Brisbane Airport BNE Issue 3 - page 10

cover story
Jessica Marais’ latest roles spanning the 1960s to 1980s
have allowed her to indulge another passion
Chameleon star on the rise
o-one could say that Jessica Marais has
been type-cast. Since leaving the hit
television series
Packed to the Rafters
the Logie Award-winning actor has starred as
a mobster’s wife, a midwife, a heroin addict
and anti-VietnamWar activist and, soon to
be seen on ABC-TV, as legendary transgender
showgirl Carlotta.
However, she is becoming a bit of an expert
on the social and political issues of the 1960s,
1970s and 1980s thanks to her recent roles.
After Rafters she went to the US to play a
starring role as the trophy wife of a mob boss in
the 16-part series
Magic City
set in post-Cuban
revolution Miami in 1959; she stars as midwife
Joan Millar in Channel Nine’s series
Love Child
set in the turbulent
times of 1969
when unwed
women were
forced to
give up their
babies for
she played dual roles of heroin addict and
anti-VietnamWar activist in La Boite Theatre
Company’s production of
set in Melbourne
of 1971; and ABC-TV’s
spans the ‘60s,
‘70s and ‘80s as it recreates the transformation of
quiet and confused teenager Richard into Carol
Lee (Marais plays both roes) and Kings Cross
Les Girls showgirl Carlotta.
The pattern for period settings has
suited Marais just fine as she confesses
to being a bit of a history nut. In fact,
it almost became her career. Although
her talent for performing was clear
by the time she reached high school,
Marais signed up for an arts degree
at university with ambitions to
become an historian. “I really loved
history and I also did philosophy,
anthropology and psychology for
a year and didn’t do any drama at
all,” she recalls. But her high school
teachers intervened and encouraged
her to “give drama schools a go”. But
it wasn’t until she auditioned at NIDA
that “a light came on and I knew I
wanted to do it,” she says.
Marais has worked steadily since
graduating from NIDA – finding
time as well to have daughter Scout,
who is now almost 2, with fiancé
and former Rafters co-star James
Stewart. Director David Berthold’s
strategy to cast the couple as part
of his ensemble in
proved a
winner for La Boite. It was the first time
Marais and Stewart had been on stage
together and Brisbane audiences loved
it. The four-week season sold out making it the
company’s highest selling show in a decade.
For seasoned TV star Marais it was only the
second time she had been on stage since leaving
NIDA but she loved it too.
“It’s so energising. I particularly love an
ensemble piece because you get to work with the
other actors. In film and television unless you
are in scenes with the other actors you might
not even see them. On stage, there’s a really
exciting relationship between the actors. I love the
audience/actor relationship as well. It isn’t filtered
through the edit or a camera. Theatre also tests
your skills because you can’t go back and do a
retake if you make a mistake. Each night you try
to bring something new to the role. You never stop
striving to change your performance and tweak
things that didn’t work.”
According to Marais it helped that her partner
was in the same production. “For us it’s imposible
to take work home at the end of the day –
and we’re also taking our baby home, so we’re
doing everything on the go: rehearsing lines in
the car, while we’re changing nappies, while we
do the dinner, while we’re sitting together. Both
of us have quite strong work ethics so we don’t
switch off easily. I need a sounding board and so
does Jimmy. We like to have someone else to go
through lines with, make suggestions with and
talk through creative decisions, so it’s ideal to be
working on the same production.”
Meanwhile as Scout approaches her ‘terrible
twos’ Marais says she is learning every day from
motherhood. “I’ve learnt you’re going to make
mistakes and you’re never going to be perfect,”
she says. Surely that’s hard for an actor who’s not
supposed to make mistakes? Marais laughs.
“Yes, I’m a perfectionist but it’s been good for
me, it’s loosened up my perfectionism in some
ways. You don’t sweat the small stuff as much
anymore because there’s someone else to care
about that you have to focus on.
“Motherhood definitely opens up a different
emotional channel in you. During
Love Child
for example, the subject matter of children being
forcibly taken away from their mothers tugged on
my heart strings. I have a greater understanding
of what that would mean. I think it makes your
emotional life richer, which hopefully brings a
richness to your acting.”
James Stewart and Jessica Marais
Top: Eamon Farren and Jessica Marais in
Images, left: Tracey Nearmy/AAP; top: Simon Cardwell
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