instinctual and free when I’m on set.”
Infectiously positive and humble yet confident and sure-headed, the Australian-born Actress has been performing for so long that those pre-audition nerves barely make it onto the same continent when she enters that room. But for all those starting out not yet immune to the pre-audition wobbles, she remembers words of advice given to her as a young actress that’re sure to make those jitters a thing of the past: “I was taught quite early to take the nervous energy I was feeling and use it to power the performance rather than inhibit it.”
Instead using any anxiety she may be feeling to fuel her performance, the 27-year-old actress offers incredible insight into the structural likeness of nervous and excited energy – a comparison that will offer comfort to even the most anxious of performers. “Nervous energy is actually identical to excited energy,” she points out. “So really, it’s just a change of perspective. I try to remind myself that or if I come across someone feeling nervous, I try to remind them that because it can really change how you feel about your nerves.”
Speaking personally of her own experiences with mental health, Raechelle feels it’s important to be open in order to encourage the conversation for anybody that needs it. Again offering insightful advice to anybody who may be experiencing a dip in their mental health, she tells us she used to find her bouts of anxiety and depression debilitating and intimidating, before a change of outlook allowed her to see these bouts in a new light.
“Once I accepted that it wasn’t something that would necessarily go away with a quick fix and that I’d have to invest in exploring it, it became a lot less scary and manageable,” the actress explains.
That moment when everything just clicks. The moment a new idea comes together… an instant connection with a stranger… or a scenic view that makes you forget about space and time. There are few truly magical moments in life, but for Raechelle Banno, being immersed into a character is one of them.
Speaking of her fondest acting moments so far, she tells us it’s the play element that makes her fall in love with her craft each and every day.
“There’s a certain kind of magic that happens between action and cut,” she fondly tells us. “There’s just nothing else like it in this world, nothing I’ve found so far. It doesn’t happen every take, but there’s a moment you’ll find you connect with an actor or a director, and you both know something special has happened – and that’s just intoxicating.”
Looking ahead and thinking of what the industry needs to move forward, Banno says an emphasis on finding unknown talent is needed. Back in the day, she says, there was so much emphasis on discovering an unknown lead or performer – but sadly today, this isn’t the norm.
“There’s a lot less risk taking these days,” says the Aussie star. “That said, I do think there’s a push for freshness and new faces, stories and perspectives which is really exciting. Audiences want to discover new people, I know I do. Hopefully, with the rise of streamers and all these new platforms that offer content, there’s a push for new types of stories. I hope that the change will be more risk taking so we find the right actor as opposed to the safe one.”
Of course, any time there’s a push for change, there’s going to be resistance. Speaking of the human reluctancy to accept change as a whole, Raechelle says the resistance is a natural one: “some people will just cling on to the old thing out of safety. But the more we do see the change, more people will realise it’s actually refreshing and more enjoyable. It’s the pendulum that keeps on swinging.”
Personally speaking, Banno herself has faced her fair share of resistance throughout her journey as an actress so far. For her, the most trying part of working in an unpredictable industry is feeling powerless in an industry driven by power. Throw being a woman into the mix on top of that, and it can be a lot for anybody to handle. Hoping to offer would-be actors words of encouragement to power through the noise, Raechelle tells us the best form of strength comes in numbers.
“It can be quite challenging and sometimes disappointing, but if I were to suggest anything, it would be to surround yourself with likeminded and supportive people,” advises the 27-year-old actress. “Be aware of what your boundaries are, because if you’re in the position where you know where you stand and have people to back you up – whatever you’re venturing into – you can’t go wrong.”
Offering final words of encouragement for those wanting to follow in her footsteps, the talented star tells us the first step is always the most important one – and that first step is simply going for it.
“Whether it’s filmmaking or signing up for classes or a full-time drama course, you just have to go for it. No one in this industry asks you permission to be creative, you just have to get out there and do it in a way that’s unique to your own creative expressions. My friend always says ‘for the art, not the fame’ and I think that’s the best advice out there.”
It’s a mantra that’s certainly paid off for Raechelle, and you’ll be her face on some exciting – yet thus far unannounced – projects very soon. Keep an eye on her socials for further updates – and until then, make sure to check out her incredible performance as Ruby on V.C. Andrews.