The Secret Life of Us: articles

Sexy Sibylla

THE gaggle of charmingly flawed characters in The Secret Life of Us is proof that a lot can happen in three months.

A multitude of doomed love affairs, dud jobs and nasty friends are amongst the rubble left in the wake of the edgy Australian drama that debuted in July.

Trying to keep up with show's momentum is Sibylla Budd, who plays political staffer Gabrielle.

"I was hanging out with Damian de Montemas (Gabrielle's ex-husband Jason) the other day and apparently a friend of my brother's girlfriend rang up and said 'I got a shock because I saw them together and thought what are those two doing getting on?'," Budd laughs.

"We're just getting a few funny looks now when we hang out together because we do get along so well."

Adjusting to her new-found fame is one thing, but helping her conservative parents adjust is another.

Gabrielle has become quite a mischievous character since her husband did the dirty on her with her best friend Alex (Claudia Karvan).

Combine Budd's Secret Life of Us escapades with a woman-on-top performance in the Australian film The Bank and it suddenly becomes a lot for mum and dad to take.

"I get strange responses from my parents," Budd says.

"When I knew that character Matt (Damian Walshe-Howling) was going to be introduced to Secret Life I thought 'Oh God, here we go, sex in alleyways'. So I'd call them that night after I'd finished shooting it and they'd say, 'How was your day' and I'd say, 'Oh you know, another hard day at the office. We did a sex scene in an alleyway, a sex scene with mangoes'. I'd shock them before they had to see it. I don't know if they understand it but they're trying to. Mum's a bit lemon-lipped about the whole thing."

Still, Budd says her parents have always supported her choice to be an actor, even though they both come from business backgrounds.

Her older brother is involved in producing, lighting design and also sings and her second youngest brother has aspirations of becoming a writer.

"It's strange because Mum and Dad come from such business backgrounds and three of us are in the arts," Budd says.

"It's a bit weird, I don't quite know where we came from."

Whomever she got her talent from has served her well. Since graduating from the Victorian College of Arts in 1999 she has never been out of work. Her blistering agency audition on the final day of college saw her snapped up by Robyn Gardiner, one of the top agents in the business.

Successful screen tests for Secret Life and The Bank followed. She also appeared in Something in the Air and as the daughter of Greta Scacchi and Colin Friels in the telemovie series The Farm.

Budd says while she always possessed a "quiet determination" her own success has surprised her. "At drama school we were always prepared to be unemployed for the rest of our lives so it was a bit of a shock," Budd says.

"I had absolutely no idea what the industry was going to be like. It's been learning as I go."

Budd has spent the past two months on a high energy publicity drive for The Bank, which involved travelling Australia with director Robert Connolly.

Connolly describes the film as a "revenge fantasy for anyone who ever stood in a bank queue for too long" and Budd is cast as the consumer's weapon of choice.

Michelle is a young woman who is not afraid to say what she thinks.

In one scene she wipes the floor with Centabank's CEO (played by Anthony LaPaglia) during a VIP party at his waterfront mansion. "What do you call yourselves? Bastards without borders," she says to him in a blistering attack which has been greeted with wild enthusiasm by audiences.

"I've always wanted to stand up to a guy in a suit and tell hIm where to go," Budd says.

"And it's great that it's a woman, too. I think Michelle is a pretty good role model she's strong and feisty."

Budd says she is drawn to strong characters, although she admits to being a bit soft in the middle herself.

She is compassionate to the point that she has asked the producers of Secret Life to give her character a man who will treat her right.

"I guess you do come to look out for your character," Budd says.

"It took me a while to actually like her because she's very different to me in a lot of ways. The only thing we've got in common is ambition in terms of work. If someone cheated on me I would never take them back again, no way. I was asked once how would I get along with Gabrielle if I bumped into her in a bar and I thought, 'Oh my God it would be hideous, it'd be ghastly'. But she's grown on me quite a lot."

Despite falling ratings in Brisbane, Budd thinks the show seems to be growing on audiences as well.

It has been commissioned for a second series which will commence shooting in December and screen here and in the UK.

"It's taken a while to find it's place because it's very new for Australian TV," Budd says.

"It's raw and it's real. It's people making mistakes, which I love."

The Bank is now showing; The Secret Life of Us, Ten, Monday, 9.30pm.

By Allison White and Vicky Roach
The Courier Mail
October 04, 2001