Award-winning ‘Horizon’ actor Alistair Cooke on character work

“The stories I have been able to tell are the reason I’m an actor. Being able to give audiences the insight into the lives of other people, the experiences those characters have, is the most rewarding part of the job.”

And so begins our in-depth phone interview with Alistair Cooke, an award winning Australian actor who has built a reputation for crafting characters that layer both deep intensity and a boyish innocence.   

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Alistair Cooke, photographed by Johnny Nicolaidis.

When speaking with the young Australian, it’s apparent that he’s genuinely motivated by craft and possesses a rare capacity to simultaneously transform himself to serve a character and text, but also retain his unique, one-of-a-kind personality. An extrovert and an introvert, an artist and businessman, Alistair is full of contradictions in the way that only the most deep and provocative artists are.   

He elaborated on his chameleon like nature when we asked about it in our chat.

“My ability to take on any accent, mimic body language and have an understanding of human nature… allows me to transform into any character. The key is believing…once you’ve mastered the technicalities of people from voice, body and of course their mental state… you can’t fail.”

Perhaps best known for his award-winning performance in the acclaimed online series, “The Horizon,” Alistair is perceived as a star but has the reputation of a craftsman in the entertainment industry with an extensive repertoire of diverse challenging characters.

In that series, Alistair played the leading role of Jake, the series’ protagonist in this fish-out of water tale about an innocent small-town boy moving to the big city to embrace a progressive community.

“This character had the challenges that many people in the LGBTQI community face and being able to share this with an audience outside that community truly felt like an important part of the job.”

“The Horizon” had the benefit of not only enjoying audience numbers that exceed 63,000,000 but also claims the title of the most successful online series ever produced in Australia. Alistair has taken the success in his stride though, as the associated fame has not meant he has rested on his laurels.

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Alistair on the red carpet. While he may enjoy a high-profile as an actor, he’s not resting on his laurels.

“Sharing the experiences of ‘Jake’ in the series ‘The Horizon’ is something I am most proud of.  This character had challenges that many people in the LGBTQI community face and being able to share this with an audience outside that community truly felt like an important part of the job.”

The Perth-native also had the privilege of working with prolific and acclaimed writer Boaz Stark on “The Horizon”, himself known for producing the highest rating episode of Australian television ever for the award-winning series, “Always Greener” (Seven Network).

And the best distinction of Alistair’s role in the critical and audience favourite? Alistair was awarded “Most Outstanding Actor’ for his role in “The Horizon” from the Los Angeles Web Festival, described by Filmmaker Magazine as the “granddaddy of all webfests.”

“That was definitely the icing on the cake,” Alistair offered with a humble smile.  

When pressed for further details, Alistair was reticent but eventually forthcoming.

“It was a shock that’s for sure! I was overseas on a shoot when I received the news and didn’t believe it at first. The Los Angeles Web Festival is one of the best in the world and it was such an honour to even be nominated! But to win, was incredible! It’s a warming feeling to know that this character and my interpretation of the role was so well received, it means I did my job, and that’s’ all I could ask for.”

“The Horizon” was also bolstered by the prominent role played by Daniel Nemes, well known for his work on SyFy hit “The Magicians” and “Unusual Suspect.”

Alistair recalled sharing the screen with the former “Home and Away” star, Nemes.

“Daniel is an absolute star…he and I had actually worked together previously, on a film “Twice Shy”…He is so easy to work with, he is open and supportive to all cast and crew.”

While Alistair might sound like his expectations for his career are fairly simple, the body of work he has built says otherwise.

The young leading man has also been prominently featured in sci-fi flick “Crawlspace” co-starring “CSI: Miami” actor Amber Clayton and “The Originals” star Peta Sergeant and action feature “John Doe: Vigilante,” in which he shared the screen with award-winning “Battlestar Galactica” actor Jamie Bamber. Cooke has won the lead in many films including ‘Memories’ alongside Mia Challis as well as Richies Shift, where he plays ‘Richie’.

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Alistair in character mode for one of his many film projects.

In addition, Cooke has carved out an impressive track record on stage, ensuring his craft has a solid foundation, having ‘treaded the boards’ (as insiders call it) for many years. Indeed, Alistair received critical acclaim for his leading stage performances in “Ladders by the Sea,” a role performed under the direction of Ron Hadeley.

“I ultimately need to be able to serve any character on a whim – it’s a hard job, but I love it.”

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