STAR OF A GEM
The cast of The Sapphires: Deborah Mailman, Shari Sebens, Chris O'Dowd, Miranda Tapsell and Jessica Mauboy
By David Hennessy
Starring our very own Chris O’Dowd as a down on his luck musician who discovers an extremely talented group of female aboriginal singers, The Sapphires has been lauded at Cannes, The BFI London Film Festival and around the world. Now on general release, the film is wowing audiences. The Irish World caught up with one of the film’s stars, Jessica Mauboy. A well-known singer down under, Jessica rose to fame on Australian Idol and has three albums already under her belt at only 23 years old.
“It’s an incredible moment when you start out doing music and transition into filming. It’s definitely exciting for me, it’s a whole other level, a different world but I’m learning as I’m going and it’s amazing to hear how the film is travelling. It’s quite overwhelming to know that our homegrown story is definitely well received.”
With indigenous Australian roots herself, the story meant a lot to Jessica right from the outset: “It meant a lot from the beginning when I first heard the background of the story and knowing it was based on a true story. Then meeting the original Sapphires and to the point of doing the film and seeing the end result. It was definitely a moment.”
The youngest of five siblings and with two musical parents, Jessica’s home was “the noisiest house on the block” as she grew up. This is another reason why this tale of a girl group made up of three sisters and their cousin felt so right for her: “I think that’s why I resonated with the film: Growing up one of five girls, singing in church and giving our voices to the community. Reading the story and really becoming Julie as a character, I found I was almost playing myself naturally.
“The singing definitely helped with the acting, it helped with the emotions being able to sing a song and capture the realness of that. It was all real to me. Being able to connect those two helped a lot. I was invited to be a part of the soundtrack but never did I think I would be singing most of the tracks. It came as a surprise but I do appreciate it very much.”
The Sapphires is Jessica’s second major acting role after performing in the 2010 musical Bran Nue Dae with Geoffrey Rush and she tells The Irish World that she has certainly caught the acting bug: “I really enjoyed it. At first I had a bit of a laugh about it but I guess I really grew, connecting with the character. It was definitely fun and I would love to experience it even more.”
Jessica giggles when asked if Chris O’Dowd is as funny off screen as he is on: “He gave us sore stomachs to the point where we were just constantly cracked up laughing. I don’t think there were moments where we went quiet or just having a chat with each other, we were always telling each other’s stories, we allowed ourselves to be open and he became family to us.”
Although a huge star everywhere now, Jessica and many other Aussies have been following the Roscommon funny man’s career from very early on: “Everyone knows him from The IT Crowd and we’ve been following him from the beginning. We definitely enjoy watching him perform. I don’t think we could have got anyone better. He was just perfect for the role.”
Anyone who has seen the film will know Chris plays a talented, eccentric and charismatic but hapless band manager. Was Jessica reminded of any real industry professionals by his portrayal? “Everything that came out of his mouth, I would laugh because it was so true.”
For the full interview see the November 24 edition of the Irish World