TV Producer, Actress, Presenter and 1 half of the Mother-Daughter Phillips Duo, Mikaela already has worldwide credits under her belt, has broken records in her fields and she doesn't plan on stopping there!
Known for her work in both producing and acting as Lead character, Faith Morgan in the Australian TV Drama Series 'Counter Play', the series has just wrapped filming season two and both seasons begin airing on Australia's Channel 9/9GO! and Amazon Prime Video mid 2018. The series is also currently in negotiations with networks in NZ, UK, Asia and Canada.
Working alongside with her mother – Chrys Phillips - who is also the creator, writer and director behind Counter Play, the mother daughter duo are often referred to as the Australian Gilmore Girls and have both set the record of becoming the first Australian females to ever take an indepedently produced series (no government or screen guild assistance/funding) to not only a commercial network like NINE but to a titan streaming platform like Amazon. Mikaela and Chrys work collaboratively within their production company and currently have other film projects in development.
Aside from her work as an actress and producer, Mikaela is also a wonderful and one of a kind presenter and host. Mikaela's charismatic and innovative conversational style of reporting led her, at the young age of 18, to become the youngest person ever to become a host for the world's largest online network, Afterbuzz TV. Creating content and interviewing for the network in LA and heading up their Australian division as of 2015, Mikaela has procured and secured exclusive interviews with some of today's biggest names in TV, film, music and social media platforms, with all her interviews being in the top three Youtube results.
This Aussie girl doesn't just stop at one! A driven, self-motivated, charismatic and young diverse talent, Mikaela keeps herself busy! When Mikaela doesn't have a mic. or a camera in front of her, she can be found soaking up the warm sun and sea breezes on the beach as a self-proclaimed beach babe, cooking and consuming plentiful amounts of chocolate! Mikaela resides between her home in Melbourne Australia and traveling abroad to the US and UK for other film projects
Question: How would you describe Counter Play?
Mikaela Phillips: Counter Play is a new deviously, delicious drama series based in the affluent, beach-side town of South Point where the storyline begins around mystery male protagonist Jake Spector and the three large, powerful families of the town; the Haynesworth's, Cornwall's and Morgan's. Family lies, scandals, secrets, love triangles, greed and corruption ensues and creates a tangled web between these family dynasties and other characters that enter. It's simple, to survive in South Point, you better play or be played!
Question: What inspired the creation of Counter Play?
Mikaela Phillips: Counter Play was inspired by creator, writer, director and my mum Chrys Phillips. After spending several years living overseas and on the sets of various shows, we noticed when arriving back home in Australia, that there wasn't really any fresh shows along the lines of a Gossip Girl or Revenge. We saw a gap in the market and wanted to create a show that not only gave us something creative to do and other Australian actors/crew opportunity but to show that Aussies can create and produce a series that competes on an international level!
Question: Can you tell us about your role in Counter Play?
Mikaela Phillips: On screen, you'll find me as one of the series leads throughout both seasons, the wealthy, independent and blue blood Faith Morgan. One of the first times you're introduced to Faith, is about half way through the first episode, where she's popping champagne in a Porsche limo and toasting to being back in South Point with her new love… the mysterious Jake Spector. Faith is unaware of Jake's dark past and true reasons for being back in town however, slowly she starts piecing together pieces to a theory that almost seems too crazy to be true… Faith has so many qualities that are relatable and I love that we really get to see her grow and in certain ways, change between Season 1 and 2!
Off-screen I'm also an Executive Producer for the series. So, you could say I have my hands full (laughs)!
Question: How difficult was it to juggle both roles, on set for Counter Play?
Mikaela Phillips: I think I found my footing fairly early in the production stages of producing the show and my responsibilities of what was required of me for this to be successful both as a producer and actress. Going into Counter Play I did already have prior experience producing from various other entertainment segments I had produced. In saying this, at certain times it definitely was a lot! You're essentially learning and doing everything in two different perspectives… actor and producer. For example, when there'd be a last-minute change to the script or a scene, as an actress I'd just adapt and re-learn it however as a producer, there's so much more to it. You have to rectify any issues, adapt quickly, think on your feet and it can affect the hours of filming, how long you're at a location and the way the scene gets shot.
