Rafters of tal­ent

It’s been a rapid rise for Jes­sica Marais, who doesn’t in­tend to be type­cast, writes Colin Vick­ery

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Guide -

JES­SICA Marais most likely. Not since Cate Blanchett, who cut her ca­reer teeth in TV se­ries Heart­land and Border­town, have there been such high ex­pec­ta­tions of a small-screen star.

Marais, 24, has al­ready won two Lo­gie Awards for her riv­et­ing por­trayal of Rachel Rafter in Packed to the Rafters— that’s less than two years af­ter grad­u­at­ing from the pres­ti­gious Na­tional In­sti­tute of Dra­matic Art.

It’s a rapid rise that leaves Marais (right) in some­thing of a quandary. At what point should she leave Rafters if she’s to pur­sue an in­ter­na­tional ca­reer?

Marais is thrilled to have won a great part on a smash hit TV drama, but as many ac­tors have found, me­te­oric TV suc­cess can prove a hin­drance.

The in­dus­try is lit­tered with tal­ented ac­tors who strug­gled for op­por­tu­nity in the long term be­cause they were type­cast for play­ing a pop­u­lar TV char­ac­ter.

‘‘Right now ( Rafters) is won­der­ful for me be­cause I’m still get­ting on my feet and still learn­ing so much about the in­dus­try, but I ab­so­lutely want to ex­plore other av­enues,’’ Marais says.

‘‘It’s dif­fi­cult for any ac­tor who signs on to a TV se­ries be­cause it’s such a hugely pop­u­lar medium.

‘‘Be­cause you are in peo­ple’s liv­ing rooms on a weekly ba­sis, they re­ally be­lieve you are that char­ac­ter.’’

An am­bi­tious Marais has signed with the pres­tige United Tal­ent Agency, which has big names on its books in­clud­ing Har­ri­son Ford and Johnny Depp. A move to the US is likely down the track.

‘‘I can’t see my­self do­ing the show (Rafters) for eight years — ab­so­lutely not. I had a no­madic up­bring­ing and so it’s not in my na­ture to stick with any­thing for long. They (Seven) will be lucky to get me for half that time. That’s not re­flec­tive of them — it’s more re­flec­tive of my­self.’’

The thing is, Marais

is the


is so con­vinc­ing as the trou­bled Rachel. She to­tally in­hab­its the girl-nextdoor char­ac­ter who has been un­lucky in love.

Marais and the Rafters writ­ers have con­structed a com­plex and of­ten con­tra­dic­tory in­di­vid­ual who res­onates with view­ers.

‘‘The fact Rachel has been hurt so many times and man­ages to bounce back and still give love a go af­ter it has kicked her in the guts is re­ally ad­mirable,’’ Marais says.

‘‘A lot of peo­ple who go through ad­verse re­la­tion­ship cir­cum­stances can shut them­selves off.

‘‘Rachel has cer­tainly gone through pe­ri­ods of that, but essen- tially she’s will­ing to give ev­ery­thing a go.

‘‘She can be prickly, though. There’s a lit­tle bit of scar­ring and there’s cer­tainly bar­ri­ers peo­ple need to break through.’’

Marais says Re­becca Gib­ney, who plays Rachel’s mother Julie, has been ‘‘per­son­ally and pro­fes- sion­ally an in­spi­ra­tion’’. In her daunt­ing first year on the show, Marais, who was plagued by ill­health, re­lied heav­ily on Gib­ney for sup­port. She was work­ing 14-hour days when glan­du­lar fever took hold.

‘‘I had a few health prob­lems that drained my en­ergy lev­els quite se­verely,’’ Marais says. ‘‘I was re­ally un­well for half the sea­son and it was tough.

‘‘It (suc­cess) has not come without a lot of hard work, and work­ing in this in­dus­try has had its sac­ri­fices for me per­son­ally. I’m try­ing to find a lot more bal­ance (in my life) this year.

‘‘Re­becca re­ally does have that bal­ance be­tween her pro­fes­sional life and her per­sonal life. She has won­der­ful warmth and every­one so beau­ti­fully.’’

At NIDA, Marais tack­led ev­ery­thing from the heavy drama of Chekhov and Shake­speare to the mu­si­cal Sweet Char­ity. Given her tal­ent, what roles would she like to tackle be­yond Rafters?

‘‘There are so many great roles in the­atre and film and I’d re­ally like to ex­plore as many of them as I can. I love Ten­nessee Wil­liams and Arthur Miller. To be in one of their plays on Broad­way would be in­cred­i­ble,’’ she says.

‘‘I’d love to play a glam­orous screen siren. I love com­edy too.’’

treats Packed to the Rafters, M Chan­nel 7, Tues­day, 8.30pm Hit do­mes­tic drama Du­ra­tion: 2-hour sea­son re­turn

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