High Life

ODESSA YOUNG

Geelong Advertiser - TV Guide - - Feature Story -

High Life is a new, short-form, six-part se­ries fol­low­ing 17-year-old stu­dent Genevieve, who dis­cov­ers she’s suf­fer­ing her first manic episode of bipo­lar dis­or­der. Odessa Young, who stars as the stu­dent, tells Danielle McGrane about her work on the show.

Genevieve is a gifted stu­dent and she is shown seen ex­pe­ri­enc­ing her first manic episode. What did you do to help you pre­pare for this role?

I did a lot of fac­tual and med­i­cal-based re­search at first just to fig­ure out what ex­actly it was that trig­gered this dis­ease, the causes of it, the var­i­ous symp­toms. And then I started go­ing on a lot of per­sonal blogs about men­tal ill­ness and about those who have bipo­lar dis­or­der. What was play­ing on my mind while film­ing is that peo­ple who are in manic episodes don’t al­ways have the aware­ness of it. Peo­ple who are go­ing through psy­chosis don’t un­der­stand they are un­til it’s too late. So it’s this scary idea that you may think your ac­tions are nor­mal but re­ally you’re be­ing tricked by your brain.

Did you feel a re­spon­si­bil­ity to be as re­al­is­tic as you could be­cause you’re deal­ing with an ill­ness that af­fects so many peo­ple?

One hun­dred per cent, I did. But I also learnt from the be­gin­ning that de­spite the com­mon fac­tors of the ill­ness, peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence it in dif­fer­ent ways. There’s no right or wrong way to por­tray a manic episode. You can be a unique per­son and still have the ill­ness, the ill­ness does not hide your unique­ness.

Of­ten when we see TV shows and films about men­tal ill­ness they can be quite se­ri­ous. Do you think it was good the way High Life ap­proached it with hu­mour?

Yes, I’m so sick of of see­ing film and TV and me­dia por­tray men­tal ill­ness as the end of the world. It’s hard to find peo­ple or projects or tan­gi­ble things in front of you that say it’s OK to be sick, it’s OK to feel the way you feel, and I think that a way of do­ing that is by in­sert­ing hu­mour into it be­cause it is funny. Peo­ple with these dis­or­ders and ill­nesses have full, happy lives. I thought it was re­ally im­por­tant to nor­malise it.

Stephen Fry is an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer on this show and Sarah Blasko wrote the sound­track. What was it like to have in­put from peo­ple of their cal­i­bre?

I think that it’s quite in­spir­ing be­cause they’re a part of it for the same rea­sons I wanted to be a part of it; we care deeply about the sub­ject mat­ter and we care deeply about the way it’s told. I can only hope that peo­ple re­spond to it in the way that I re­sponded to it, which is with hearty amuse­ment, but I was also touched.

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