This interview is part of a series where we catch up with singers, actors, performers and arts industry insiders to talk about work, life and creativity.
Chloe Bayliss is used to spending time alone. At the age of 16, the actor, whose lifelong goal was to become a professional dancer, had just been accepted into a US dance company, when she became seriously ill. Then followed months in hospital surviving on blood donations, before she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, lupus. This time though, it's different. Being in lockdown was difficult, she says, especially the first few weeks.
'I'm immunocompromised, so when all this first started to happen, I had to isolate myself completely because my partner, Aidan, he's still working and all of my family were working. I could only be by myself.
'I’ve been really used to spending a lot of time by myself, been able to occupy myself. But at the same time there are limitations with this, with not being able to see the people that you love. I think that’s hard.'
'... there are limitations with this, with not being able to see the people that you love. I think that’s hard.'
Chloe plays Hayley in the hit television series Doctor Doctor, which was renewed for a fifth season in March. She's also a Helpmann Award nominee, choreographer and author and worked alongside Adrien Brody and Sam Neill in the thriller Backtrack, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
When the announcement came through that Doctor Doctor would be returning, 'it was super exciting. We were all on the edge of our seats and then when all the COVID stuff happened, I was thinking, oh, maybe it's not going to happen.' She acknowledges though, that things aren't looking too bright for the arts industry, with a lot of productions and theatre companies shut down.
Her own work for the rest of the year, which had included teaching workshops around Australia, judging scholarships and learning a Swedish accent for a play, is now on hold. She's also not sure when they'll start production on the fifth season, which will depend on the restrictions in place.
Compared to a decade ago when she was hospitalised, it's the uncertainty that the 28-year-old struggles with. 'I work better when there’s a timeline and there’s that pressure to get something done. Back then I had this need to survive and I had something at the end of the tunnel, something I was really working towards, which was finishing my diploma of dance.'
Now, with no clear end in sight, 'that can be really hard to wrap your head around.'
However, she's received encouragement from readers of her memoir En Pointe, published late last year, who have messaged to thank her. One of the recurring comments is that her writing and experience are highly relatable. This was one of the main goals for her when setting down her story.
'When I was really really sick, there wasn’t really anybody that I could turn to, or anything that I felt like I could connect with in regards to the arts and literature. And so I wanted to write something that would connect with young people, to motivate them to keep going after what they want.'
'I wanted to write something that would connect with young people, to motivate them to keep going after what they want.'
As an ambassador for the Australian Red Cross, she also wanted to promote blood and plasma donation and share how it saved her life.
Right now though, she's catching up on TV shows she hasn't got around to watching and going for daily walks, from the family home in Newcastle (her family quarantined for two weeks and her dad stopped work so she could go and live with them). For the first month, watching her peers, she says she felt an extreme pressure to achieve something or do 'all these amazing creative things'. But she realised 'you don't have to achieve all these things, you don't have to stick to this normal routine because it's not a normal routine. The world is different at the moment.'
'You don't have to achieve all these things, you don't have to stick to this normal routine because it's not a normal routine. The world is different at the moment.'
One thing she has done, 'like everybody', is change her hair. She laughs as she recounts her attempt at colouring.
'I went and got those wash-out blue hair dyes, you know those eight-wash things... So I put the blue in and then I decided to put a fake tan on as well. And then once the time had run out, I went into the shower and all of the blue ran down me and into the tan. For a week I had this blue tinge.'