A FAMILY AFFAIR
Being invited into people’s homes to reunite them with lost family members is a position of trust Chrissie Swan feels privileged to take on, writes Clare Rigden
She’s one of the most recognisable faces on Australian TV; a Gold Logie winner constantly in the public eye since finishing runner-up on Big Brother, way back in 2003.
Chrissie Swan has made her life public — and Australia has embraced her for it.
But despite the fact the country feels as though they’re on first-name basis with her, Swan admits she still struggles to see herself as anything other than entirely normal.
“I’m not really a famous person. At least, I don’t feel like one,” she says candidly.
“I’ve never felt the need (to go incognito). What am I hiding from? People being nice to me? From people saying, ‘Hello, I love what you do.’ No, I would never. Come on.
“Everybody thinks if you are on the radio or television that automatically your life is very different to theirs — it’s really not.”
Her affable co-host Anh Do says he feels the same way. When he’s not filming, or touring the country with his comedy show, chances are you’ll find him at home, where he lives a quiet life with his wife, Suzanne, and their three kids.
The difference is, he’s not being followed by paparazzi.
As we’re chatting during a break in filming, where shortly Swan will facilitate the reunion of Susan and Glenda, a mother and daughter who have never met, word reaches her there’s a photographer lurking out the front of the inner Melbourne cafe being used as the base for the reunion.
As the women prepare for what is likely to be one of the biggest days of their lives, there, behind a parked car on the street, is a man with a long lens. Swan is incensed. “It makes me so mad,” she says, returning after asking the snapper politely if he wouldn’t mind leaving them all alone.
“I mean, why? This isn’t about me at all. And the last thing I’d want is to make Glenda feel any more nervous than she is already.”
Moments like this highlight a downside to having such a public profile, something she admits doesn’t always sit well with her partner of several years, and father of her three children, Chris Saville.
“He is private. Generally, we don’t go out that much. But sometimes it will catch us off guard, and he’ll be like, ‘Oh, yeah, I forget (people know who you are),’ ” she explains.
While it might be slightly baffling to her family, producers of Long Lost Family knew it made her the perfect person to be invited into people’s homes to share their deeply personal, often painful, stories of love and loss.
“I think because I started on reality TV, people have always felt that they know me,” she muses.
“I think I’m in a unique position in that respect — people feel like I’m their friend.”
And she’s right — the participants in her new show appear to have no hesitations about letting her — or Do — into their lives.
“It’s wonderful to have Chrissie be the other half (of this presenting duo),” Do says.
“Because, this is just so big; these are big moments in people’s lives. And Chrissie is perfect for this. We all definitely connect at the end of it all.”
“I keep in touch with most of the people we meet,” says Swan, admitting she chats regularly to some of the participants on Facebook and by text.
While they’re filming this episode, Glenda, the 74-year-old mother about to be reunited for the first time with the daughter she gave up for adoption, interrupts to ask if Chrissie is standing close. She wants to know she’s there should she need her. Chrissie has become a part of her family now, too.
“I’m right here, Glenda,” she says, before scurrying over for a bit of hand-holding as the cameras reset.
This easy connection is testament to Swan’s approachability and her skills as an interviewer — something that she’s learned through years of interacting with listeners on radio.
“I don’t feel like I could have done a show like this until now,” she explains.
“Everything I’ve ever done
“I think I’m in a unique position — people feel like I’m their friend”
feels like it’s led to this job ... the fact I can turn up to someone’s house, and sit in their living room, and they don’t freak out one bit, that’s all because of the reality TV. Because it’s such a normal thing; they feel like they know me.”
“It really does feel like a privilege,” Swan says of her role. “I’m in people’s homes and they’re telling me their secrets. And I get to be there for the exact moment they meet missing family members. It’s wonderful.”
CHRISSIE SWAN ON LONG LOST FAMILY
LONG LOST FAMILY, CHANNEL 10, WEDNESDAY, 7.30PM
Long Lost Family co-host Chrissie Swan; (below) with partner Chris