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

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TV - TIF­FANY DUNK

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.

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