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Clare Bowen Returns To The Small Screen With ‘Hungry Ghosts’

The 'Nashville' star's big homecoming

For the past 24 years, Clare Bowen has carried a note from her grandmother in her wallet. It reads: “Never give in.” Her grandmother gave it to her when she was 11, struggling with survivor’s guilt and low self-esteem after battling kidney cancer and losing all her hair from chemotherapy.

“I overheard the doctors saying I had two weeks [to live]. It was freezing in the hospital and I asked my mum if there were heaters in heaven,” says Bowen, of her darkest days lying in a Sydney hospital bed.

“My mum said, ‘You don’t need to go to heaven yet. You’ve got to hold on.’” 

And hold on she did. Now 35, Bowen still pinches herself that she’s alive – the fact she’s an adored actress and singer is just a bonus. After landing the role of Scarlett O’Connor on the country music drama Nashville in 2012, she played the character for six years, touring the world with the cast between seasons in front of sold-out crowds. Bowen said goodbye to Scarlett last year when the series ended, but she still calls Nashville home, living in a farmhouse with her husband Brandon Robert Young and a small army of rescue animals.

The Wollongong local returned to Australia earlier this year to film the supernatural SBS series Hungry Ghosts, playing Liz Stockton, the daughter of a war photographer. “She’s a beautiful character who’s just looking for approval from her father [played by Bryan Brown],” she says.

Bowen credits her endearing success to the faith of her family: “They believed in me, as weird as I am.” Oh, and a little help from Cate Blanchett, who encouraged Bowen to move to the US when they met at the Sydney Theatre Company. “If Cate Blanchett tells you to do something, just do it!”

Listen to Cate Blanchett and never give in – words to live by.

Hungry Ghosts premieres Monday 24 August – Thursday 27 August at 9:30pm on SBS.

This article originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of marie claire.

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