the God­dess of Wheat Street

Shari Sebbens shines on af­ter The Sap­phires

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - FRONT PAGE -

SHARI Sebbens gives a rau­cous chuckle, and goes there. “Gods of Wheat Street has been de­scribed as an Abo­rig­i­nal Neigh­bours or Home and Away,” the indige­nous ac­tor laughs.

“But on set, we were call­ing it Black to the Rafters.”

The role of Isolde Free­burn in the six-part se­ries is an­other de­light­ful study in con­tra­dic­tion for the ac­tress who, de­spite her proud indige­nous her­itage, al­ways thought she’d have to “play white”.

“I’m the white sheep of the fam­ily,” chuck­les Sebbens, whose mum is of Jabirr Jabirr and Bardi her­itage and dad is Syd­ney-born and of English de­scent.

“I def­i­nitely take af­ter my dad, looks-wise.

“It had never oc­curred to me that my colour – or lack of it – was an is­sue for some people, but then I moved to Syd­ney and ap­par­ently it was.

“People look at me and don’t see what they think is a typ­i­cal Abo­rig­i­nal. Thank­fully, my mother raised me well in know­ing where I come from and who I am and I’m proud of that.

“I’ve never been one to bow down to people who try to ques­tion my iden­tity be­cause I don’t fit their mould of what an Abo­rig­i­nal Aus­tralian is sup­posed to be or look like.”

Sebbens, 29, blasted into the spot­light when, fresh out the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Dra­matic Art (NIDA), she landed a role in 2012 hit movie The Sap­phires.

The film saw her cast along­side fel­low-Dar­winites – Jes­sica Mauboy and close friend Miranda Tapsell – and the woman who in­spired her act­ing ca­reer, Deb­o­rah Mail­man.

It also saw Sebbens – who grew up in Dar­win, Broome, and Nuhu­lun­buy – “a lit­tle town of about 4000 in Arn­hem Land” – pinch­ing her­self when she landed on the red car­pet in Cannes.

Sebbens has since calmly col­lected the 2013 Lo­gie for Most Out­stand­ing New Talent af­ter a stun­ning turn in award-win­ning ABC se­ries Red­fern Now.

Sebbens has lit­tle time for dis­tin­guish­ing be­tween indige­nous and non­indige­nous drama – she just wants to do good work, and be­lieves we are nudg­ing closer to the time “good indige­nous” drama fi­nally has the la­bel it de­serves “of just good drama”.

Gods of Wheat Street fol­lows the for­tunes of the Free­burn fam­ily, with Odin (Kelton Pell) left at the head of the fam­ily af­ter their mother passes away. It fo­cusses on their dra­mas, loves, chal­lenges, fam­ily con­nec­tions (hence the Black to the Rafters com­par­isons), and also has a spir­i­tual bent, with Odin’s spe­cial con­nec­tion with their de­parted mother.

“The beauty for me is in the spir­i­tu­al­ity and the spirit of the show,” says Sebbens.

“I’ve re­alised the sto­ries of our lost ones are about our con­nec­tion to our loved ones.”

Log­i­cally, it makes sense to Sebbens, but in prac­tice, she con­fesses, “I am shit-scared of that stuff”.

“I’m a be­liever but an un­set­tled one,” she laughs.

“I think it has some­thing to do with the fact that my grand­mother al­ways told me she would come back and tickle my feet at night time when she passed away.

“She hasn’t got­ten me yet. But I keep the blan­ket over my feet at night, no mat­ter how hot it is.”

Bit­ten by the drama bug at 11, Sebbens’ par­ents backed her dream.

“Mum didn’t have an easy time grow­ing up, nor did Dad, but they backed me all the way,” she says.

“I was talk­ing to Miranda (Tapsell) about that and maybe it’s the fact our moth­ers were told the only thing they could do was be clean­ers or do­mes­tics.

“I guess they never ever wanted to do that to any­body else, es­pe­cially their own chil­dren.”

GODS OF WHEAT STREET SATUR­DAY, 8.30PM, ABC1

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