Zahra Newman, a Jamaican-born Australian actress who has appeared in numerous television and theater productions, is now making her debut on the big screen in the new Australian romantic comedy “Long Story Short.” The film, which was released on February 11, 2021, was written and directed by Josh Lawson.
The story was inspired by Lawson’s own experience and the classic holiday films “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Carol.” Described as a time-travel, romantic comedy, it reflects the middle-age anxieties that Lawson suffered in his own life told through a character who is the victim of a time-travel curse that condemns him to move into the future to view his wedding anniversary each year and witness his failing marriage, suffocating career, and aging appearance.
Newman admitted to an interview from Canberra Weekly that she first thought the role of “Leanne” in the film was not for her as she is not known for her work in romantic comedy, but then realized that facing the challenge it presented was an attraction. She noted that many of the scenes in the movie are long for a film script. This made her feel more comfortable with the project since she comes from a theater background and is accustomed to doing longer scenes. She also recognized that she would enjoy playing a “quick-witted bantery kind of girl” who is a match for the lead character of “Teddy.”
Newman also said she was intimidated at first by her co-star Rafe Spall, who has much more experience than she does. He allayed her fears, however, and made himself available and accessible to help her work through things with her. She learned a lot by watching her co-actors who had much more experience before the camera as well. She learned ways to be comfortable in front of the camera and to work through her fear of taking risks.
The film was shot in 2019, and the cast and crew were “so blissfully ignorant” of what 2020 had in store. In light of the kind of year 2020 was, Newman believes that “Long Story Short’s” universal themes of seizing the moment will have a particular resonance with audiences. She believes the film’s messages of taking the time to “stop and smell the flowers” are even stronger now than when it was first made.
Newman was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, and was raised in Kingston. She moved with her mother to Australia at the age of 14. Her interest in the performing arts was encouraged by her relationship with Father Ho Lung and Friends, a Caribbean-style music and theater arts group associated with Missionaries of the Poor. Newman also performed with the Harvest Rain Theater Company. She graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2008 and has appeared in numerous productions at leading theater companies in Australia during her career.
Photo Source: Wallis Cinemas