The Secret Life of Us: profiles

Deborah Mailman

Playing a troublesome and grieving sister in the feature film Radiance put Deborah Mailman before the Australian public.

She won the 1998 Australian Film Institute Award for Best Actress and Film Critics' Circle of Australia Best Actress Award for her performance. Playing the same character on stage won her a Matilda Award.

Deborah says the character of Kelly in The Secret Life of Us operates on the notion that shit does happen—and then you need to get on with things. Kelly and Evan are the show's two narrators—the audience hears their voiceover perspective on what's going on as relationships form and crumble, as dishes remain unwashed.

"Kelly is beautiful—an absolutely infectious character. She is very curious as to how the world works. She's always asking questions. I just love the fact that whenever something comes along she grabs it.

"She tries to make things work and is constantly disappointed by her expectations—particularly with boys. She's very much in and out of bad love. When she gets a job at a dating agency, she absolutely loves it, but gets a bit disappointed when no-one is happy."

Since graduating from the QUT Academy of the Arts in 1992, Deborah has worked extensively in theatre across Australia. She took her one-woman show, The 7 Stages of Grieving, to the London International Festival of Theatre and Zurich Arts Festival.

Her career started with a school speech and drama course she took "because I didn't want to do business principles."

"I never perceived acting as a viable career choice. I grew up in Mount Isa where there wasn't a great deal of knowledge about acting as a profession."

When Deborah's family saw her on stage, they knew why she had chosen to act. The first major production they saw was the Queensland Theatre Company's One Woman's Song, about aboriginal activist, poet and writer Kath Walker (Oodgeroo Nunukul). "It made my family and myself understand the power of storytelling."

Other theatre credits include The Small Poppies, As You Like It, Capricornia, Murri Love, King Lear, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Summer of the Aliens, The Cherry Pickers, The Taming of the Shrew and Gigi.

Deborah's television credits are Inside Out, A Village Called Chardonnay, Coloured Inn, Bondi Banquet and Playschool with film credits being Dear Claudia, The Third Note and The Monkey's Mask.