Natalie Mendoza plays Jackie Clunes,
Head of Housekeeping
There doesn't appear to be much that Natalie Mendoza can't do – rock climbing, singing, playing classical piano, acting, ballet, yoga and martial arts are a few of the skills she has picked up along the way.
Her acting career began on stage at the age of 15, when she starred in a production of Cats in Sydney and went on to perform all over the world in productions of Les Misérables, Miss Saigon and Oh What A Night, to name a few. Not only does she have numerous films and television credits to her name, she also has an album coming out in 2008.
"I went out to Nashville for a few weeks during filming to do some recording, and ended up writing a song for Vanessa Williams while I was there," says Natalie.
"My sister is a regular performer and actually lives in Nashville, so I just fell in love with the place. I always thought it was a city solely for country music, but realised very quickly that all the best musicians are there and they can play everything. It's an incredibly inspiring place to be and I want to buy a home out there – we are looking at that already.
"The people out there are amazing. They have retained their heart and haven't succumbed to capitalism – you really feel that southern warmth the minute you step off the plane."
Music and acting have been a part of Natalie's life from an early age. Her father is Spanish/Filipino jazz pianist and arranger Noel Mendoza, and her English/German mother, Robin Jackson, is an Australian TV personality. Music has always been a huge part of Natalie's life and her band, Jackson Mendoza, have enjoyed huge hits in Australia and been signed to Virgin records internationally.
Since her acting career has taken off, Natalie has continued to record in the studio alongside musicians including Marius Devries, David Gray and Bryan Adams. She is married to music producer Eliot Kennedy and has just recorded a solo album scheduled for release later this year.
"It seems that I have always been singing and acting and I see them both as equally important to me," says Natalie. "I trained at The Old Vic but music has been in the house from when I was young, so it's in my blood. It's great that I can do both and I am really excited about where my career will go from here."
As sexy and glamorous Head of Housekeeping, Jackie Clunes, Natalie has made some lifelong friends and will be sad to leave them behind when her character leaves at the end of this series.
"This year more than ever we have felt like a tightly-knit group," she says. "During the first two series, because of my storylines, I tended to work mostly with Max [Beesley, who plays Hotel Manager Charlie Edwards). However, this year it is more ensemble and I have really bonded with the rest of the cast because our storylines have crossed over more," she explains.
"Jackie was in a relationship with Charlie in series one and he was very much a colleague but, in this series, he is Jackie's boss, which took a bit of getting used to, but as the storylines unfold the audience sees Charlie and Jackie really sticking together as some major problems arise at the hotel. It is one of these problems that eventually leads to Jackie's departure."
In series three, Jackie's wardrobe has had a make-over as she steps out of the uniform and into designer clothes by Alexander McQueen, Mark Jacobs, Louis Vuitton, Armani and Roberto Cavalli.
"In previous years, Jackie, a hard-working mum, was seen mostly wearing suits and tailored blouses. However, this year she has had a bit of a pay-rise and has ditched the suit in favour of a fresher, sexier look," Natalie says.
"Plus, she's in love with a dentist so her look is more flirtatious but still on the conservative side of sexy. Michael Johnson, the show's costume designer, and I had so much fun shopping for Jackie this year."
Natalie's own style is quite eclectic and, despite loving fashion, she finds she has to think more about style with her album coming out.
"Personally, I'm a bit of a chameleon when it comes to fashion – I mix Prada with something vintage I might pick up from Portobello market. But I really have to think about it now for my music, what with image being so important," she explains.
"I have dabbled in a bit of design for a street label called Voodoo Dolls, and became the face of the label for a while in Asia and Australia, and they asked me to design my own line for their surf label – which was quite a few years ago now."
Rock climbing is one of the skills Natalie picked up when in training for her role in the cult thriller, The Descent.
"I only learnt rock-climbing whilst I was on the set and I found it quite addictive because you have to be present in that moment and focus completely on each movement, reach out and grab, otherwise you will fall," she explains.
"Until I did that training, I didn't realise how many thoughts are constantly pouring through your head, and you can become really quite unfocussed in normal day-to-day life. It's almost like an active meditation, which is really difficult, but I love it."
Natalie was able to put her climbing skills to the test when she and husband Eliot discovered they were locked out of their home one night.
"I saw a window open at the very top of our three-storey house and thought: 'I can get up there'. So I climbed up and over the glass conservatory and up a pipe," explains Natalie. "I was swinging from side to side and my husband didn't say a word until I got to the top, when he said he was married to cat woman. I think I scared the life out of him!
"I didn't have stunts like that to do in Hotel Babylon," she laughs, "but I can probably do anything in heels now!"