HOLLY BYRNES

Herald Sun - Switched On - - On The Couch -

SINCE Deb­o­rah Mail­man’s small-screen de­but on the ground­break­ing drama The Se­cret Life of Us, she has charmed the na­tion with her wicked grin and ex­tra­or­di­nary tal­ent.

A proud in­dige­nous woman, Mail­man has gar­nered early buzz for her per­for­mance in the ABC tele­movie Mabo.

She says the pres­sure to tell the story of Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait land rights pioneer Ed­die Mabo has been daunt­ing.

Mail­man plays widow, Bonita Mabo.

‘‘ It scared me beyond any­thing be­cause she’s such a well-loved and well-re­spected woman in the com­mu­nity and, of course, the Mabo fam­ily,’’ Mail­man says.

‘‘ I wanted to make sure the fam­ily, first and fore­most, were happy with me and that I had their bless­ing. And once I got that I felt I could pre­pare for the role.

‘‘ When I knew they were 100 per cent be­hind me and Jimi (Bani) playing Ed­die, I could re­lax. Then I just en­joyed the im­por­tance of telling the story.’’

Mail­man de­scribes Bonita as ‘‘ in­cred­i­ble, a fan­tas­tic lady’’.

‘‘ She matched Ed­die in ev­ery way en­ergy-wise. She’s a beau­ti­ful woman. She’s got such a gor­geous and gen­tle heart,’’ she says. ‘‘ But she’s a war­rior too. She can fight and

Ed­die’s has that same fire Ed­die had.’’

While Aus­tralia has em­braced Mail­man’s tal­ent, ac­tor Jimi Bani in the ti­tle role has been a rev­e­la­tion.

‘‘ If you didn’t know Jimi be­fore this, you will now be­cause he’s ex­tra­or­di­nary,’’ Mail­man says.

‘‘ He’s also a per­fec­tion­ist be­cause he un­der­stands, es­pe­cially as a Tor­res Strait Is­lander man, more so what it means to play the role of Ed­die Mabo.’’

As far as in­dige­nous rights are con­cerned, Mail­man says while the Mabo High Court de­ci­sion broke ground, the cause has lost trac­tion.

‘‘ Yes, there was that sense of recog­ni­tion — over­turn­ing terra nul­lius, so on a psy­cho­log­i­cal level and as a sym­bol it did that for us as a com­mu­nity, as black fel­las,’’ she says.

‘‘ But we’re still hav­ing to as­sess health and ed­u­ca­tion in com­mu­ni­ties, em­ploy­ment, drug abuse . . . that’s still hap­pen­ing, that’s still a prob­lem.’’ Mabo, ABC1, Sun­day, 8.30pm His­toric: Deb­o­rah Mail­man and Jimi Bani play Ed­die and Bonita Mabo.

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