On my mind

Cosmopolitan (Australia) - - Contents -

This year, Indige­nous ac­tress Madeleine Mad­den, 21, has been nail­ing it on Net­flix and in Hol­ly­wood – but it hasn’t been easy

The first time some­one was very racist to me was in pri­mary school. I was in Year 5 and the other kid was in Year 2. In that mo­ment, I knew it was racism, but what re­ally hor­ri­fied me was that a six­year­old was say­ing it.

I was born into a very priv­i­leged fam­ily, so for me it was just a bit of school­yard bul­ly­ing, but some kids are born into much tougher cir­cum­stances. They’re what give me the fire in my belly.

If I can lead the way to make the in­dus­try a safer place for younger kids to come through then that’s what I want to do.

And to be hon­est, the strug­gle is real. I am re­ally proud of what I’ve done in the in­dus­try but I’m def­i­nitely stand­ing on the shoul­ders of gen­er­a­tions of Indige­nous ac­tors that have re­ally been through the ringer.

And we still have a long way to go. I re­mem­ber when I was film­ing Pic­nic at Hang­ing Rock, the other girls in the cast would sit around and talk about the au­di­tions they were get­ting. They’d say, ‘Mad­die, are you be­ing con­sid­ered for this role?’ and I never was.

It’s very hard as a woman of colour to even get your foot in the door. You’re not just bat­tling sex­ism in the in­dus­try, it’s racism as well. And you get scripts and char­ac­ters that are not very de­vel­oped. For rep­re­sen­ta­tion it’s so im­por­tant to not just fill a stereo­type, you have to spread a mes­sage.

My role in the Net­flix se­ries Tide­lands was mas­sive for me be­cause Net­flix has so much power. There is just more scope for di­ver­sity, whether it’s sex­u­al­ity or race.

Be­ing cast in Para­mount’s Dora the Ex­plorer live­ac­tion re­make was also huge, be­cause it’s a role that a woman of any colour could have played.

My ul­ti­mate dream is prob­a­bly to ap­pear in the Star Wars fran­chise! I’ve al­ways loved it and there is so much di­ver­sity in the new films. To be in a big movie like that would just break down a lot of bar­ri­ers.

I def­i­nitely think if you’re an Indige­nous per­son in this coun­try you’re born po­lit­i­cal. You have to form an opin­ion from a young age be­cause you’re faced with in­jus­tice and dis­crim­i­na­tion very early on.

I draw a lot of strength from my fam­ily – my grand­fa­ther was Indige­nous ac­tivist Charles Perkins and my dad, when he was alive, was very in­volved in the com­mu­nity – I owe so much to them.

In turn, that re­ally drives me – it’s not just my own in­di­vid­ual am­bi­tion, I do it for oth­ers too.

I try to be a face on screen so other kids can go, ‘OK, I can ac­tu­ally do this, I’m not go­ing to let some­one’s warped ide­ol­ogy stop my dream from hap­pen­ing.’

‘It’s not just my own in­di­vid­ual am­bi­tion, I do it for oth­ers too’


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