Miranda Tapsell has had roles from stage to screen and is about to star in the new political drama series Secret City. The 28-year-old Australian, best known for playing Cynthia in the film The Sapphires and Martha in the TV series Love Child, is now performing in the play The Literati at the SBW Stables Theatre in Sydney. She chatted to me about her career highlights, what it is like to be an Indigenous actor and how her life changed after winning two Logies.
What is a day in your life?
My days are always so different. I’m now starting to work nights at the Griffin [Theatre] for The Literati … We’re in that transitional period where my body clock is going to start having to adjust to working nights. I’m excited because I’ve been working with some really funny people. Kate Mulvany is a playwright, writer and an actor; I’m also working with Caroline Brazier, who is in Rake, and two other actors, Gareth Davies and Jamie Oxenbould, and they’re very funny. My character is a bit more of a straight woman, so it’s really hard to not pull a face and burst out laughing.
What else are you working on at the moment?
I’m so excited because Secret City opens [on June 5] … I’m so proud of it because I’ve never been in a political drama. [Also] the fact that I get to play a press gallery journalist is so exciting.
What can viewers expect from Secret City?
I don’t want to give it all away but I think they’re just expected to be on the edge of their seat the whole time because you get to see from the journalist’s perspective but you also get to see from the politician’s perspective. You get to see both sides.
What encouraged you to say yes to the role of political journalist Sasha Rose?
I think what drew me to the role was that I got to work with such a wonderful cast like Jacki Weaver…
What is it like to play such a loved role like Martha from Love Child?
I just can’t believe like how many hearts she has touched. [She] means so much to people and not just women who have children or are expecting. It has really reached out to others as well. It’s a special series to be on.
What has been your biggest milestone in your career so far?
It’s all been a wonderful stepping stone. But I have to say, since winning the two Logies I’ve really been exposed to wonderful new roles like being on Play School. I think with being in something like Play School you’re with [the kids] for life. It’s so nice to be able to connect on that level.
Did your life change after winning Logies?
It certainly put me on people’s radar. To be acknowledged in that way, especially as a young person, a young performer, is a real honour.
You were born in Darwin and grew up in Kakadu. What was that like?
It was so special. I was born in Darwin but my parents and I moved out to Kakadu when I was five years old… I grew up in the township of Jabiru. But most of my holidays were spent bushwalking and swimming and fishing and camping… My parents taught me how to enjoy myself in nature and that money wasn’t something that was what you needed for enjoyment.
Did you grow up knowing that you wanted to be an actor?
Yes, definitely … I just loved becoming different people. I loved creating scenarios for myself and I loved watching TV shows because of stories and I loved reading books because of the stories. I loved telling stories, I loved reading stories. It was just a natural thing for me. As soon as I realised it was a job, I felt, well, that’s the job I want.
Are you parents in the acting world at all?
No they’re not. But my mum and dad passed on their love of stories to me, really. If you can imagine Jabiru, a tiny little country town – every Friday, me and my mum and my dad would ride our bikes to the video store. My mum and dad [would let me] pick out a video and we would sit down and watch it together.
What was your first break?
It was a show at Belvoir called Yibiyung. It was such a daunting experience because it was like my first time on stage and in the lead role as Yibiyung. I still hadn’t left drama school… The Indigenous actress, Ursula Yovich, fell pregnant … So they were looking for another young Indigenous actress to play this role and people pushed for me.
What does it mean to you to be part of the Indigenous Australian community?
I have a beautiful group of friends, Indigenous friends from Darwin who have moved here. Some of them are artists, some of them aren’t. We’re all very encouraging of one another. I just love being in the arts community because I’m friends with such kind and empathetic people.
You’ve spoken out about racism before. You said you were an outsider growing up. How did that shape you as a person?
I’ve never let it get in the way of what I wanted to do with my life. But I’m speaking as someone who has been quite lucky, who has had wonderful opportunities and things like that. But, at the same time, I’m not shy to speak up about it either because it means a lot to me and I just realise how fortunate I am as a person to be given the platform that I have. So, if there are things that mean something to me and that resonates with other people, then I am going to use that privilege.
What would you have done if you hadn’t gone down this career path?
I did think once about being a vet, but then I realised what happens to animals’ bodies and I thought that was a bit gross … I also thought about being a flight attendant but I was too short.
What is still on the bucket list performance-wise?
I was a little bit heartbroken seeing the recent ad for X-Men because they’re casting younger Storm… I was just like, “It should have been me.” I wanted to be the younger Storm.
Do you ever plan to move overseas and perform internationally?
I would certainly love to do that in the future. I haven’t totally ruled that out. I’m just having such a wonderful time in Australia.
Did you always imagine that you would have such a successful career?
No, I don’t think you can ever predict that kind of a thing. For me it was completely unexpected. I was so proud of The Sapphires, when that was released. Well, when we filmed it, I thought: What a special thing to be a part of. I could not have predicted the kind of reaction that it got from the audience… It introduced me to film and television and we got to take it all around the world. I’d never been to London, New York or Toronto. We took it to Cannes [too].
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Well, I certainly hope to still be acting… I’ll have houses all around the world … I’ll just be that kind of person that says to my friends and family, “Oh, hey, you feel like going to London? Stay at my London house.” [Laughs.] I’m dreaming big.
WE WENT TO Bellagio Café, Waverley
WE ATE Harvest bowl with chilli fried kale zucchini, mint and beetroot salad with green lentil falafel, avocado, mixed house pickles and ferment, pistachio dukkha, haloumi and poached egg.
WE DRANK Mix fruit juice.
MIRANDA WORE We Are Kindred dress.
I WORE a Dion Lee top.
The Literati is at SBW Stables Theatre, in Sydney’s Kings Cross, until July 18.
Secret City starts on Sunday, June 5, at 8.30pm on the Foxtel channel Showcase.