From Play School to Parliament House, Deborah Mailman is a name all Australians know.
In 2019, Mailman wowed audiences in Total Control as she stepped into the role of Alex Irving, an Aboriginal woman from the regional Queensland town of Winton who makes her debut in politics.
Leaving Australians on the edge of their seat, Total Control is back and streaming a second season.
Shining a light on the most powerful place in the nation, Total Control showcases the ugly side of Australian politics for Indigenous parliamentarians, particularly women.
“It’s the intention of the show, to show a Blak woman in politics having to navigate all of that competitiveness, the double standards and the target that has been put on her back,” said Mailman.
“It was really important it didn’t shy away from that, and we punched it in the guts when it came to really revealing what that work is like for Alex and any other female politicians.”
“No doubt, our Blak women in politics would speak very honestly about what their world looks like.”
In the face of personal tragedy and in the middle of the political chess game where she battles sexism and racism from all angles, Irving decides to risk it all and run as an independent candidate in her home electorate.
An incredibly eloquent series Total Control juxtaposes the experience of Mailman’s character, as a Blak female politician and Rachel Griffith’s character, former Prime Minister Rachael Anderson.
“We can’t lump everything in one experience, for Rachel’s experience as a female politician, it doesn’t relate to Alex’s experience. Because being a Blak woman, that’s a whole other level,” explained Mailman.
Mailman says the show lays out the “personal sacrifice” one makes for political service.
“We start season two with the consequences of the ousting of the Prime Minister and Alex’s actions. That ripple or domino effect that expands into her family dynamics, her son Eddie and how he’s been affected and Charlie, her brother,” she said.
“For Alex, there is no compromise in this. When it comes to seeking justice for the girls and the betrayal of the Winton negations. She is hell bent on trying to fix this, but she’s underestimated at every step.
“Even though she’s done something so extraordinary in her short time in Parliament, she is still fobbed off as just an angry woman. She doesn’t fit into the mould; it asks what someone needs to do in this lifetime, as a female politician, to actually earn some respect?”
In her role, Mailman combats the stereotype of the ‘angry Blak woman’ and rather shows the power, passion and reason in a woman’s rage.
“I love that this doesn’t apologise for it … It is really great to see that rage so present, and justifiably too,” Mailman said.
“For me, I love that it is unapologetic – her anger, her temper and her everything. It’s fabulous as an actor to play that, it’s so cathartic and it’s so real. We all need that vehicle that allows you to just let it out.
“You see it on the news, you read about it. The men can have that temper, they’re allowed to go red-faced, and they often do. Why aren’t we able to have that hall pass as well?”
Total Control pushes the boundaries of what Australians know and asks what can be.
“We really wanted to create a show that was next level, that taps into the vein of Indigenous experience, politics, and being a Blak woman in that position,” she said.
“Looking at those issues that still continue to haunt us as communities, and create trauma around our experience.
“That is why I love doing what I do … We’re throwing out a few possibilities there, and it gives me goosebumps showing what can be.”
With the series premiering on October 13, Mailman felt a huge weight off her shoulders.
“For me, the biggest learning has been sitting back and saying ‘Deb, stop your rot, stop your insecurity, you’ve stepped into a really incredible role, and you’d done a bloody incredible job at it’,” she smiled.
“I think for me having that confidence to go, ‘I can do this’. Others who know me might go, well of course you were going to do it – but when it comes to a personal approach to everything. I do lack that confidence at times … the process of it can often show the reality of what it was like to get there.
“I’m so incredibly proud of it, I’m very thankful that I was given this opportunity.”
Total Control is now showing on ABC, and can be viewed online at ABC iView,
By Rachael Knowles