Michala Banas reveals the stories behind some of her favourites

Michala Banas reveals the stories behind some of her favourites

Michala Banas has been in the spotlight for most of her life, literally starting her career when she was not long out of the cradle.

“My first job was at one-and-a-half when I was in a commercial for the New Zealand Labour Party dressed as a kiwi (bird),” the Wellington-born actor said.

At six, she was cast in New Zealand thriller Dangerous Orphans, and it was then that the acting bug firmly bit, despite reservations from her father, John, then an actor/director.

“It was quite a heavy film. My character got kidnapped and held at gunpoint. I was like, ‘This is awesome’. I clearly knew it wasn’t real, that it was just a job. I remember my dad asking me if I really wanted to do it but I was 100 per cent on board,” she said.

“I think, on a lot of levels, Dad was like, ‘Please don’t be an actor, because it can be a life of poverty. Please choose accounting or law or something else’. But he could tell quite early on that that was it. I never wanted to do anything else, really.”

She then had a big break in Australia after her dad’s work brought the family here when she was 11.

She was cast as the rebellious Marissa in Seven’s Always Greener in 2001. But it was her role as Kate Manfredi in Nine’s much-loved McLeod’s Daughters that made her a household name.

The 40-year-old still looks back fondly on her years on horseback at Drovers Run, the series’ fictional Outback property.

“I got to work on McLeod’s Daughters for four years and it was an incredible learning experience. I’m so proud of that show, especially as it was one with women at its helm,” she said.

Banas, who lives with actor partner Toby Truslove in Melbourne’s inner southeast, was equally memorable as the feisty Amber Wheeler in three series of the ABC-TV comedy Upper Middle Bogan.

“She is one of my favourite characters. I would keep doing that show until I died if they kept making it but, at this stage, there is no more on the cards. It’s really tricky to get the cast together, these days,” she said.

But Banas is currently back on the small screen in Nine drama series Bad Mothers, where she plays the ex-girlfriend of Mandy McElhinney’s character, Maddie.

“When they first spoke to me about the role, I wanted to know who I would be working with because you get to a certain point (in your career) where you just want to work with great people and have an enjoyable experience. When they told me I would be working closely with Mandy, I was like, ‘Wow, I’m in,’” she laughed.

Typical Saturday morning

I love a good sleep in, especially if I’ve been shooting during the week. Then Toby will often make pancakes and we’ll do a crossword, which is daggy but I don’t care. Then, if we’re not working, we’ll catch up with friends or go for a walk by the beach.

Emergency snack

Rice crackers. I always have them in my car and actually snack a lot because I get hungry really quickly and immediately have to eat. I think I get low blood sugar or something.

Signature dish

I do a really good roast chicken. My secret is to stick a whole lemon into the cavity, which stops it from drying out and infuses the chicken with a light lemon flavour. I also put a bit of sage in there and rub the skin with salt, olive oil and pepper, which makes it crispy and delish.

On my bedside table

A lamp, a bottle of water, a couple of photographs and a little soft toy called Johnny Monkey. My mum gave him to me years ago and now he travels everywhere with me. There are also lots of books. I was never a big reader until about five years ago. I think I had reading fatigue, because I read so many scripts for work. But I’ve really got into it lately.

Fantasy place to live

Waiheke Island in New Zealand. It’s very beautiful and, even though it’s close to Auckland, you can live on the water with a little bit of bushland around. I am certainly a New Zealander at my core, although Melbourne is where I’ve chosen to live and I feel really at home here.

Chill-out music

My go-to albums are Paul Simon’s Graceland and Tracy Chapman’s Crossroads. David Gray’s White Ladder is a favourite, too. He’s playing (Byron Bay) Bluesfest in April and I’m really considering getting myself a ticket.

Happiness at home

I love having the door open and listening to the rain when it’s raining heavily outside. It makes me feel lucky that I am warm and safe and fortunate enough to have a roof over my head.

Secret domestic skill

My kitchen is always immaculate. I am a very good bench wiper. My level of cleanliness probably drives Toby mad but food crusted on a bench is my idea of a nightmare; although, I am relaxing more as the years pass.

My favourite things


I’d always wanted a soft and squishy armchair that I could curl up in to read my scripts or a book. I’d been looking for a few years and finally found this one and it was well worth the wait! The cushion is a favourite, too. I’ve always had a thing about rainbows and when I saw this beautiful crocheted cushion at South Melbourne Market, I had to have it! I love our home because it’s a sanctuary. We work long hours and travel a lot and I like to come home and feel safe and comfortable and relaxed. I like to create a nice vibe and atmosphere, a place where I can take a breath and chill.


When I was a child, I did ballet for a while but didn’t enjoy it very much. What I really wanted to do was to learn how to play the piano so I begged my dad to let me have lessons. (Eventually), he gave in and I learnt to play from a cabaret singer, so I don’t read music but play by ear. It’s my little creative outlet. I tinker about and play and write music on there. I bought this piano about 12 years ago and I love it as a beautiful piece of furniture as much as an instrument. It’s a half upright, so it’s quite a small piano but has a full-sized keyboard. It’s delightful.

Record player

Toby and I share a love of music. We each have a lot of old records and when we got together I thought maybe we should pull some of them out. So, we bought this record player, which looks really cool but also has amazing sound quality. The (record) collection has grown since then as we give records to each other as Christmas and birthday presents, plus other people give them to us and we often pick them up in op-shops. I like the fact that you actually have to get up and turn a record over and the fact that a lot of the records we’ve collected have little scratches and quirks.


These are from our very first tomato plant. Toby is a green thumb and I’m reaping the benefits. We’ve got a tiny greenhouse that contains a few plants and I know it sounds dorky, but it was so exciting to pick our first tomatoes and start eating them. They taste and smell incredible and I’m so proud of the fact that we grew them ourselves. I’ve never had any luck with tomato plants in the past but Toby is amazing with them. We’d like to get more stuff going in a vegie patch but there are a lot of possums in our area so we’ll need to get some netting sorted.


My brother-in-law Drew Truslove drew this illustration. Drew’s such a wonderful artist and this is an ink drawing of a tree that is on a family property in Jamberoo in New South Wales. I’ve actually sat on the swing under that tree and asked Drew to draw it for Toby’s birthday a couple of years ago. It’s a beautiful piece of work. It looks gorgeous from afar but when you get up close you also realise how detailed it is. Drew is Toby’s brother and I call him my brother-in-law even though Toby’s not my husband, but he will be and pretty much feels like my husband, anyway. Two actors don’t always work together but sometimes they do. We get each other and share each other’s wins and losses and know how tricky it can be to navigate a career in this industry. He’s extremely supportive and champions me in every way and I try to do the same for him. It’s good.


This book is by first-time author Jessica Dettmann, who is awesome and just happens to be married to Drew, but that’s not why I included it. She’s really talented and the book is great. She actually asked me to narrate the audio book, so I spent a number of hours putting my voice to her work, which was really lovely and a privilege — I feel like I’ve been a tiny part of her writer’s journey. It’s a really big thing to write a book. As readers, we almost take it for granted. We read them and then move on to the next thing, but someone has spent sometimes years putting in their heart and soul and eating, sleeping and breathing that piece of writing. My dad is also now a writer, predominantly in TV and film, and I have a lot of respect for what they do.

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