The Australian newspaper magazine “Australian Magazine” has a superb interview with Marta in their 29 November 2014 issue.
Marta Dusseldorp, TV’s leading lady, finds a place to call home
(The Australian Newspaper)
29 November 2014
TAKING a long run-up from the kitchen, Marta Dusseldorp executes a faultless slide to the front door of her 19th century terrace in Paddington, Sydney.
“Come in, come in,” she says, flashing a dimpled grin and clicking open the latch. As the 41-year-old star of television dramas Crownies, A Place to Call Home and Janet King heads to the kitchen to make tea, the secret to her crackerjack floor skate can be seen peeking out from below the knife-edge crease of her trousers: fluffy bed socks.
It’s a rare and wondrous thing to see a screen star being unapologetically herself. And as we move to the sitting room, it’s clear the perfect imperfection of Dusseldorp’s outfit extends to her home and the life she’s made here with actor-director husband Ben Winspear and their daughters Grace, seven, and Maggie, four. She makes room on the couch by pushing aside a balled-up throw rug and a casually nude plastic doll. A teddy bear in a Dora the Explorer sunhat surveys the room from a pint-sized cane chair that only half hides a spilt pack of Snap cards and an up-ended pencil case.
This is life unedited, from the drooping pink camellias atop the marble fireplace to the provocative works by top Australian artists — Tracey Moffatt, Will Coles and Del Kathryn Barton (Marta actually features in the Moffatt photo). How gloriously disordered, how jam-packed and vital it all is. “We’re circus people,” Dusseldorp says, gesturing at the framed tapestries hand-sewn by her Dutch grandmother, the giant turtle shell souvenired from the set of A Place to Call Home, the taxidermic possum thrust nose-first into a fruit bowl. “Everything we have with us has a story. All the things in our house, in our life, are all very meaningful.”
The family moved in to this gracious, high-ceilinged pile in January and felt no impulse to renovate. “It’s so nice to have a new space to get to know and just take it for what it is and not want to change it,” she says, plucking some fluff off the floor and placing it on the saucer beside her teacup. “That was the beauty of finding this place: the conversation is really in the walls and that’s something I’ve realised is important.”
As well as being a first-rate sock-slider, Dusseldorp is a frank conversationalist. In the course of the morning she will divulge that, like her acting idol Marilyn Monroe, she is not a natural blonde (gasp); that her first daughter was present at her second daughter’s birth (double gasp); and that she was on stage high-kicking in heels when she was pregnant (somebody call the mummy mafia). She’ll also warn that if federal government funding continues to be slashed, the nation faces a drought of local drama. But first, one of the leading ladies of Australian TV will explain why she’s taken the year off, at the peak of her powers.
Nearly four years ago, when she was in Sydney performing the role of crown prosecutor Janet King in the ABC legal drama Crownies and Winspear was playing Faustus in Brisbane with Bell Shakespeare, the couple were forced to abandon their hands-on parenting mantra and hire outside help. The au pair was lovely, but they vowed then that their priority in the future would be to avoid any job clashes. “It was only a couple of months but it was hard; hard on the kids,” Dusseldorp says. “Now we work it so everyone gets a go at work and everyone gets a go with the kids, so the kids are never without one of us.”
Ironically, Dusseldorp had put the brakes on a distinguished stage career when she had children because television would at least allow her the occasional day off. “I stepped out of the theatre because I had kids,” she says. “I just said, ‘I can’t do these hours and I can’t not put them to bed six nights a week’.”
She still misses, with a physical ache, the “creative maelstrom” of life on the stage. Her 14-year theatre career began with a smooth run out of drama school and hit peaks with a performance in Barrie Kosky’s eight-hour epic The Lost Echo and her Helpmann Award-winning role in The War of the Roses, Sydney Theatre Company’s mammoth 2009 adaptation of Shakespeare’s history plays. But every parent makes sacrifices. She knows this. Even circus people, living their lives beyond convention, must confront the mundane reality of only 24 hours in a day.
“I’m really grateful for this year,” she says. “When you work, like anyone who works, you don’t have much energy for anything else.” But it’s been tough not to act, as well. “I just recently said no to something and it was something I really wanted to do — this one I was passionate about,” she says. “But it wasn’t right for the family. I couldn’t take them with me and it was two months. I wasn’t prepared to do that. It’s very hard for an actor to say no to things — it’s almost impossible as it goes against everything inside you. But I don’t want my kids to …” She stops and suddenly looks as if she might cry. “You never get the time back.”
She cries often, she says, “but I’d rather cry than not feel.” She also laughs a lot, and converses with her entire body, hurling it from one end of the couch to the other, clasping and unclasping her hands, occasionally falling sideways for slapstick effect. And the voices. In and out of different characters she ducks and weaves — mischievous, earnest, surprised, ferocious. She may have taken the year off, but her instrument remains finely tuned.