Culture / TV

Exposure therapy: in conversation with Alice Englert, Thomas Weatherall and Mia Artemis from the new Australian TV series ‘Exposure’

“I remember when I got the call about an audition, I got sent the first two scripts. I was driving and I pulled off to the side of the road – I literally was on the side of a highway,” Thomas Weatherall recalls over Zoom. “I just sat there for an hour and read through the script. I called my agent and said – ‘Anything! I need to do this job!’.”

Weatherall is one of the actors at the helm of Exposure, a new six-episode Stan Original miniseries that premiered at Sydney Film Festival two weekends ago. Despite an inconveniently timed winter flu that kept me from attending the event in person, I managed to find time to speak with the film’s leading trio of actors a few days later, each still basking in the afterglow of the show’s first screening. I ask them how they found their first viewing of the final cut.

“I was sneaky and saw it earlier! I’m not good at watching things in crowds for the first time,” Weatherall laughs. “But when I started watching the show, I could care less about myself. It’s the only time I’ve felt completely removed and just enjoyed the show.”

“I think I’m good at divorcing myself from the process,” chimes in lead actress Alice Englert from the floor of her living room. “This project is so beyond vanity for me that I didn’t have my usual feelings where I’m just desperately hoping that I’m acting well – but also hoping that I look a bit hot. You know, after all this effort,” she laughs.

“I feel like I’ve got some pretty narcissistic tendencies,” laughs co-star Mia Artemis, backdropped by her own home. “So, when I’m watching myself, I’m often like – Who’s that? She’s fantastic!”

Guided by the hands of director Bonnie Moir and writer Lucy Coleman, the show takes an unflinching look at the nuances of grief, mental health and domestic violence through the eyes of Jacs (played by Englert), a grief-stricken 27-year-old art photographer who has returned to her hometown for the funeral of her best friend.

“It tackles a topic that is really hard to discuss and do well, you know? There’s a lot of stuff in there that could have been depicted in a really gratuitous way, but it wasn’t,” Artemis explains.

Artemis, Englert and Weatherall can’t help but sing the praises of director, Moir, and writer, Coleman – that latter of whom’s recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald Englert now waves, printed out, in front of her webcam excitedly.

“She [Coleman] wrote this article that’s out – I just had a cry in a cafe about it earlier today,” she says.

“You even printed it out?” Weatherall responds with a laugh, before adding his own praises. “I think the way that Lucy wrote about abuse, grief, mental health – every facet of this show – is probably, in my opinion, the best depiction I have read.”


“It feels like you could be very close friends with these people – like, known them all your life – and maybe even be them,” agrees Englert. “But then again, watching it, it felt like it belonged to its own world. I didn’t feel like we were watching us.”

Weatherall explains – “You might watch another show that you’ve done and you remember that day; you remember what catering was, you remember how pissed off you were with something – whatever it was. But this was really a sort of separate entity and experience.”

I ask, given the closeness each actor felt to their on-screen selves, whether this made preparing for their roles easier or more difficult, and how they went about the process.

“I think, for me, there was a lot of writing journal entries,” said Artemis. “And Bonnie got us to make playlists for each of our characters”

“I actually still very regularly listen to the playlist Mia made for her character,” Weatherall adds. “It’s a very good one.”

“It’s just all VengaBoys!” laughs Artemis.

For Englert, the process involved the development of more technical skills. “Well, I worked with Ingvar Kenne, who’s this incredible photographer, and his photography is in the show as well as some of mine,” she tells me. “He basically taught me how to develop film. It was a really special and grounding practice. I also really took a lot of photos of you guys, actually, which I’m going to disperse upon the internet soon,” she laughs.

“There were so many great moments captured just in rehearsals,” replies Artemis. “Like when you were taking photos at the studio, and Tom and I were doing the Year Six disco dances!”

Despite their closeness, so apparent through the screen, all three actors tell me they only met for the first time on set earlier this year. As for first impressions, “I was, frankly, very intimidated by both of them,” says Weatherall. “I came in fairly last-minute, I think. I was shooting the second season of Heartbreak High at the time, so then I was prepping for a very different show and character. Coincidentally, my partner was obsessed with one of Alice’s films when she was younger, and I watched it with her, and Mia and I have quite a few mutual mates.”

“Yeah I’d heard of Tom, and people were like, ‘He’s going to suck to work with! He’s just awful!’” chides Artemis.

“They were correct!” joins Weatherall. “And now Mia says the same back to everyone! I’m out of work! I’m retiring.”

