In 2015, Tapsell won two Logies and gave a memorable acceptance speech in which she called on TV executives to “put more beautiful people of colour on TV and connect viewers in ways which transcend race and unite us”. She singled out Leah Purcell for thanks and recognition; Tapsell had long been an admirer of the Wentworth star, whom she met while they were standing in line to buy a coffee during her time studying at Sydney’s National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA).
“Our joke is that I ordered a short black, and there she was,” Purcell says. Instantly impressed, she asked Tapsell to join a workshop she was running; the pair have collaborated on and off ever since and share a commitment to support the next generation of Indigenous performers. “It’s what we do in our culture,” Purcell explains. “It’s about giving back to our own, but also building up our Indigenous entertainment industry. If we want a viable, productive Indigenous arts sector, we must do this.”
The tables were turned at this year’s Logies ceremony, when Tapsell took to the stage to accept a gong on behalf of her Love Child co-star Jessica Marais. “It was a lovely honour,” Tapsell says. “We were such a tight unit; we all believed in that show – and it was nice to put that bow tie on it and send it off.”
Marais, who met Tapsell when the two were students at NIDA, tells Stellar, “It was evident back then that she not only had incredible talent, but true strength and intelligence – combined with an infectious smile. She has the gift of being able to convey true vulnerability as well as veracity. I am always learning watching her perform.”
For her part, Tapsell is eager to pay it forward. “I have been given a lot of wonderful opportunities, without bragging too much. But for someone to be able to work consistently as an actor, to be able to go from one job to another, especially in such a small industry… I couldn’t ask for anything more.
“But I know lots of talented Aboriginal writers, directors and actors that could certainly be given more opportunity,” she says. “So I really hope that, as I move through this industry, I can open doors for more of them.”