Susie Porter: “What is for me will not pass me by.”
Susie Porter lives by a motto that has been the key to chalking up 20 years of top screen roles.
If you take a look at Susie Porter’s IMDb page, it is littered with quality Australian titles, dating back to 1996.
Porter’s CV reads like a “how to” for aspiring actors to carve out a formidable career: RAN: Remote Area Nurse, Wildside, Love My Way, My Place, The Secret Life of Us, Sisters of War, East West 101, Dance Academy, Underbelly, Puberty Blues and films including Little Fish, Paradise Road, Two Hands, Better Than Sex, The Turning, The Caterpillar Wish and more.
Yet this AFI and Logie-winning actress remains a quiet achiever, never the target of tabloid articles or paparazzo, content to do the work and warmly receive praise from critics and audiences alike.
“I suppose I have been lucky to be part of doing interesting television shows and movies. I have a motto that is ‘What is for me will not pass me by.’ I think projects have chosen me rather than me choose them, in a way,” she reflects.
“Sometimes it’s more important what you say no to than what you (say yes to). There are things I think I wouldn’t be suited to.
“A lot of the stuff I have been asked to audition for, or that I get, has come to me. I look at it and think ‘Wow that’s great.’
“But as a result of that I think ‘Wow there are a lot of interesting TV and movies that I have done.’”
‘There was so much given to me in the writing.”
This year alone she appears on no less than three ABC dramas: Seven Types of Ambiguity, and back to back seasons of Janet King and Pulse.
“They might want to put me out to pasture in a minute!” she laughs.
“Seven Types of Ambiguity was a gift of a television show, to be honest.
“I love the way they shot it and playing the role of Gina, there was so much given to me in the writing.
For her role as sports agent Maxine Reynolds in Janet King, Porter says she studied Ari (Jeremy Piven) in Entourage for his fast-talking, work-obsessed role.
“That was extraordinary writing and the stuff he did was incredible. So I YouTube’d a lot of that to look at his tempo.
“That was a role of a lifetime, I reckon. Jeremy Piven was fabulous to watch.”
For ABC’s new medical drama Pulse, she plays sharp-shooting surgeon Maggie Cutter, who suffers no fools and respects only those with guts.
“Dr. Cutter is one of the more senior doctors, up high in a boy’s world. It’s hard to reach that peak. We cover things such as bullying and the way interns are treated. A bit of gender politics in the hospital is great,” she continues.
“She’s very straight, as her name would suggest, and she calls it for how it is. But she’s a great surgeon and cares for the patient and whether people live or die.
“She was great to play, heaps of fun.”
“At the end of the day it does start to smell a bit.”
The series stars Claire van der Boom as one of three young interns in a transplant unit, which Porter warns has a high degree of visual realism.
“You actually see operations, with us retrieving kidneys, replacing hearts and valves and things like that.
“At the end of the day it does start to smell a bit. But I don’t think we’ve seen that on Australian television, have we?”
An impressive cast also includes Andrea Demetriades, Owen Teale, Liam McIntyre, Arka Das, Pallavi Sharda, Blessing Mokgohloa, Susie Porter, Dalip Sondhi, Penny Cook and Renee Lim.
Poring over her extensive CV I can’t help but ask why Puberty Blues didn’t have a third season?
“I think everybody says that, and I tend to agree with you. It’s a shame that it didn’t,” she laments.
“They couldn’t get all the writers together and it was quite expensive I think, because it was a period drama. The girls were getting older, I think leaving school.
“But it was fantastic to be a part of it. I loved it.”
“I look at it now and I think ‘Oh my god that was outrageous!’”
I finally spy one credit that hasn’t been quite elevated to the height of her other work, Stephan Elliot’s 1997 romp, Welcome to Woop Woop. In fairness it was like looking for a needle in a very classy haystack.
“A lot of people tell me it’s brought up in film classes all the time, saying it was a ‘genre defining part of Australian cinema!’ Porter insists.
“But I had a ball doing it. When I went to Cannes and I hadn’t seen any of it, let’s just say we didn’t get the largest applause that evening.
“In the political climate of the late 90s people really hated it! But then it’s become a cult thing all this time later.
“I look at it now and I think ‘Oh my god that was outrageous!’
“There was a lot of pressure on Stephan as well. He’d just done Priscilla and it was such a hit.”
One-much loved turkey isn’t bad going for 21 years. Her latest film is Hounds of Love about WA serial murders, with Don’t Tell, The Second and Cargo to come. Clearly there are no signs of slowing down.
“To be honest I’m just happy to be working”
“To be honest I’m just happy to be working. We have a small industry here and most of us who are doing it are just happy to be a part of it.
“That’s not me being faux-humility. It’s actually true. You’re lucky to be able to do what you want to do and be paid for it and when you’re not working you have enough to spread over the time.
“I’m really lucky.”
Pulse premieres 8:30pm Thursday on ABC.