Jessica Mauboy: “Thank God for truth-telling through music”

As she undertakes Windcatcher, her first film role in 12 years, Jessica Mauboy remembers learning the craft of acting on the job.

It’s taken Jessica Mauboy 12 years to return to a film role in the new Stan family film Windcatcher.

While she starred in Seven miniseries The Secret Daughter in 2016, it was The Sapphires in 2012 which was her last feature film. But it was 2010’s Bran Nue Dae by director Rachel Perkins where she first took her steps into acting.

“My first album released when I was 18 or 19 and then I ended up, through Rachel Perkins, auditioning probably about 9 or 10 times with different characters,” she tells TV Tonight.

“I learned the craft on the journey…. presence, eye contact, trying to get the character to move with what you’re seeing…. I learned the process literally on set …. but all it is, is real emotion. It’s truth-telling. That’s what I tried to swim with.

“But thank God for truth-telling through music. I think I learned my ability to connect emotionally with singing at a pub. No-one wanted to listen unless you were great. You didn’t turn a head unless you could sing a tune. So that’s where I learned not everyone’s gonna listen, and not everyone’s gonna like it. I’m going to have to try and move them.”

She looks back on Bran Nue Dae with some industry hindsight.

“My first role was major but I also learned that I could have done better!” she laughs.

In Windcatcher, by writer Boyd Quakawoot (Black Snow, Black Comedy) she plays Aunty Cressida, aunt to the lead character Percy Boy (Lennox Monaghan) who faces up to grade five bullies and discovers his supernatural ability to see Lost Souls – a gift passed down from his grandfather.

“I’m already an Aunty in my real life and not getting to be home as much to see my nieces and nephews and play the role of Aunty Jess, I think that’s what got to me,” says Mauboy.

“I really wanted to express what I know about being an Aunty and the responsibility that comes with it, with looking after young mob. A lot of the script resonated with how I grew up, being a young Percy Boy in my community, wanting to be the best at something. So it really aligned with how I grew up and what my childhood was like.

“Aunty Cressida has become a carer, she’s left her job and now has the responsibility of taking care of these incredible beautiful humans. But it can be really tiring. I think she’s frustrated and annoyed that she just doesn’t have her normal life. But at the end of the day she learns patience from Percy Boy.

“What drew me the most was the warmth and the spirit of it, not knowing that Percy goes through a stage of losing his parents, losing his granddad and he wants to be the fastest runner. In his school he unexpectedly comes across friends who teach him a lot about patience and friendship. I think it’s going to be a real hit with a lot of families, youth and especially First Nations mob.”

The cast also includes Max Turner (Planet Lulin), Coco Greenstone (I Am Woman), Kelton Pell (Mystery Road: Origin), Pia Miranda (Heat, Australian Survivor), Ngali Shaw (The Twelve), Jessica McNamee (Mortal Kombat, Upright, Packed to the Rafters) and Lisa Maza (Wentworth).

“There’s a lot for parents and kids about connection with their mob and their environment, who they’re hanging around with, and who they should be hanging with. I think it’s going to teach a lot of heart and that you’re doing okay, you know, not everything is shit. Things can go right in life, and you’ve just got to give yourself time,” she explains.

“There is a serious side to it but there is fun and light. The kids bring that humour to the screen.”

Windcatcher premieres Thursday on Stan.

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