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

Herald Sun - Switched On - - COVER STORY -

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

Sav­ille.

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