Deborah Mailman On Her First Lead Role In Her 25-Year Career

From Offspring to The Secret Life Of Us, Deborah Mailman's diverse resume and stellar acting chops have made her one of the most recognisable and celebrated faces in Australian television.
Yet despite over 25 years in the industry with several awards under her belt, the now-49-year-old has never been cast in a leading role, until now.
The Bidjara and Māori (Ngāti Porou and Te Arawa) woman reprises her role as politician Alex Irving in season 2 of ABC's political drama, Total Control and the wait for a lead character has been worth it.
"This is the one," Mailman told Refinery29 Australia. "She's just such a gift to be playing as a character and if we sort of go there and say 'Yeah, it's my first lead role', then what a character to be given for me to be able to flex my [acting] muscles in that way."
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Image courtesy of ABC
Deborah Mailman in Total Control
Portraying a strong-willed woman in Canberra's cut-throat political bubble where so many odds are against an Indigenous woman in office is a role that's uncommon on Aussie TV shows. In fact, it's practically a rarity in real life and that needs to be highlighted on screen.
Mailman said she believed the timing of the second season is ideal given Australia's current political climate where intersectional challenges in politics has gained more attention.
"In regards to female politics, and particularly women of colour within politics, I mean, it [the show] just seems to come at a time that is absolutely perfect," said the actor. "Because I think there's a stronger awareness from people to just understand what that reality is for politicians."
From incarceration rates to deaths in custody, the show explores heavy topics in an authentic and unapologetic way. Mailman said she and the writers have been "uncompromising in some of the ways that we sort of tackle these issues".
Image courtesy of ABC
Deborah Mailman plays Alex Irving in Total Control
Translating this on-screen requires a fierceness that's different to other roles. It tugs at the heart because you're speaking up for generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who've faced hardships at the hands of colonisation.

"I think there's something that's a bit deeper in the guts for me and in the soul when it comes to stories that are about First Nations experiences," she said. "It's also playing a reality that we know so well.

"And it's not often everyone is directly affected by or has had that personal experience of traumatic moments, whether it be death in custody [for example], but we certainly know it because we know of someone or we certainly know the trauma that can bring to not only a family but to a whole community."
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With season 2 just around the corner, the TV star only hopes a subsequent instalment gets the green light. "I'm hoping fingers crossed that we do get another season out of this," she said.
As for what audiences can take away from the upcoming episodes dropping this month, it's simple. "We just want people to tune into it and actually really bloody love it," she said.
"If there's anything I could wish for, it would be that."
Total Control Season 2 premieres on Sunday, November 7 at 8:40pm on ABC and ABC iView.
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