A Star Soars Down Under

Michelle Vergara Moore (Source: robynbluestone.wordpress.com)

A young Filipina-Australian actress is turning heads among Aussie fans. She is Michelle Vergara Moore, the Australian-born daughter of immigrants from Pulilan, Bulacan.

Michelle is currently seen on the “The Times of Our Lives,” a 13-part Australian television series that premiered on ABC1 in June this year. Michelle plays Chai Li of the Tivolli clan, an Australian extended  family in inner-city Melbourne.

“I consider this my big break on television after having worked for it for years," Michelle says. "It’s very rewarding and very, very exciting.” 

Michelle Vergara Moore with co-star Stephen Curry on "The Times of Our Lives" (Source: facebook.com)

She adds, “I’m thrilled that this ABC series is not pandering to the usual stereotypes that Asian-Australian actors are often subjected to.  It’s a really genuine portrayal of family relationships–it’s very contemporary.”

“I really love that Chai Li is an Aussie girl, which I am. I don’t have to use an Asian accent, which isn’t mine,” Michelle comments of the role.

This is the first time an Asian-Australian actress is given a part that is equal in importance to other characters in a drama series. “I hope my role as Chai Lai will go towards a turning of the tides on Australian television,” Michelle says. 

Jose Mag-isa Vergara, Michelle's father, was a schoolteacher in Sale, Victoria, where she was born. Her mother, Rustica Vergara, looked after the family.

Michelle is the sixth of ten children.  Many members of her family are gifted singers and performers.  Not surprisingly, Michelle was bitten by the acting bug at the early age of ten, when she would act out the role of Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind,” using her mom’s dresses as costumes.   

This is the first time an Asian-Australian actress is given a part that is equal in importance to other characters in a TV drama series.

During her growing up years, however, her passion for acting took a backseat.  Michelle’s dream of ever performing as an actress would have remained just a childhood wish, but things took a sudden change when she auditioned and was admitted at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney (NIDA). Some famous alumni of NIDA are Cate Blanchett, Mel Gibson and Judy Davis. Her acceptance into this prestigious Australian acting school finally sealed her decision to make acting her professional career. 

It was also during this time when she met her husband, Toby Leonard Moore, a fellow NIDA graduate and an accomplished actor in his own right, having won a major part in the acclaimed 2010 HBO mini-series “The Pacific.”

The Vergara Family. Michelle Vergara Moore (seated, left), Jose Mag-Isa Vergara (father, seated, second left) and Rustica Carasig Vergara (mother, seated, third left). The Vergaras raised 10 children. (Photo courtesy of Jose Mag-Isa Vergara)

Michelle's dedication to her chosen profession has steadily won the appreciation and recognition of her peers and fans both in Australia and the United States.

For a time, she was in New York when she landed a role in Steven Soderbergh’s film “Side Effects,” a 2013 pharmaceutical thriller. This was Michelle’s first Hollywood film, which starred Channing Tatum, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rooney Mara and Jude Law.

Back in Australia, Michelle did a critically acclaimed full-length film entitled “Black and White and Sex” directed by John Winter.  She also made her first professional theatre debut in Red Stitch’s "The Motherfucker With The Hat.”  She was very excited to do this play. She really loves the theatre, which was the focus of her training at the National Institute of Dramatic Acting. When asked which she preferred between film and theatre acting, she was quick to declare that the stage challenges her acting ability the most.  

Michelle Vergara Moore's radio interview on her role in the series "The Time of Our Lives"


Although her experience in TV and film acting are quite similar, in that there is less time for rehearsal and actors are expected to grasp the script and the life of the character quite quickly, the stage trained her to be more disciplined and to strive harder to achieve perfection due to the “no second chance” dictum in acting.  

“When acting on stage before a live audience,” she warns, “there is absolutely no room for mistakes --your first shot is your last.”

With her diligence in pursuing her chosen profession, plus her inborn passion for acting, it's no wonder this Asian-Australian star is fast blazing a trail in Australia's entertainment world.

Bobby Evangelista

Bobby Evangelista

Bobby Evangelista is a retired OFW who is now a freelance online writer.  He is a regular contributor to a Norwegian outsourcing website company based in Davao City, Philippines.