So it wasn't ever hard to juggle the two, it was more about finding a balance and rhythm that worked for me -as things are ever-changing and very fast paced in this industry- and I'm glad I did, because I enjoyed every minute of it!
Question: What was it like having your Mum on set, especially during the kissing scenes?
Mikaela Phillips: Oh my gosh what can I say… it was like any other acting job almost (laughs)! But honestly, it wasn't too bad at all. I don't mind it, she's my Director at the end of the day and I'm so dedicated to getting the job done, that my concern is more ensuring it looks good (laughs)! However, I think Mum found it more funny and awkward than me!
Question: How do you and your Mum work together, as a team?
Mikaela Phillips: We work together really well! We're already a team and really close even when not working together, so that definitely contributes a lot and makes it easier. I also think because we both enjoy what we both do and are both in different creative capacities that that helps and is one of the beautiful ways we work so well too, because we complement each other! At times we may have different outlooks or opinions on certain creative aspects but we always resolve it and try to incorporate both ideas/inputs… which almost always ends up working out so much better and then we get mega excited about the current task/project or script at hand even more (laughs)!
Question: What inspired your passion for acting and producing?
Mikaela Phillips: I've loved acting since a young age and was always drawn to drama class from early years in school as well. I've been acting since around six years old and what started as a passion and love for performing, only continued to grow and develop more over the years as I became more aware of what my acting goals were, exposed to a wider range of movies and TV shows and gaining inspiration from actors I admire.
Funnily enough, I originally kind of fell into producing! I started producing and creating my own content back in around 2013 (17 at the time) while I was living overseas and I ran my own blog/YouTube covering fashion brands, places to visit in LA and celebrity interviews. From there I ended up becoming the youngest entertainment host ever to be accepted into the world's largest online network, Afterbuzz TV and continued to create and produce many one-on-one celebrity interviews and red-carpet segments for them, between LA and Australia with some of today's biggest names!
So I may not have started out consciously knowing I was a Producer when under 18 at the time, but I've always known what I want and how I want a final product/project to look, so producing really allows me to have that hands on approach and be in control of what I'm creating – which I love!
Question: What advice do you have for young aspiring actors?
Mikaela Phillips: I say it how it is and am quite upfront, so if I'm being honest I think you can hear all the advice in the world from best classes to go to, learn your lines, just be you etc. but unless it's something you truly want and are going to work tirelessly and endlessly at, for the sake of loving what you do and not just for money or to chase fame, then maybe it's not for you.
It's really easy to work on small film projects or short films but the fast pace and long hours (shoot days can be 10+ hours and some can go till 1am or later) of filming a TV show or movie can be overwhelming for many actors and not what they expected.
This isn't to be harsh or disheartening in any way but unless you're willing to work hard, not give up, devote time to your profile (including social media) and to your craft and be ready for rejections at castings/auditions, then that's the best and realest advice I can give. You can do anything you want! So get out and do it!
Question: What's a typical day like, for you?
Mikaela Phillips: Most recently my days have been consisting of overseeing some of the post-production and final editing of the show's second season - before it's ready for broadcast - with our editing and sound team! On days when not doing that, mum and I have been creating and developing a few of our other scripts for screen. I also work with a lot of high-profile brands and companies, so days can include launch events, premieres, photo shoots, influencer content and lots and lots of emails and phone calls (laughs)! I'm also always in the kitchen whether it's for dinner, lunch prep or a delicious dessert!
You'll hardly ever find me not working or doing something!
Question: What's next for you?
Mikaela Phillips: A Teen Choice Award! That's one of the goals! Moving forward I still will be reprising my role of the beloved Faith Morgan for Counter Play Season 3 however, I still have a lot more I want to achieve and do! I can't disclose too much at this time but have a few exciting projects in the works!
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Photography: Sophie Louise Photography