PORTRAITS OF HONESTY
Deborah Mailman and her outstanding fellow Redfern Now cast members have returned for a telemovie which unflinchingly confronts brutal situations and their effects upon a community
When a telemovie airs a brutal rape within the first five minutes, you know you are up for a confronting TV viewing experience.
But Deborah Mailman says that her horror at the subject matter meant it was a nobrainer for her to play.
“When I read (the script) I went, ‘Oh my goodness, this is big,’” she says of Redfern Now: Promise Me in which her character Lorraine becomes the second victim of the rapist.
“I was thinking: ‘How am I going to manage this emotionally? Am I able to do this?’”
“But I wasn’t going to walk away. It’s really important that this was the story (the filmmakers) wanted to tell. It will get conversations happening and it’s also important we don’t become fearful of having those conversations.”
Promise Me doesn’t pull any punches in telling the story which sees a rapist (played by a frighteningly emotionless Anthony Hayes) attack two of the Redfern residents.
The first chooses to stay silent, terrified at what her friends and family will think. However when Lorraine is attacked and chooses to fight the rapist in court, her decision has far-reaching effects.
“We didn’t want to present one choice as the wrong way or the right way,” Mailman says of the dilemma the women face.
“Really it’s about the impact of rape on victims and how that impacts on the family. How it makes people struggle and figure out how to be with each other in the knowledge of what’s happened.”
Produced by Blackfella Films, the Redfern Now series has garnered awards and critical acclaim since it first began airing in 2012.
And viewers have come along for the ride, eagerly following the characters as they traverse a range of life’s highs and lows.
And while the cast and crew may be indigenous, Mailman says the stories are universal.
“It’s not just about an indigenous experience,” she says. “It looks at questions of morality, consequences of behaviour and emotional responses to incidents and moments that shift us dramatically.”
“Obviously the indigenous community are loving it because they’re seeing ‘us mob’ on screen. But more than that, people are walking away going, ‘What a great drama’. It’s really well written, it’s subtle in its storytelling and there’s reality in the relationships.”
Mailman usually relishes rehearsal time, saying the collaborative process with fellow actors helps her find new perspectives on the story.
But blocking out the scenes of her assault with Hayes proved tough for the actress.
“We sat down and the conversations weren’t that easy sometimes,” she recalls.
“Discussing, ‘How are we actually going to do this?’ You have to work through that and have trust with each other.”
Helping with that transition was director Rachel Perkins, who not only is a friend but also cast Mailman in her very first feature film in 1997.
“She was amazing at guiding us,” Mailman says. “There’s a lot of camaraderie with the cast and the crew.”
“Everyone on this series I’ve known for years and been friends with,” she adds.
“Wayne Blair, Kelton Pell, Leah Purcell, Lisa Flanagan – I’m very fond of everyone. It’s great when you get a series like this that brings us all together.”
With some talented up- and-coming actors on the series too, Mailman says she takes a maternal approach to the younger cast. And especially towards Rarriway Hick, who plays Robyn, the first assault victim.
“It’s big for her as an actress and for her going through this story. (Rachel and I) were very mindful and respectful of what we had to tell.”
But as for giving Hick tips on conquering the acting industry? Mailman laughs that the younger actress is yet to ask her for any.
“Most of our conversations tend to be away from acting,” she says.
With Redfern Now finished, Mailman is relishing having a clear schedule and taking the opportunity to spend time at home with her sons, Henry, eight and Oliver, five.
“I’m having a bit of downtime being with my boys and being a bit of a domestic goddess. Cleaning, cooking … I even weeded the garden the other day,” she laughs.
“My youngest just started kindy so that was part of the reason I was thankful I don’t have to be anywhere at the moment while I’m sending him into the big world.”
“I love that I’m seeing those light bulb moments come on, those moments of ‘now he knows that word,’. I love it.”
Deborah Mailman and Kelton Pell in
Redfern Now: Promise Me.