According to award- winning actress, director and playwright Leah Purcell, the critically acclaimed ABC drama Redfern Now won over “audiences across the board” when it premiered in 2012. The series, telling a diverse array of indigenous stories set in the Sydney suburb of the title, connected with viewers of all races, says Purcell. “And that’s exactly what we wanted to achieve – universal stories everyone can relate to and that show our strengths and abilities and perspective.” Now Redfern Now has returned for a second six- episode season, with Purcell writing and directing “Consequences”, airing Thursday, November 21.
Leah, what is your Redfern Now episode “Consequences” about? What were its origins?
It was actually inspired by [ series producer] Jimmy McGovern, and what he wanted out of us as writers. One of his big pushes was “story, story, story”. You know, not situations or circumstances but stories.
And this story is about a young Aboriginal woman, a high achiever, who receives a PhD and essentially goes home to gloat to her estranged father, who is white. She finds out that he’s dead, though, and from there it’s her journey to make it and herself known to his family.
Is much of the story based on your personal experiences or of people you know or have met?
It was really interesting because when I brought the subject up there were people in the group who knew of people in similar circumstances. It’s great to know you’re not alone in a story. It then gains its own life- force and grows.
Was the Redfern Now writing initiative something new to you?
I never trained in anything. I just free- fall and dive right in. And Jimmy and the other Redfern Now editors hooked onto that. They said “Here’s a storyteller. She may not know the rules but there’s something in there”. So I learned along the way.
What does a project like this one mean to Australia’s indigenous creative community?
It’s absolutely awesome. There’s so much pride and so much determination, and Redfern Now is supposed to happen now. It’s taken 20 years of initiatives to earn our stripes and be where we are today. It’s an opportunity for employment. We’ve long been capable of telling our own stories. We wanted to make Redfern Now universal, just sprinkled with a little black pepper. Redfern Now, ABC1, tonight, 8.30pm. Leah Purcell’s episode, November 21.