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

NATALIE Im­bruglia is back on Aus­tralian TV for the first time in six years – but she is a world away from Ram­say Street.

The for­mer Neigh­bours star is stand­ing in front of Ray Martin at Uluru, pre­par­ing for a life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Im­bruglia, an in­ter­na­tional chart-top­per with her song Torn, is one of six celebri­ties tak­ing part in the sec­ond sea­son of FirstCon­tact.

The 41-year-old, along with for­mer One Na­tion politi­cian David Old­field, TV judge Ian “Dicko” Dickson, co­me­dian Tom Bal­lard, for­mer Miss Uni­verse Aus­tralia Re­nae Ayris and ac­tor Nicki Wendt, vis­its re­mote Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties dec­i­mated by drug and al­co­hol ad­dic­tion and high rates of sui­cide.

Im­bruglia, who spends most of her time bounc­ing be­tween Lon­don and LA, ad­mits she’s a novice.

“I haven’t had a con­ver­sa­tion with an Abo­rig­i­nal per­son,” she says. “I can count on one hand the times I’ve seen them in the dis­tance on the street.”

FirstCon­tact is the first time Im­bruglia has been on Aussie TV since her judg­ing stint on tal­ent show TheXFac­tor in 2010. In July last year, she re­leased cov­ers al­bum Male. But other than that, she has been off the grid. So what has she been up to?

“I am song­writ­ing ac­tu­ally and I’m see­ing what kind of an al­bum that’s go­ing to turn into,” she says. “I also have a cou­ple of busi­ness ven­tures I’m work­ing on. I tend to keep quiet un­less I’ve got some­thing to talk about. I don’t self-pro­mote be­tween jobs. I just get on with life.

“As far as act­ing, at the mo­ment I don’t have any plans. But who knows. I haven’t been ac­tively pur­su­ing it [act­ing] but I’d love to do an­other play at some point. I’m cer­tainly not say­ing no.”

Im­bruglia ad­mits she needed some re­as­sur­ance be­fore say­ing yes to First Con­tact. She hadn’t seen the first se­ries, which fea­tured six or­di­nary Aus­tralians who spent 28 days in re­mote Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties.

“I wanted to be sure what the tone of the show was go­ing to be … that things weren’t go­ing to be set up in such a way that they were con­trived,” Im­bruglia says.

“I wanted to make sure it was go­ing to play out in a real way.”

In episode one, the group goes to Ku­nunurra, in Western Aus­tralia’s Kim­ber­ley re­gion, to spend a night at the town’s soberingup shel­ter. They learn the Kim­ber­ley has one of the high­est rates of sui­cide in the world.

In episode two, they visit the tiny town of El­liott – half­way be­tween Dar­win and Alice Springs, where up to 20 peo­ple live in a fourbed­room house.

“There were sit­u­a­tions where I clashed with David [Old­field],” Im­bruglia says. “When you’re walk­ing into peo­ple’s homes, some­times he de­liv­ered opin­ions [to Abo­rig­i­nals] that made me re­ally un­com­fort­able.

“It [his con­fronta­tional style] was dif­fi­cult be­cause it dom­i­nated and got in the way of us [celebri­ties] hav­ing our ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Im­bruglia’s most emo­tion­ally af­fect­ing ex­pe­ri­ence came when she, Ayris and Wendt trav­elled to Coota­mundra to hear first-hand from women sep­a­rated from their fam­i­lies as chil­dren – the stolen gen­er­a­tion.

“It is one thing to know that it hap­pened, but to sit there with peo­ple who ex­pe­ri­enced it was a lot,” Im­bruglia says of the visit.

“Some of them were still strug­gling with the trauma but so many of them were look­ing to the fu­ture. I found that in­cred­i­bly in­spir­ing.

“It [ FirstCon­tact] was quite emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally ex­haust­ing. We did a lot in a short space of time.

“I would have liked to have stayed in each place longer. It was a lot to digest.

“I would like to get back to some of the places we vis­ited in my own time. That is a prom­ise I made to my­self.” LAST sea­son’s fi­nale of The Black­list had a shock twist no one saw com­ing.

Sea­son four – which is well and truly un­der way – is tak­ing au­di­ences on an equally wild ride.

“There’s a lot go­ing on, and a lot to con­tend with,” says James Spader (be­low), who plays for­mer crim­i­nal and now FBI in­for­mant Ray­mond “Red” Red­ding­ton.

“If I have one com­plaint, it’s that cir­cum­stances [are] pretty dire right from the jump.

“We ended the sec­ond sea­son with things just thrown up in the air in so many pieces.

“Things re­mained pretty dire to the end of the third sea­son.”

Which posed the ques­tion for pro­duc­ers: where to from there?

They knew they needed to mix things up – hav­ing Liz (Me­gan Boone) break away from Red cer­tainly changed the dy­namic.

“I think what we might have had a deficit of, is some of the lust for life and joy and fun that Red sup­plied to the show [in ear­lier sea­sons]” Spader says. “We tried as much as we could to main­tain that, but it can feel so im­plau­si­ble at times con­sid­er­ing what he was faced with through­out the sea­son.

“We were def­i­nitely al­ways go­ing to push for that. But it was a strug­gle. It was of­ten hard to find the thing to be ir­rev­er­ent about.” WED­NES­DAY, 9.30PM, SEVEN

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