Q&A with Jessica Marais on playing the legendary Carlotta
CREATED ON // Wednesday, 09 July 2014 Author // Sabine Brix
We chat with actress Jessica Marais about playing the iconic performer and transgender pioneer Carlotta in the recent ABC telemovie of the same name.
How did you approach playing the role of Carlotta?
I approached it the same way as I would any character – from a place of truth first and foremost, whilst being highly aware of maintaining the dignity of the character and the voice that it represented.
You play three characters, Carlotta/Carol/Richard, how difficult was this?
Each had their own challenges because in every incarnation of a character the challenge lies in the truth and the believability of their internal emotional world as well as their relationships. I enjoyed every aspect of it and it was great to be able to sing at the end and finally let Carlotta’s voice out.
What was the most challenging aspect of the role?
The most challenging aspect was the sense of responsibility I felt to Carol and to the entire transgender community – to give a voice and to do justice to their struggle and bravery not just in Australia but on a world stage.
Watch the Carlotta DVD trailer here
You’ve been living in the States, were you coerced back especially for Carlotta?
All my decisions are project based. I make decisions about working with people I want to work with and the characters I want to play. But of course telling an Australian story of such bravery with such heart as well as being able to work with director Samantha Lang, DOP Toby Oliver and producer Lara Radulovich whose passion to the project, was a huge draw card and magnet towards the project.
How did you prepare for the role?
In every way an actor could … I put everything into it – mind, body, voice – I researched transgender, the history of Les Girls and Kings Cross, as well as the political and social backdrops through the late 50s to 80s. Carol was a great informant in terms of providing information – her books were very informative and very brave.
You were Carlotta’s ‘only choice’ for this production, how did that make you feel?
It’s a question that kept being asked – to me the fact that I had her support gave me the courage to tackle the role … and because of that support I was able to really enjoy it. I admire her as a human being and a human rights activist.
Above: Jess Marais with Carlotta
How did you enjoy working with an all-star Australian cast?
The cast and crew were the most enjoyable part of the entire process. I was working with actors some of whom I had known like Eamon and Andrew. It was a pleasure to witness Paul Capsis’ enormous stagecraft and to see him on film was a joy. Caroline O’Connor’s humility and generosity and humour and commitment were wonderful. Eamon Farren who played Ava – Carol’s best friend – is one of the most talented and supremely gifted human beings on this earth both professionally and personally - and to have his support every day on set was not only comforting but inspiring.
What other projects are upcoming for you?
I am currently shooting season 2 of Love Child and looking hopefully forward to some time with my family. But existing projects beckon and it is a constant juggling act between career and family time.
Carlotta is available now on DVD and digital download.