The One That You Want:
New Zealand’s Robyn Malcolm (right) is starring in Olivia Newton-John: Hopelessly Devoted To You, a mini-series about the famous Australian singer and actress. The ex-Outrageous Fortune star tells Sarah Nealon about her role in the drama.
Two-part drama special looks at the life and loves of Olivia Newton-John.
xcuse me, I’m shoving raspberries into my gob while I talk to you,” says Robyn Malcolm.
The Kiwi actress, who is playing Olivia Newton-John’s mother Irene in the two-part mini-series Olivia Newton-John: Hopelessly Devoted To You, is talking to TV Guide from Utah where she has been filming the US fantasy series The Outpost.
Malcolm (Outrageous Fortune, Agent Anna) is nursing a broken arm after she fell off a bicycle while riding alongside her sons – aged 11 and 14 – during a visit back home.
The injured limb has been worked into a storyline for The Outpost and while Malcolm is enjoying being in the US she was looking forward to returning to New Zealand.
Malcolm, 53, lives in Auckland but these days mostly works abroad.
“It has been a busy time but at this point all I want to do is get back home and hang out on the couch with the kids and watch stupid TV,” she says. “I’m home for a bit and then I’ve got two jobs in Australia. It’s all going to get busy again.”
Besides The Outpost, which is set to start in the US in July, Malcolm’s overseas projects include Aussie dramas such as Wake In Fright with Gary Sweet, Harrow with Ioan Gruffudd, and Olivia.
Olivia, which is based on the life of the singer and actress, follows Newton-John’s rise to fame and touches on her personal life, including her romantic relationships and her breast cancer diagnosis.
Delta Goodrem (The Voice Australia, Neighbours) plays the lead and the cast includes Todd Lasance (Home And Away).
“They kept it very quiet that Delta was playing Olivia,” says Malcolm. “There was a pretend title to the script, so you couldn’t tell who
it was. Then, of course, (there are) all the legalities I guess when you’re telling the story of someone who is still very much alive and involved in the industry so I know they had to tread very carefully with that because particularly we’re all playing characters who were very close to her.”
Newton-John, 69, who starred opposite John Travolta in the 70s movie Grease, told The Australian Women’s Weekly about her thoughts on the drama saying, “I probably won’t watch it. When they told me they were doing it, I was horrified...”
Olivia’s trailer shows Goodrem recreating Newton-John’s role as Sandy in Grease, singing lyrics from the song Xanadu, and dressed in bridal attire.
“There is a beautiful nostalgia to it,” says Malcolm of the drama. “But there is a fascination with it. We are fascinated by these stars who have such longevity and Olivia is definitely one of those.
“She is one of the great stars of the antipodes and a very interesting and complex woman.
“She’s had a series of really interesting relationships (and) she battled cancer.”
Malcolm is full of praise for Goodrem in the role of Olivia, saying she “has got a phenomenal voice and is a real star in her own right. She’s really a pleasure to watch too.”
Goodrem, who describes working with Malcolm as “incredible and inspiring”, relished the chance to play Newton-John.
“Olivia was my childhood hero,” she says. “I am so lucky and grateful to call Olivia a friend and mentor today. It’s such a full circle moment to be playing Olivia in a story about her life.”
But it wasn’t something Goodrem took lightly.
“Olivia has always been a part of my life by being inspired by her as an artist and a role model,” she says.
“I feel like I have been prepping my whole life for this role. Heading into filming, I studied a lot about Olivia’s life and started to learn some of her nuances.”
For Malcolm, playing Olivia’s mother Irene was a challenge.
“Irene is German,” says Malcolm, who wore several wigs for the role. “She lived away from Germany really since she was a child.
“She had an Australian-Germanic accent so I did quite a bit of work on that so I hope I’ve managed it.”
Malcolm says her on-screen character ages decades during the mini-series, something she thoroughly enjoyed.
“The make-up department’s ageing make-up was a work of art,” she says.
“That was one of the weird things for me, watching them transform my face into the face of a woman in her late 80s ... It was quite amazing.”
Delta Goodrem and Robyn Malcolm