‘Hunger Games changed every­thing’

Ris­ing star Stef Daw­son re­turns home for Cleverman

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

TAL­ENTED Canberra na­tive Stef Daw­son has been the talk of Tin­sel­town of late.

Not only did the 27-yearold star in The Hunger Games film fran­chise, she has an­other four movies com­ing out this year in­clud­ing Nest, which co-stars Kelsey Gram­mer and for­mer Twi­light ac­tor Kel­lan Lutz.

“It’s been amaz­ing and is get­ting bet­ter all the time,” Daw­son says. “Of course, I miss Aus­tralia very much, but I’ve come back for work a bit lately and get to see fam­ily at the same time.”

Part of that work has been to play fiery red-headed “bad ass” Ash in Cleverman, ABC’s an­tic­i­pated new fan­tasy drama, which is gen­er­at­ing plenty of buzz over­seas.

The se­ries, which is part so­cial state­ment and part scifi nar­ra­tive with in­dige­nous mythol­ogy wo­ven in, will pre­miere in the US at the same time as in Aus­tralia.

“It’s a plat­form for telling 60,000-year-old sto­ries from the Abo­rig­i­nal Dream­time, cen­tred around the Cleverman … who was a per­son of power within a clan, a con­duit be­tween this world and the Dream­ing,” Daw­son says.

Some of those tales have been passed from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion through word of mouth.

“It’s peo­ple sit­ting down, telling sto­ries, for thou­sands of years, which is re­ally spe­cial,” Daw­son says.

The ini­tial in­spi­ra­tion for this project came from cre­ator Ryan Grif­fen’s de­sire to in­vent an in­dige­nous su­per­hero for his young son, Daw­son says. “But it’s also set in a dystopian world, where these [re­cently dis­cov­ered] crea­tures known as the Hairies … are caus­ing fear. It’s the idea of ‘the other’ and how we treat peo­ple we don’t un­der­stand.”

That par­tic­u­lar el­e­ment of the show is a pow­er­ful and univer­sal topic to dis­cuss.

“It’s clever,” Daw­son says. “No pun in­tended. But yes, it’s def­i­nitely poignant and it’s cur­rent, but then it’s about things that have hap­pened again and again through­out his­tory.”

Daw­son is a big be­liever in the idea that “artists have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to hold a mir­ror up to so­ci­ety”.

“It’s some­thing that res­onates with me as an ac­tress,” she says. “It’s why I signed up to this crazy life in the first place, to be a voice for some­thing and per­haps help cre­ate a change.”

An­other theme in the story is about gov­ern­ment power and us­ing fear as a strat­egy to win votes, sway opin­ion and seize greater con­trol.

Not-so-sub­tle deeper mean­ing aside, Daw­son says it’s also about com­pelling char­ac­ters, played by an al­ls­tar cast in­clud­ing Ryan Corr, Frances O’Con­nor, Deb­o­rah Mail­man, Rar­ri­wuy Hicks, Jack Charles and Iain Glen.

“Yes, it’s about the po­ten­tial for what hu­man­ity could be­come … but at its heart, it’s about fam­ily and love, strength against ad­ver­sity, fight­ing for some­thing, fight­ing for hope,” she says, adding there are sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween this world and The Hunger Games, which she says changed every­thing for her.

“In such a huge mar­ket, when eyes are upon you in such a big and beloved fran­chise … peo­ple start to know you ex­ist and want to bring you in for more things,” she says.

“I had a few other projects bub­bling along in the midst of The Hunger Games, so there’s def­i­nitely been a great mo­men­tum since.”

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