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Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Front Page -

fter years of play­ing the brides­maid and never the bride, Mi­randa Tapsell has de­cided it is time to sim­ply knuckle down and write her own hap­pily ever af­ter. The Lo­gie-win­ning ac­tor is not only plan­ning her own real-life wed­ding later this year, but she is about to take the plunge into lead­inglady ter­ri­tory for the first time in her ca­reer. And the sub­ject mat­ter won’t be much dif­fer­ent.

Next year, Tapsell, 31, will ap­pear as a bride in the ro­man­tic com­edy Top End Wed­ding. It is a project that is par­tic­u­larly close to her heart, and also a sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ment – Tapsell wrote and pro­duced the movie. When she found the time to do so is a good question, since it’s be­come al­most im­pos­si­ble to switch on a TV in re­cent months and not see Tapsell as you flip chan­nels. She won ac­co­lades for her poignant por­trayal of sin­gle mother Martha on Love Child. She has been look­ing through the square win­dow with a new gen­er­a­tion of young­sters on Play School. And to­mor­row night, she will make her de­but on an­other hit Nine Net­work drama, Doc­tor Doc­tor.

It has been a while since Tapsell dipped her toe into the world of film – Top End Wed­ding marks her first since she made her big-screen de­but in 2012’s The Sap­phires. “I have been work­ing fairly con­sis­tently,” Tapsell tells Stel­lar. “And they’ve been great roles. But I want to show that I can carry a story.”

What she did not want was to sit around wait­ing for cast­ing agents to come knock­ing. So Tapsell fol­lowed the lead of her friend and men­tor, ac­tor-di­rec­tor Leah Pur­cell, cre­at­ing her own op­por­tu­nity by sit­ting down and start­ing to write the film with her friend Josh Tyler. That was four years ago. By the time they had fin­ished their script, things had changed.

“I was just hap­pily sin­gle and in­de­pen­dent but writ­ing this su­per-ro­man­tic story,” she says. Then, through mu­tual friends, she met com­edy writer James Col­ley. “Writ­ing about love con­tin­ued my be­lief in it. That’s why I love ro­man­tic come­dies. I just went, ‘Wow!’

“I en­joy his com­pany. He’s kind to me. I am his equal. So far, he’s only ever treated me with love and re­spect. And he al­ways likes to hear what I have to say. He never dis­misses it. What could I pos­si­bly lose?

“It’s not like I al­ways dreamed of my­self in the big white dress. But I al­ways be­lieved in spend­ing the rest of my life with some­one – where even the hard­est parts can be smoothed out. My par­ents have been mar­ried for 42 years. And all they’ve ever taught me is to be brave and to be kind. Be­cause they treat each other with such re­spect de­spite how they can oc­ca­sion­ally get frus­trated with each other, as you do in a mar­riage.”

Col­ley popped the question dur­ing a visit to a park where Tapsell used to play as a child. “I didn’t know that he had planned it all, so I was grow­ing more and more frus­trated,” she says. “I was like, ‘What is hap­pen­ing?’ Be­cause I felt like I was be­ing taken around the mul­berry bush. And then when he pro­posed I felt so ter­ri­ble.”

Col­ley was raised in New South Wales and Tapsell is from Dar­win. Each comes from a tight-knit fam­ily but, due to the na­ture of their work, they have made a life in Mel­bourne, far from where they re­spec­tively grew up.

But the North­ern Ter­ri­tory has al­ways re­mained close to Tapsell’s heart – and it is there, in the vast ex­panse of the stun­ning Kakadu Na­tional Park, that Tapsell joins Stel­lar for a spe­cial photo shoot that cel­e­brates not only her roots but also our sec­ond an­niver­sary. And it is what she had front of mind as she wrote her movie, which shot there ear­lier this year and is set to show­case what makes the re­gion so spe­cial. “We are go­ing to re­ally cel­e­brate the best things about the Ter­ri­tory… Peo­ple think it’s this back­wa­ter, that it’s our deep south,” she says. “It will be nice for peo­ple to see some­thing dif­fer­ent.”

Show­cas­ing that di­ver­sity in cinema has been a key ob­jec­tive of Screen Aus­tralia’s In­dige­nous Depart­ment, which re­cently celebrated its 25th an­niver­sary and helped mount the pro­duc­tion of Top End Wed­ding.

“Aus­tralia’s First Na­tions peo­ples are some of the world’s old­est sto­ry­tellers,” depart­ment head Penny Smal­la­combe tells Stel­lar. “We’ve been telling stories for thou­sands of years through art, song, dance – and now film. These stories are a vi­tal part of our his­tory as a na­tion.”

And, as Tapsell points out, “The ro­man­tic com­edy genre isn’t well known for its pro­tag­o­nists not be­ing Cau­casian. It’s re­ally im­por­tant. I want girls from dif­fer­ent back­grounds to see this. You should see the statis­tics on just how of­ten women of colour get swiped left – re­jected – on Tin­der.

“Go­ing through high school and then univer­sity, the boys and men around me were only ever ex­posed to one idea of what beauty is. If [blue-eyed blondes] are all they’re ex­posed to, then that’s what’s go­ing to in­form their taste in women.”

Mak­ing the film, Tapsell says, was an enor­mous con­fi­dence boost. “I might not be Elle Macpher­son. I might not be tall. I might not be blonde. But I did feel beau­ti­ful. So it was re­ally nice to have that. And I had to back my­self be­cause I had writ­ten it and it was go­ing into pro­duc­tion.”

rom the start, plenty of peo­ple ques­tioned her child­hood dream of be­com­ing an ac­tor. “Peo­ple would con­stantly comment on my height or my be­ing brown,” says Tapsell, who stands at a diminu­tive five foot. “That hasn’t scarred me. It re­ally did make me feel sat­is­fied when I could sur­prise peo­ple by be­ing some­one else – some­one they never imag­ined me be­ing.”

She was ea­ger to launch a ca­reer in her early teens, and wanted to drop out of school to do so. But her mother Bar­bara, a teacher at Dar­win High School, urged her to fin­ish her ed­u­ca­tion first, and in­stead sup­ported her pas­sion by tak­ing her to the the­atre and fer­ry­ing her be­tween dance and drama classes. “My mum would show me Deadly Vibe [a pub­li­ca­tion that show­cases the achieve­ments of In­dige­nous peo­ple in many fields], and I would read about peo­ple like Deb Mail­man and Aaron Ped­er­sen.”

Years later, Tapsell would star with Mail­man in The Sap­phires. “I was proud of how I man­aged to keep it to­gether when I first saw her,” she re­calls with a laugh. “Deb was in­cred­i­ble. She treated all of us as her equal. She con­stantly made sure that we were sup­ported in the scene and that we felt com­fort­able do­ing it. It was my first film, too; to have her ground me like that was a re­ally won­der­ful thing.”

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