Miriam’s take on mateship and the Australian dream
SHE moved to Australia for love, and now Miriam Margolyes is getting her teeth stuck into what it means to be an Aussie.
The beloved British actor, best known for her roles in The Age of Innocence and Harry Potter, became an Australian citizen seven years ago at the age of 72.
Her love affair with our country began four decades ago when she came to film the movie Babe in the Southern Highlands of NSW. She fell in love with the region and now lives there with her partner Heather.
A new three-part documentary series, Almost Australian, follows the 78-year-old as she travels around the country on a 10,000km, two-month road trip to test her assumptions about what it means to be an Australian.
From metropolitan Melbourne to the outback, Top End and sparkling beaches of the Gold Coast, the charmingly frank Margolyes sits down for a chat with a wide variety of Aussies about the concepts of the Australian dream, mateship and the Lucky Country.
"I started doing documentaries a few years ago and I really enjoy them," she says.
"I'm very anxious not to do a travelogue show. It's not about that."
The 78-year-old admits that, despite working extensively in Australia before finally moving here, her knowledge of the country is "pretty narrow".
"I'm very much aware that life for nearly everybody is just the bubble that you work in," she says.
"You see the same sort of things all the time. Because I was always working I was always in a metropolitan situation, except when I toured with Dickens' Women. I did tour rural Australia then, which I loved. I didn't feel I knew Australia properly and indeed I didn't'. I still don't but I know it more."
Margolyes was delighted to stay on a first nations farm, take in an indigenous drag show and have a koala joey named after her.
But embracing the lifestyle of a grey nomad came with its challenges for the "rickety old Jewish lesbian".
"I was struggling sometimes just to physically do it, but I managed it," she says. "It wasn't a walk in the park believe me. I insisted we had a toilet with us, and in fact everybody was glad I had insisted on that."
The eye-opening experience also highlighted the contradictions of modern Australia, which she is still reflecting on from the UK as she waits for Australia's borders to open so she can return home.
"I realise in some senses I haven't processed it all," she says.
"Mateship is not as inclusive as I feel that it should be - it's not extended to migrants. It's a wonderful concept, but it's got to be carried out.
"My takeaway from it is the discoveries I've made. When you go outside yourself and your own little world to see the world through other eyes, you are enriched by that."
Miriam Margolyes Almost Australian premieres Tuesday, May 19 at 8.30pm on ABC-TV.