Miranda Tapsell (left) will always remember the moment she saw actress Leah Purcell take the spotlight in 2006 film Jindabyne. “Leah wasn’t just someone who looked like me, but someone who had the same gaze as me,” explains Tapsell, who grew up in the Northern Territory. “Seeing a fellow Indigenous woman on the screen gave me the courage to move to Sydney and follow my dreams to act.”
It was there that their paths crossed in a fortuitous manner: Tapsell was studying at the National Institute of Dramatic Art and Purcell was in the building to direct a play. “The actress I was going to use – who was child-like in stature – had pulled out last minute,” recalls Purcell. “I went to the canteen to get a coffee and try to think of a solution. I was waiting in line when this little presence popped up beside me. It was Miranda. I looked down at her and said, ‘I just ordered a short black and you’re it!’”
Since then, the duo has worked together on numerous plays and TV shows, and when Tapsell won a Logie award for Most Popular New Talent in 2015, she thanked her “mentor” Purcell in her acceptance speech. But it’s a relationship that works both ways. “Miranda walks into a room and demands attention. This new generation of Aboriginal women have said, ‘No, no more [oppression], we are allowed to be here.’ Watching Miranda has given me the courage and confidence to be a bit girlier,” says Purcell, gesturing to her silky pink blouse. “She might be small, but she’s a mighty woman.”
Read the full story in the April issue of marie claire, out now.