A raft of opportunities
Vicky Roach talks with former Packed to the Rafters star Jessica Marais about her career and what’s on the horizon
Your latest film, Planes, premiered at 9000m. That seems appropriate… We have been travelling a lot. Lots of airports. Lots of planes.
How does ( 15- month- old daughter) Scout deal with that? She’s a seasoned traveller. Of course, they have their moments – all children do. And she has just reached an age where she is a little more mobile, so we will see how she goes.
Juggling domestic life across two continents must present a few challenges…
I feel like it has really focused my energy on my family as a unit and that home is wherever we are. There’s something quite liberating about that. It means you don’t feel defined by your possessions or your nationality.
How crucial was the National Institute of Dramatic Art in preparing you for your cameo in Disney’s Cars spin- off?
When you get into film and TV, there’s a lot of emphasis on the physical. They say the eyes on camera are the windows to the soul, so you rely on your facial expressions and body language – unlike a play, where the words tell the story.
This took me back into the world where the voice really has to tell the story – assisted, of course, by the incredible animation. And you spend a lot of time on that at NIDA.
Next up, it’s the ABC telemovie
Carlotta. Do roles like that come along very often?
They don’t. As an actor, you don’t get many chances to transform.
When you signed up for Magic City, the ’ 50s Miami mob TV drama that screened on Foxtel in Australia, you said you were keen to leave the girl- next- door persona behind…
I am very happy for people to know me forever as Rachel Rafter because she was such a well- loved character and I enjoyed playing her.
But there’s a danger people will never see you as anything other than that.
Of course you want to throw a spanner in the works. Carlotta is a whole ’ nother challenge again. It’s a beast of a role. You play Carlotta, or rather Richard Byron, as she was then, from the time she was a teenager… I play the 16- year- old boy transitioning at about 19 and then eventually having gender reassignment.
So I had short hair and no make- up at all. We strapped down my breasts. I wore an appendage to make it feel like I really was a boy.
[ Carlotta] would be the first to say that, as a boy, she was never a manly man, so it’s not like I had to turn myself into the Rock or anything.
Did you do a double- take when you saw yourself on screen?
I found it incredibly exciting. There is something very liberating about playing a boy. It allowed me to tap into the more masculine parts of myself.
They are just parts of who I am as well, but they are not socially prescribed as female so I probably don’t air them all that often.
You have just wrapped on Channel Nine’s Love Child, which is set in Kings Cross in the 1960s. And Starz recently announced there wouldn’t be a third season of Magic City. What’s next?
I have just come back from a meeting in the US. There is stuff happening but nothing I can talk about yet.
Ultimately, I would like to work in film and television over there and there are opportunities presenting themselves in both.
It’s just about trying to have a sense of balance in my life.
I want to have time with my daughter, and Jimmy [ fiancé James Stewart] has well and truly earned his time back in the limelight. He has got some things he is looking at doing.