Unfortunately, I was not familiar with Australian actress Deborah Mailman or her work until I saw her earlier this year in The Sapphires. Immediately after seeing the film, I googled and IMDBed her and started adding her other films to my Netflix queue. As a result, I quickly came to appreciate her work. Deborah is an amazingly talented Aboriginal actress whose career has spanned nearly two decades. Here are 5 facts that you might not know about her.
1. She was the first Aboriginal actress to win the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. She won in 1998 for her role as Nona in the film Radiance.
2. Deborah gives an amazing performance as Gail in the film version of The Sapphires. But in the original play, she played the role of Cynthia.
3. The Sapphires deals a lot with race relations. As an Aboriginal woman, Deborah relates to African Americans in the United States. She says: “That correlation between African Americans and Aboriginal Australians that the movie shows was always there. My parents’ generation were very influenced by Martin Luther King, Jr. Civil Rights was on the march in America, and in Australia. In America, Martin Luther King was struggling for equal rights, and in Australia, people were inspired by him to attempt to get tribal recognition and equal rights for Aboriginal peoples.”
4. In the film Mental, which costars Toni Collette, Deborah was cast in a role that was not specifically Aboriginal. She states: “The script didn’t say, ‘Aboriginal crazy woman,’ so I love that they considered me for that. We’re at a place within our industry where the landscape for indigenous actors is shifting. We’re moving beyond roles that are described as our background. A character doesn’t have to be described as an Aboriginal woman for me to have a shot at it. That happened in ‘Mental,’ where I’m a character who is never regarded as black or Aboriginal. She’s just crazy.
5. Deborah easily makes the transition between film and television. In addition to her AFI Award, she is also a Logie winner. The Logies are the Australian equivalent to an Emmy. Here is the video from her most recent win.
I am a huge fan of Deborah’s. In a addition to the films listed above you should also check her out in Bran Nue Dae and Rabbit-Proof Fence.