“But actually, I feel like I was just so stoked to be working with you both,” says Artemis. “The first day we met, we had rehearsals with Bonnie – I say ‘rehearsals’ loosely, because it was just chatting through things – and it was this weird thing where we had to build several-year-long friendships and relationships really quickly. But I feel like after half an hour, we kind of had.”

So much of Exposure feels like arthouse TV, from cinematographer Aaron McLisky’s smoky, rose-tinted vision of a languid Port Kembla, where derricks punctuate the horizon, to director Moir’s gaze, which slips from naturalistic to dissociative in an instant.

Atmospherically, Exposure matches its dark and chaotic subject matter. With themes of grief and trauma being central to the plot, I’m interested to know how each actor sheds their own emotional exoskeleton to find equilibrium after dealing with such intense scenes and storylines.

“When you take on a role like this, that deals with heavy topics, it can be really taxing, but it was just a breeze,” says Weatherall. “It speaks to so many people involved in this project, that nothing seemed too big to touch on, too scary to navigate in their company. As an actor, and as a person, it’s freeing to have an excuse to put yourself through that therapy and get paid to do it at the same time. It’s a nice bonus.”

“The set was such a safe, supportive space to be able to do that, and know that you’d be looked after,” adds Artemis. “At least for me, it was a great exercise in putting a lot of yourself into a character in a safe way – because it can very easily be done in a way where you put yourself and your mental health at risk. I don’t know about you guys, but a lot of it I found incredibly cathartic; addressing stuff that I had been too scared to address within myself, or just not been able to.”

“Yeah, I guess I went through some stuff when I was younger in this industry and it felt like I froze for a long time. And I felt like this helped some of that thaw,” Englert concurs.


Perhaps one of the more unique elements of Exposure’s storyline is its refusal to play into binaries or stereotypes. It’s a notion Englert touches on in our conversation.

“I think it gives humanity in every direction, which is one of the most difficult and important parts of the process,” she says. “I think every character and relationship had an ugliness to it – which is just a reality of life.”

“We’re trying to take this off the battlefield, where nobody comes out safe, and into a place where there’s the potential for healing for people who’ve been through this. I think we can all see that this show comes from the deepest place of love and care and compassion for people who have been through abuse, assault and trauma, and it’s trying to make us face it in a way that doesn’t make it feeling punishing to think about it.”

“It was extremely cathartic because it didn’t try to fix everything,” she continues. “What’s so great about it, is that it doesn't limit the possibilities of where we could go if there was more space to wonder where this kind of thing comes from, and the way you oppress yourself after you’ve been oppressed. I find it really amazing when a story ends with a wide open space instead of a neat little knot.”

As for some of their most memorable moments on set, it’s a mixed bag. From shooting Usher-soundtracked club scenes in Bali with a swarm of extras Artemis says were “fucking wild – they were great and so much fun!”, to unknowingly swimming in shark-infested beaches, to which Englert remarks with a laugh, “I love sharks, and I’m also so scared of sharks as well, which actually feels like some tension in my personality”.

But across the board, Weatherall, Artemis and Englert list the opportunity to work with and meet one another as the project’s most special outcome.

“I genuinely had so much fucking love for you both and learnt a lot from the two of you,” says Artemis, kicking off the compliment spree. “This show honestly saved me,” she continues, “And that’s so much to do with you two, and having a crew of incredible women at the helm.”

“So much of what I was saying about the catharsis stuff, it was watching Alice’s performance of that. She’s the best actor I’ve ever worked with.” adds Weatherall. “Take skilled performance out of it, just the actual vulnerability to do that! The actual process of making this show, without a shadow of a lie, no hyperbole, it was life changing. It’s a cliche, and it can come across a bit wanky – actors often say things like this – but this show found me at the right time.”

“It’s crazy hearing you guys talk right now, because I can’t believe we all felt so similarly,” says Englert. “And I feel really lucky that we’ll be able to talk about this again – even when we’re old.”

“Yeah! Remember when we were all really depressed and we made that TV show?” says Artemis to a chorus of laughter.

“I think all of us, we’re softies at heart, and we can complement each other till the cows come home, but I truly think you’d be hard-pressed to find a team more proud of a show,” says Weatherall.

“It’s honestly embarrassing how proud we are, but I can’t stop myself” laughs Englert, “What has happened to us? Lucy Coleman’s gotten us like ourselves a bit!”


You can watch all six episodes of Exposure now on Stan.

If you or someone you know has experienced or is experiencing gender-based violence, help is available by calling 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or through White Ribbon Australia's helplines.

You can also access mental health services like the below:

  • Lifeline on 13 11 14
  • Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
  • MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
  • Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
  • Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
  • Headspace on 1800 650 890
  • QLife on 1800 184 527

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