Miranda Tapsell on Love Child and the need to reflect diversity on screen

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to Miranda Tapsell about her work on the acclaimed series Love Child, whose three seasons are now available on DVD, her now famous Logies speech and diversity in TV and film – and she’ll also let you know what she wants for Christmas. Read on:

Congratulations Miranda on the huge success with Love Child. You have come such a long way from your theatre performance in Yibiyung, with role after role leading you to the big screen with The Sapphires (one of my all-time favourite movies now) and even at one point you played Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol at the Belvoir theatre.

The Sapphires
The Sapphires

Wow, that was a few years ago now, probably around 2013? I just had a mental blank so you will have to look it up.

Do you strive for such diverse roles and try to keep it fresh?

I think about all the wonderful actors that have been really successful here in Australia and overseas. I think about Cate Blanchett, Robyn Nevin, Nicole Kidman and Jackie Weaver all those people have become such wonderful actors because they have gotten to stretch and use their craft to play completely different roles. Even with someone like Meryl Streep, they have never played the same role twice, there has always been a point of difference.

That’s why I got into acting, I didn’t do it to play the same role. There will always be an element of me in a role, but ultimately there will always be something that makes me different in each role. I strive one day, to be where they are now in the years to come.

Is there any part of Martha, your character in Love Child that you can take as your own?

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No, not much at all, Martha is just so practical, she has really got her head on her shoulders, while Patty (Harriet Dyer) is very flighty, Martha tends to ground her. It’s the same with Simon in season three. I am constantly looking for my house keys and I never know where I’m going to be the next day. It’s just one of those things, I’m extremely flighty so very different to Martha.

You grew up in and around Kakadu National Park, I don’t think you can get much more Australian than that.

Thank-you, that’s so nice of you to say that, have you been up there yourself? It is so beautiful. I highly recommend anyone to have a break from all the overseas trips and spend that extra cash to go somewhere local. A lot of people say it is expensive to get there and yes, it can be. It’s pretty isolated, but you don’t go there to see monuments as you would in say, Paris, you go there to see the amazing escarpment and the wonderful flood plains. I think it’s just something that really is one of a kind and very special. I am not saying to families ‘rule out Disneyland’ I am just saying if you get the money together and go you won’t regret it.

What was it like growing up outside of the city life and then being thrust into the spotlight?

Darwin is a pretty small city and for me to leave high-school there and to go to Sydney was quite an adjustment. I had been there before, because I have my Dad’s side living in the Sydney area. I didn’t have my parents this time around when I left and came down to University and the one thing I found really confronting was how different the culture can be in Sydney. People were begrudged to ask for directions and unless you asserted yourself in line for the bus, you would never get on the bus. But I am a lot older and wiser now and quite frankly, I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. But in saying that, Darwin will always be my home.

About a year ago you said ‘put more beautiful people of colour on TV and connect viewers in ways which transcend race and unite us’. Since then we have had amazing shows like Cleverman and even The Get Down on Netflix. Do you think we as a society are getting better at accepting this as the norm now, as it should be?

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I believe we can always do more and I’m very flattered that people remember that speech and what I said! It wasn’t an easy thing for me to bring up. I was so nervous before hand. What I said up on stage at the Logies (2015 TV Week Logie Awards) wasn’t something that hadn’t been said before. Remy Hii, Jay Laga’aia and Vince Colosimo have all spoken out about the lack of diversity on Australian TV for many years, so I’m glad it has come to the forefront again in people’s minds.

I just wanted to say as an indigenous woman, it was no small thing to me when I was cast in Love Child, a show that was on a mainstream national network. Other than Deborah Mailman and Aaron Pederson, I can’t think of an Aboriginal person before me on the same kind of scale for Australian TV or film. I saw them and thought it felt normal, it was normal for me and it felt right and I saw myself in the same place. They were the ones that told me that it was possible to not only chase my dreams, but to experience love and happiness and all of those things. I am so blessed to be where I am now and the journey that we have been on as artists. Aboriginal actors before me, like Justine Saunders and Bob Maza, they were pushing for that stay and normality decades ago. I am where I am and got those roles because of their speaking out.

In Love Child you play a beautiful girl by the name of Martha Tennant, not only does she have to deal with pregnancy, babies and adoption issues but you also have to deal with the racial issues and the way Indigenous people were treated in the late sixties and 70’s. What are your thoughts on having to fall into a character that’s treated this way?

It is so great to have that reflected on television. I have had so many Indigenous and non-Indigenous people approach me and say how much it meant for them to walk in Martha’s shoes while watching Love Child. There is a hunger for it and I am so glad people can see themselves in Martha. She means a lot to so many people and to be given that chance to play her has been so very special.

Sometimes I think about it and it brings me to tears, I know I definitely would not have been as strong as Martha in that time. She is a warrior, definitely a warrior. Anyone that has ever been an outsider or has been bullied can feel what Martha goes through. Martha is such an integral part of the story and I don’t think you could have had Love Child without her.

Working for The Iris and having a passion for film and TV, I love to ask, do you have any favourite TV shows or movies as of late?

My favourite TV show right now is Orange Is the New Black. The fact that it’s led by an all-female cast and I love that it explores gender and racial politics within a minimum security jail. It even has some of the same themes as Love Child, the way in which all these women are thrust together under the one roof and have to work together despite all their different backgrounds and where they came from and they have to adapt.

As for movies? This is hard, umm, I just watched Finding Dory a couple of months ago and I balled my eyes out. I swear Pixar really need to give some sort of warning to the adults watching they need to bring a box of tissues. I do try and remind myself every-time but it never happens.

Talking about TV and Film can I just say something that’s on my mind? I recently found out that main characters with a disability are only represented on about 4% of TV and film, but they make up 18% of Australian society. The LGBTQI community is only represented about 5% on screen, despite the fact they make up 11% of the population. I just wanted to make those two points because, to me, it’s more than just race and gender. It goes beyond that to me. We need to reflect more of what our society really is.

I agree, I was actually lucky enough to catch a film from the Queer Film Festival in Sydney, First Girl I Loved, and it was pretty good for the most part. I do hate that these films have to be categorised and placed into a set date and time to be recognised at one or two events. Things that are left unsaid are left untouched.

Yes, definitely. It means so much more to me than just representing Aboriginal people and it needs to be brought up and discussed more.

What do you get up to in your down time Miranda?

I do a lot of reading, lots and lots. When I am catching the bus I have got books to read. In high-school I really read a lot and I just stopped for a long time after that. But now I am just realising that there is no convenient time for me to read for pleasure anymore so I have to find that love of it again and I am trying to limit my time on social media and I am really taking the time to read again for pleasure. It’s been working so far.

Do you read it from your phone and tablet or real books?

No, I read proper books. I would however love a kindle for Christmas. It would mean I could travel around and not have to worry about a book being bad or making me too sad to carry on with it. I could rely on having something else to read instead without having to carry them all.

Again, congrats on the show and we really can’t wait to see where you go from here and hopefully we see you in season four of Love Child.

Love Child Seasons 1, 2 and 3 are out now on DVD!