Before she was 20 years old, Australian actor Bonnie Piesse became part of one of the most enduring science-fiction film franchises of all time when she was cast in Episodes 2 and 3 of the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy as Beru, the Tatooine farmer's wife who would eventually adopt Jedi savior Luke Skywalker as a baby.
"It's been a huge help in my career, whatever I do," Piesse says. But for the past five years she has been a musician, not an actor, living in Los Angeles while recording an album of original songs. "I step into a record company's office, and the head of the record company is super excited about 'Star Wars.' It's funny to me that the smallest role that I had, compared to the stuff that I'd been doing on Australian TV shows, was the one everyone is still excited about."
Piesse was 15 when she got an agent and booked her first role, as a teenage gymnast on the Australian television show "High Flyers." She continued to work on various Australian TV series, until her part in "Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones" resulted in the sudden opportunity to leave Australia to pursue her music career in L.A.
Over the course of a few years, Piesse wrote and recorded parts of her upcoming album in L.A., San Francisco, Nashville, and Woodstock, N.Y. When she found herself in upstate New York during a year of what she calls "intense personal exploration and soul-searching," she realized that she missed acting.
So she subscribed to BackStage.com to begin searching for auditions. One of the first opportunities she found was a November casting notice for the role of Sidonia, a friend of the lead character, in "Love Eterne." The film is a romantic comedy about a young woman seeking answers and support when her life changes for the worse.
"I had been looking for something spiritually fulfilling," Piesse says. "I had already explored various subjects like psychics and the spiritual side of things, and the character in 'Love Eterne' was actually a psychic. She's always giving words of wisdom to the lead character, and I really resonated with what she was saying."
"Love Eterne" writer-director Joseph Villapaz, who received more than 300 submissions for the role, admits that Piesse stood out initially because he recognized her name from the casts of the "Star Wars" prequels. After speaking with and auditioning her via Skype, Villapaz could tell that she was passionate about the role and shared some of the character's interests.
"I knew while discussing the role and the film with her that she had a deep understanding of the character and how important to the plot Sidonia was," Villapaz says. "The character that was envisioned is basically the same as how Bonnie portrayed it on screen. When Bonnie performed, she was Sidonia. She performed with the sincerity and believability that only a few others could."
Piesse now plans to return to L.A., where she will continue to audition and pursue her film and television career. She also hopes to write more music for film soundtracks: Villapaz included one of her songs, "There for Me," in "Love Eterne," and her song "All I Have" was featured last year on two episodes of the CW series "Life Unexpected." Her album, "The Deep End," will be released later this year.
Has Back Stage helped you get cast in the past year? We'd love to tell your story. Be in the weekly column by emailing email@example.com for New York or firstname.lastname@example.org for Los Angeles with "I Got the Part" in the subject line.