Home & Away actor Courtney Miller draws on her past experiences to understand her character Bella Nixon as she struggles with the complications of young love, social media, and body image.
At 23-years-old Courtney has indeed learned a thing or two about life.
It’s most likely a combination of her work as an actress on Home & Away, her degrees in counseling and psychology, and her life experiences that have given her a unique perspective on people.
From the way, people act in certain situations to why someone may find a challenge more stifling than someone facing the same problem.
On the show, her character Bella is going through some growing pains as she navigates her boyfriend Nikau Parata’s modeling and fashion journey, played by Kawakawa Fox Reo.
Bella is trying her best to be a supportive partner, but Courtney tells Girlfriend that she is anxious because she does not want to lose Nikau.
“She puts on a brave face because, at the end of the day, this is a world she needs to enter with her photography.”
“They are going through their own emotional journey but lying to each other and sometimes we pretend things are okay just to keep moving forward,” said Courtney.
Courtney has had to deal with a variety of difficult subjects when portraying Bella, including self-harm, sexual harassment, death, and grief.
As an actress, it’s crucial to empathize with your character without passing judgment, so Courtney uses her degrees and experience working with the Lifeline mental health helpline to get into Bella’s brain.
“I feel really lucky as an actor to be able to tackle these topics and bringing life to them; Bella has been through self-harm, a victim of sexual abuse, gone through death and grief, it’s a real journey as an actor.
“But having a background in counseling and psychology has helped me understand why Bella is reacting in certain ways and to kind of solidify her feelings. Because some of the storylines are so big and I have never been through them as a person myself, so it’s allowed me to understand how she will be feeling and that her feelings are legitimate,” said Courtney.
Bella and her boyfriend Nikau are dealing with social media and body confidence, in addition to the nuances of young love.
All can relate to falling down a comparison pit and scrolling into oblivion until our perception of a healthy body image is completely distorted.
It’s a difficult situation to be in, particularly if you’re trying to break into the fashion industry like Nikau and Bella are.
Courtney has a primarily healthy relationship with social media, either because she is a little older or because of her willingness to draw on context as a result of her psychology experience.
“I really try not to make it my life. I don’t really check it in the morning I do other things,” said Courtney.
But this doesn’t mean that she doesn’t feel overwhelmed at times by the “propaganda” of Instagram.
“All the time, all the time,” she said when we asked if she ever caught herself contrasting. “It’s like propaganda, and you can’t get away from it.”
On Home & Away, tackling body image is territory that isn’t too far removed from Courtney’s personal experiences.
Since, like most people, she has experienced negative thinking loops, but she has learned to use perspective to help her get out of them.
“I think I’ve always been aware of my body since I was a kid, and I’m not sure where it comes from.” I’ve always had minor problems, but they’ve never taken over my life.
“And most of the time, I say to myself, this is what you look like, so stop caring.”
Courtney’s way of thinking demonstrates that she uses healthy thinking processes to deal with difficult circumstances, which are attributes that would have come in handy during her time at Lifeline.
Courtney gained real-world insight while working with Lifeline during her second degree in counselling. When we asked her what people should expect when they call the helpline, she said, “When they call the helpline service, they should expect…”
“People use to ring me up and say they don’t know what to say, and I would say that you don’t have to know.
“And people are very aware that this service is for people who are in desperate situations, which is completely false; it is for any situation, and it is a supporting helpline for any sort of problem you are having,” Courtney said.
In terms of her own mental health struggles, she has been fortunate in that she can depend on her mother for support.
“I’m very fortunate that I have a strong relationship with my mother; I can go to her for something, and she taught me how to handle situations on my own.” As in, if I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’ll go for a walk, eat well to keep my whole body in balance, talk it out, and don’t force things down.”
“She taught me communication and communication is my go to,” said Courtney.
Good communication skills are essential for successful relationships, but when someone young is learning the rules of love, problems are bound to arise.
Bella’s friendship with Nikau on Home & Away is acted with the maturity that comes from Courtney and her co-star Kawa.
Kawa praised Courtney and how they formed their characters through communication and character analysis in an interview with Girlfriend.
“We had lots of conversations with Courtney and about what we think, she is really awesome she is really easy to work with,” said Kawa.
Courtney says she’s glad they were able to take this approach because it allowed their characters to develop an equal and supportive relationship, which is powerful to watch.
“Most young girls, like I, have had had tumultuous relationships where the power dynamic is off or your not your best self in the relationship, all these issues. But I think Bella and Nikau have an equal and supportive relationship which doesn’t happen often,” said Courtney.
Courtney has had to deal with heartbreak in her own life, but she has learned one crucial and undeniably real lesson as a result of overcoming the extremely difficult obstacle.
“I think I’m still having little self-crises, probably learning to be a strong woman in this world,” she says. “Particularly in the last three years, I’ve been heartbroken, and I’ve been going after men who don’t treat me well.”
“Finding myself worth within that and talking about those topics with my therapist. Which is, for me, boys,” said Courtney.
Courtney hopes that by picking herself up and healing after learning this life lesson, she will find her equal.
“However, I believe that knowing my worth and finding someone who is equal to me and treats me well is something I must wait for in my life.”
“It is all disappointment but eventually there will be no more disappointment, I look forward to that,” said Courtney.