• Thursday, June 14, 2012

    Jessica Marais went to drama school after her dad died

    Jessica Marais

    In 2012 I started watching a series on Starz network called Magic City. Trying to figure out why I love the show so much, I thought: Is it the clothes from the 50's? Is it the location of Miami Beach?  Is it the mob violence of the butcher? No its the beauty and danger of someone I have never seen before. A young Australian named Jessica Marais. Originally from Africa, but when her dad died, her mom moves the family to Australia.

    Jessica attends acting school, because at some point in her young life she really wants to act. 

    "It’s funny because, before, I was the classic ideological little artist – a drama school graduate who wanted to go out and change the world with theatre. But now, because I’m a girl who presents herself as bubbly and happy – and blonde – people love to think of me as a bright, shining network girl with not a lot of substance. But I don’t care. I just hope the work speaks for itself."

    In Magic City, Jessica is a brunette, but the colour of her hair makes no difference to her beauty, as there is some other star quality in here.

    Starz website describes Jessica's character as:
    LILY DIAMOND is a sultry and seductive beauty. The third Mrs. Diamond – for Ben's first two wives died under strange yet strikingly similar circumstances – first entranced her now-husband while swimming as a "mermaid" at popular tourist stop Weeki Wachee. Lily and Ben are still newlyweds. As with Ike and Vera, this was love, or in Ben's case lust at first sight. But Lily can't simply be dismissed as a gold-digger, for after spending time with the deadly Ben Diamond, any pretty girl would know there are easier ways to make money. Lily has an agenda that is all her own and the risky habit of following her heart, even when it leads her down a treacherous path.

    She looks like a slightly dishevelled cross between Scarlett Johansson and Cate Blanchett, but the minute a camera fixes on her, she amps up to 100 per cent pure starlet.
    When I watch Jessica, I sometimes see the actress Rebecca Grant or at least some similarities. When I see a blond Jessica, I think of a california beauty or maybe even a victoria secret model. (Don't know how tall she is though?)
    From various Australian press articles, I learned that as a teen, Jessica was very rebellious and did not follow the path her mother was trying to instill in her. 
    The actor talks at speed, clutching a takeaway latte, laughing that famous husky laugh (the product of “too many concerts and too many drinks when I was a naughty teenager”) and using her entire, albeit tiny, frame to illustrate her stories.
     It’s been nearly three years since she was cast in Packed to the Rafters, Seven’s soap-meets-sitcom that resonated immediately with Australian audiences, earned Marais two Logies in the first season and continues to pull in record ratings. "It’s a show about people with all the normal faults and flaws who love each other and band together and have hope," she explains, "which is why it struck a chord, I suppose."
    Jessica became even more famous when she married someone more famous than her. (James Stewart) her co star on the Australian TV show "Packed to the Rafters".
    Developing a similarly unbothered attitude to the attention that comes with fame is a work-in-progress for the star, who inadvertently upped her tabloid pull by falling in love with co-star James Stewart. "It was a bit overwhelming, the amount of interest that got," laughs Marais. "I mean, it was lovely and I can appreciate why people are interested, but there have been a few moments when Jimmy and I have looked at each other and thought, why is this news?"
    The answer: because there’s nothing quite as intriguing to fans as an onscreen love story that turns into the real deal. So how did the couple come to realise their chemistry was not just of the manufactured television variety? "We had a little catch-up outside work and he bought me a coffee. We had a good chat and then he gave me a kiss, and that was that."
    Eighteen months later, Stewart proposed with a 1.12-carat diamond ring, which, Marais jokes, "made it impossible to say no".
    Now she’s blissfully betrothed, will the producers need to write in a pregnancy for Rachel Rafter next season? "Hopefully, I’ll have a beautiful family – that would be amazing," she says, "but there’s no plan. I just want to live my life with a lot of love and compassion. I want to be happy and make the people I love happy. That’s all that matters to me."
    Jessica admits the attention is forcing her to become a little more cautious. "Life is too short to be cagey and take yourself too seriously," she begins, before pausing in thought. "I’m becoming a bit more savvy and, of course, there’s an intensely private side of me that I just keep private."
    Perhaps it’s only to be expected after a few years in the game, particularly with the added media scrutiny on her relationship with Stewart. "We’ve both learnt to take the attention with a grain of salt," she says. "They could turn on us tomorrow, or take a photo of me with a male friend and concoct an entire affair. Still, when you have a big heart, it’s a hard lesson to learn, and I’m still learning it."
    So what’s next for the girl next door with the big heart, the big diamond and the even bigger work prospects? "I used to think career and financial stability were the big things. They’re important but, as I get older, I appreciate little things so much more. I value love and the people who really know me and who will call me on it if I ever stop being myself."
    Central to her coterie is her mum, Karen, a literature teacher with whom she discusses every script and scene. "She’s my yay or nay on anything racy," says Marais, who credits her mum with instilling in her a healthy attitude to body image. "There’s a lot of pressure and images of supposedly perfect women, but I don’t think it’s just an actor thing – that’s being a woman. I try to ignore it as much as I can."
    Besides, she adds, "I’m one of those people whose weight fluctuates depending on how stressed I am, how much I’m doing. As long as I’m healthy, I only care about how I feel about myself and how my partner feels about me."
    If last year’s 'suburban goddess' photoshoot for GQ is anything to go by, Marais has a lot to feel good about. Styled as Brigitte Bardot, she wore little more than a bed sheet. "Mum’s encouraged me to be careful about how much of myself I give away, and my body and sexuality is included. She’s wary of me being made into a piece of meat or a sex symbol for no good reason. But if it’s important to a story and tasteful, we’re not prudish about it."
    Born in South Africa, Marais was 10 and her sister, Clara, now a medical student, was nine, when their father died, shortly after the family arrived in Perth. "It wasn’t until I moved to Sydney and left the nest Mum had created that I realised the sacrifices she made. She showed you can be a great mother, a wonderful provider, an inspirational professional and have the best sense of humour. She has such soul."
    That doesn’t mean Marais didn’t put her through the usual teenage torment, including the tattoo – a Hindu symbol on her hip – she had done, aged 14. "We were on holiday in Bali and I went with a friend to get it," she giggles. "For two years, I told Mum it was henna and that I kept reapplying it. One day, she saw it while I was in the bath and said, ‘That’s not fake, is it?’ She dragged me to the doctor to get blood tests to make sure I didn’t have hepatitis."
    Now "out the other side" of her rebellious years, Marais says she feels somewhere between "a seven-year-old girl and a wizened old nanna – not in my mid-20s at all. And, actually, I still do things that make Mum want to wring my neck."
    Is she also an action star? (sorry I don't watch enough TV to have seen this before) Denna?
    "had to learn that not everyone in the industry cares about me for me. I used to take a lot of things
    at face value, but I’m a little less na├»ve now. Sometimes I have to look at myself as a commodity. It’s a harsh reality to face."

    In real life, I feel that committing adultery is wrong and very offensive. It destroys the marriage, the family and the future lives of the children. In make believe, and under the stressful conditions its portrayed in Magic City, we almost cheer for the bad guy to find out, the husband who keeps threatening her, that if she ever cheated, she would be murdered.
    The season 1 finale of magic city just ended, and Jessica's character managed to stay alive. I can't wait to see Jessica Marais in the second season. I hope they wrote her in, as it could go either way.

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