Discussing everything from how she feels about colourblind casting, to why it’s important to finish high school, Tapsell has a lot to say when it comes to poignant yet practical advice for women. Whether you want to get into acting, or just need a fresh perspective on women’s rights in Australia, Tapsell has something to say about it.
Below, we’ve rounded up our favourite quotes from the actress, who provides a seriously important perspective in an industry oft-dominated by the same familiar (and white) faces. Tapsell will be speaking at our International Women’s Day Breakfast in Melbourne during Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival, so if you like what you read, you can get your tickets here.
On what it’s like being a woman in the film industry
As a Larrakia woman with a platform, I do become incredibly anxious over making sure I don’t say something that further hurts the wider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. It’s important to me, because I’m aware of how many young girls and women look up to me. Colourblind casting can often be written from a perspective that wouldn’t be true to an Aboriginal woman like myself. You’re always meant to do your research as an actor but when you’re concerned with how the writing is projecting Aboriginal people it can be hard to focus on giving a really great performance. I can often second guess myself. “Am I making Aboriginal people the punchline? Is this a caricature? Or am I humanising them?” It shouldn’t be my job, but I believe it’s the reason why I haven’t managed to upset too many people yet.
On professional challenges and overcoming them
When I first started acting work, I quickly realised I didn’t have any money at the end of the gig. That system wasn’t going to work for me in the long term! I learnt quick smart how to put it away. It’s helped me creatively too, because I have the space to plan the next step I want to take in my career.
On cracking into the industry — especially as an Indigenous woman
Ask for you want, but also know that chasing your dreams mean sometimes having to do the hard yards. Playing roles that don’t ignite something in you. Auditioning and being rejected. Having to work other jobs to get by. Being constantly critiqued for your performances. As much as I hated year 12, I’m glad my mum pushed me to get my certificate. I didn’t get the highest marks, but I graduated all the same. Also, I’ve become good at my craft because I got acting training. I highly recommend getting it to sustain yourself through the fast-paced television sets or rigorous theatre rehearsals. Don’t apologise for the space you’ve taken, even if in some situations you’re made to feel you’ve taken the spot of someone else. What you have to say is valuable. How you see the world around you is valuable.
On changing the conversation around Indigenous women’s rights
I think it’s not only important for me but for any non-Indigenous woman to champion Indigenous women’s voices. Aboriginal women who have a platform can’t do it without allies. Very little progress gets made if we don’t work together for equality. Read as much as you can, listen to other experiences outside of your own then vocalise what you’ve learnt. Most importantly, allow your Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sisters to speak if you’re sharing a space with them.
On what she’ll be doing this International Women’s Day
By acknowledging the paths that Aboriginal women before me have paved for me. I have my voice and my gaze because of them.