The Curious Case of Dolphin Bay made a splash over the summer. The beachy mystery adventure follows four friends working as interns at a research center for the summer. The center is trying to uncover the cause of strange changes in the local reef, and the teens start to suspect that a local legend might be behind what’s going on. Things start to get spooky as they investigate whether Dolphin Bay is haunted or if something (or someone?) else is causing the problems.
Among the four determined leads is Ella Proberts. Making her film debut in The Curious Case of Dolphin Bay as Daniela, Ella isn’t a stranger to the water and supernatural beach days. Before Dolphin Bay, she hung out with mermaids in an episode of Netflix’s Mako Mermaids, the official sequel series to H20: Just Add Water. But even before then, she has been exploring her love of acting from a young age. We talked with Ella for a behind-the-scenes look at The Curious Case of Dolphin Bay and how she’s taking charge of her acting dreams while navigating college.
Showstopper Magazine Online: Hi, Ella! Tell us a bit about yourself.
A bit about me…I had a lot of energy when I was little, so I grew up as a competitive gymnast/drama kid. When I stopped doing gymnastics, I tried to try pretty much everything I didn’t have time to try when I was training. I think this led to me having quite a few different interests. I work with Girl Up, founded by the United Nations, and I love to write and investigate so I am currently studying Journalism and International Relations here in Australia. Something that has stayed pretty consistent throughout my life is how much I love acting, film, and theater as a whole. I kind of use journalism as a gateway into learning how to investigate characters and write truthfully, in a way that is different to what I would learn in the film industry.
SMO: How did you get into acting?
I was really young—first grade! As I mentioned I had a lot of energy as a kid, so my parents put me into theater, and I just felt so at home there. I loved that playing around and trying weird and wonderful things were encouraged.
Even though going into high school, being a drama kid wasn’t the ‘coolest’ thing you could do at my school, I think it really built my confidence. Firstly, I had to just not care what other people thought of me and do what I wanted because I loved it and secondly, there’s just something about standing on a stage pretending to be someone else that kind of forces you to loosen up and not care so much.
SMO: What drew you from commercials and theater roles to on-screen projects?
Ella Proberts: I will forever love theater, there’s just a thrill about it that you can’t compare to anything else—maybe a runner’s high, but with more teamwork involved. I don’t think film has drawn me away from theater. It’s more of an attempt to try and do as much acting as I can. It feels quite different to theater, and I love it just as much!
I think the precision of getting every take right, with room for being spontaneous and trying weird things that maybe you couldn’t do in a live show, has really made me fall in love with film. In that regard, commercials were a great steppingstone, by teaching me how to be on set and take direction, without the pressure of performing.
SMO: You play Daniela in The Curious Case of Dolphin Bay. Can you tell us about your character?
Ella: Daniela is a bit of a complex character which I actually really like about her. She’s dealing with a lot of change which I think is quite relatable for pretty much anyone at any point in life. I think the film captures the pressure she puts on herself to make decisions and conform to what other people want her to be, which sort of makes her a worse version of herself. She has to put her expectations aside and re-evaluate what’s really important to her to be at her best.
SMO: What were your favorite parts of bringing Daniela to life on screen? Were there any challenges?
Ella: It was interesting reflecting on that part of myself that’s just trying to fit in, and I really loved seeing how that part of Daniela changed throughout the script. Sometimes, because Daniela is trying so hard, she can be a bit abrasive—it was a bit of a challenge because I had to try and balance having fun with the cast before a scene and then try to get back into that headspace of feeling judged and misunderstood.
SMO: The Curious Case of Dolphin Bay was filmed in some amazing places. Did you have a favorite moment from filming?
Ella: Everything about filming was fun—the cast, the crew, everyone involved just had such an amazing energy. I loved the fast-paced nature of it (we filmed it in three weeks!) because there was always something happening and someone to talk to. It was kind of like a three-week-long adrenaline rush, which just made me fall in love with acting even more.
SMO: What about behind-the-scenes?
Ella: Because it was so fast-paced, we didn’t get heaps of downtime, but when we did it was definitely chaotic—in the best way. Jayden (who plays Teddy), Allegra (who plays Jennifer), and I all shared a trailer, so there was never really a dull moment. Lunchtimes were also really fun where I could sit with Bella (Quinn) and mix with the crew as well.
SMO: The Curious Case of Dolphin Bay is out now on Disney+ after a summer premiere on Disney Channel. What is it like to have the movie out in the world?
Ella: I’m in Australia, so I haven’t actually seen it streaming yet, so it doesn’t feel real, to be honest. But when I see a clip of someone watching it, it’s the most bizarre feeling. It’s just landed in cinemas here though, so I think it will certainly sink in a bit more soon.
SMO: You’re also in your second year at University of Queensland. What is it like balancing pre-law studies with acting?
Ella: It can be a challenge at times, especially when I wasn’t sure whether I was really passionate about what I was studying—this is particularly when I was studying law (in Australia we don’t have pre-law degrees, you go straight into a fully credited degree as an undergrad!). Studying law is incredibly objective, analytical, and rigorous. I threw myself into it and ended up making it onto the dean’s list, but I just didn’t have any of that same passion for it that I have for acting and storytelling.
I like to be learning and investigating and telling stories, so I really wanted to change to a journalism degree and put more focus on acting. It was difficult to make the change because it felt like I had found a bit of success in law, and even though I wasn’t enjoying it, it was easily applauded. Whereas, I hadn’t had any obvious successes in acting at the time, and I think that kind of change was something people doubted—moving from a ‘safe’ to an ‘unsafe’ zone. But I bit the bullet, and it was so worth it! Journalism and acting have tied really well together for me, so knowing both areas can complement one another definitely helps me balance everything.
SMO: You also do a lot of work in human rights advocacy. Can you tell us a bit about those projects?
Ella: Yes, I am an advocate for Girl Up, founded by the United Nations Foundation which aims to promote advocacy for female rights. Basically, it works through girl-led clubs (in schools, unis, colleges, and communities) all around the world. There are more than 5,000 clubs in 130 countries.
Something I’m also passionate about hearing people’s stories that are sheltered from the media. Girl Up has really supported me in working on a project called ‘Press Magazine,’ which aims to share those stories, as well as provide an online tool that debunks the transparency of online news articles.
SMO: Do you have any other projects we should watch out for?
Ella: I have a couple of small things in the works, like a role in the short film “The Bathroom in Apartment 22” and a small role in the film The Edge which are both in post-production. Both are created by amazing young women—Shivani Sharma (TBA22) and Jane Larkin (The Edge)—and they have really inspired me to immerse myself into every part of the industry, including writing and directing.
The Curious Case of Dolphin Bay premiered on Disney Channel on June 11 and is now available to stream on Disney+.