TV

Picnic at Hanging Rock's Yael Stone on health dramas: 'I pushed myself too far'

The actress opens up about the impact of her latest role...

Yael Stone is keen to chat about her role as Dora Lumley in Foxtel's remake of Picnic At Hanging Rock. It's just that some of the details of the shoot are fuzzy. At least the actress has a good excuse: baby brain.

"Being quite pregnant, my memory is shoddy," Yael, 33, tells TV WEEK. "It's a real thing. There's something happening; you definitely lose some brain capacity."

Yael's baby is her first with partner Jack Manning Bancroft, the founder of Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience. It's an innovative mentoring program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to support them through high school and into university.

With her hit US series Orange Is The New Black on a break between seasons, Yael's focus is on her baby's arrival.

"I don't know yet what's happening with Orange contractually, because we're in the hiatus time," she explains.

"I anticipate I'll go back for another season, but you never really know – especially with a show like Orange, where characters can move and change and disappear."

Yael describes her character in Picnic At Hanging Rock as "a tyrant". Teacher Dora Lumley enjoys having power over the students and is quick to dob them in to Mrs Appleyard (Natalie Dormer), the headmistress.

From a dirt-poor background, Dora is desperate to impress.

"Dora really got inside me," Yael says. "I didn't realise it

at the time, but just her level of anxiety – even the way she physically carries herself. If your body gets involved and you fully commit to it, it can feel a little ugly.

"It's interesting to play a much-maligned person who's really just trying to get along and make good."

To play the buttoned-up Dora, Yael wore a corset. She says she was "so constricted, I could hardly breathe".

"I was living in maybe not a great place at the time and I ended up getting pneumonia," she explains. "Then putting on the corset as well, and just the physical restriction of the garments of the time, was so helpful in terms of acting.

"You can't even access your emotions properly or think clearly when your diaphragm is restricted. I felt so cut off from my breath."

But Yael doesn't blame the shoot for her pneumonia.

"It's a symptom of flying across the world and working a lot and doing crazy things – too many crazy things," she says.

"That time, I pushed it too far. Other times, I've gotten away with it."

Miss Lumley may not be popular with the students of Appleyard College in Picnic At Hanging Rock. But it was a different matter when it came to the young actresses playing the schoolgirls, led by Lily Sullivan, Samara Weaving and Madeleine Madden.

"They still let me be their friend – even though they were the cool kids," Yael laughs. "I'm so excited for those women. They're going to do huge, wonderful things. I think they've got great brains, have got their heads screwed on and are good people."

As for Yael, who's already done huge, wonderful things herself, she's looking forward to seeing how motherhood influences her acting.

"In terms of life experience, I'm sure it will be really interesting – and, hopefully, plays into making my work richer," she says.

"My great hope is that motherhood will inform my work and my work will inform motherhood. But we'll just have to wait and see."

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