NIDA Mum – Rosa Matto

To celebrate Mother’s Day, we sat down with a few students whose mothers played a huge role in them choosing a performing arts career and/or training here at NIDA.

Our next chat was with third year Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting) student and Adelaide (South Australia) native, Nic English, and his mother, Rosa Matto.

Photo (L–R): Rosa Matto and Nic English

Describe your mother.

NIC: Mum is a short, fiery, Italian woman. She’s one of those people that walks into a room and might not know anyone there, but by the time she leaves – she might not remember everyone, but everyone knows her. She just has one of those big personalities.

Mum’s also very determined and brave. She was the first woman in her family to finish high school and get a tertiary education. At the time, that was such a big deal – it goes to show how strong-willed she is. She told me the story about how my nonno (grandfather) reacted when she said she was going to get a tertiary education. She thought he was going to be really angry, but he just sat her down and calmly said, ‘If you do that, I will support you in any way I can, but I can’t help you with your studies anymore because you’ll be doing stuff that I’ve never done before. I wouldn’t know the answers to your questions.’ Being the first to do anything can be very scary, but she pushed through.

What do you like to do together?

NIC: Cook! Mum’s a professional chef who ran her cookery school for a very long time, so we spend a lot of time in the kitchen… mainly with me watching. Whenever I’m in Adelaide, we go to the theatre, cook, eat and drink wine.

When did you first realise Nic had a talent for acting?

ROSA: From an early age, Nic loved making films with his cousins. Then, when he was in year 2, he developed, entirely on his own, his first public performance for a school gala. It was a magic trick with cups and a marble. His was a very serious, mysterious maestro. It brought the house down.

How has your mum encouraged your journey towards becoming an actor?

NIC: Mum and dad met when they were both teachers. Later, they both had mid-life crises and tried to figure out what they really wanted to with their lives. That’s when mum trained to be a chef. Because they spent a huge chunk of their lives doing what they were expected to do instead of what made them happy, they always asked me, ‘What is it that you really want to do? What will make you happy?’ That could have been anything. If I decided I wanted to be a radiographer or whatever, they would still support me.

Mum took me to see my first theatre show. Her support has always been consistent. They both come and see my shows, even when I tell them not to. I’ve just always felt they’re proud of me, which is a really nice feeling, especially being an actor.

She’s also such an honest critic, even with me. While most parents love everything their kids are in, she tells me when I haven’t given my best performance. And I actually agree with her and appreciate her honesty – it allows me to improve myself.

What went through your mind when Nic said he wanted to be an actor?

ROSA: A mixture of extraordinary pride for his courage and self-belief and gut-wrenching anxiety for the hard, unforgiving and essentially lonely life he has chosen.

In what ways are you like your mother? What habits or quirks have you adopted from her?

NIC: We’re both tenacious. There’s no way that anyone is going to tell her what to do, which is something that I’ve picked up.

We have a strong sense of family; she loves to bring people in. We keep our people close.

And on the flip side, we’re both terrible with finances. It probably isn’t because we can’t do it; we’ve just never had to because dad’s really good at doing all our banking.

What part of yourself do you see in Nic?

ROSA: We are both risk takers and outgoing introverts (seriously!) who take solace in family and one or two close friends. We both have ‘public faces’, then retreat to our private realm.

I know there might be more than one, but name one specific moment during your artistic journey where you felt your mum really had your back.

NIC: I remember getting about halfway into a three-year acting course at the Adelaide College of the Arts and thinking, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ Having not really studied performance in high school, the course was completely foreign to me and I was starting to doubt myself. Up until that point, mum had always reassured me that I could go to uni if I changed my mind. But because I’d invested enough time and effort into this, she said, ‘You can’t stop now. You can do this.’ And that was the last time I ever doubted my career choice.

What would you like to tell Rosa this Mother’s Day?

NIC: Simply put, I love you and thank you. Thank you for always being there. I love how we sometimes don’t really need to talk for me to know you’re in my corner.