Madeleine Madden always seemed destined to make her mark. The granddaughter of outspoken indigenous activist Charles Perkins, daughter of art curator Hetti Perkins and niece of filmmaker Rachel Perkins, Madeleine burst into public view at 13 as the face of Kevin Rudd’s Generation One campaign, promoting positive perceptions of indigenous Australians.
Seven years later, Madeleine, 20, has emerged as one of the country’s hottest rising stars, with a lead role in the much-anticipated Picnic at Hanging Rock miniseries, due to air on Foxtel next year. Her earlier credits include Redfern Now, Jack Irish and The Code – and she has a new gig fronting a diversity campaign for Ella Bache.
Madeleine says the beauty brand’s message meshes well with her own values. “Ella Bache is about empowering women to celebrate themselves and what makes them different,” she says.
“Mum always told me from a very young age that what makes you different – in my case, I’m a black woman – is what makes you special and unique. I am here as a role model to others to say ‘look inside yourself and love what you see’.”
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Growing up in Sydney, in a household filled with artists, musicians and other creative people, Madeleine says she was encouraged “to be vocal, outspoken and to believe in ourselves”.
Little wonder the people she most admires are rebels who challenge the status quo. As well as her famous grandfather – “a classic example of being outspoken and standing up for others”– she says her role models include the late Divinyls frontwoman Chrissie Amphlett, Keith Richards and Ru Paul.
For the past few months Madeleine has been in the Kimberley filming the acclaimed miniseries Mystery Road, which also stars Judy Davis and Aaron Pedersen. She says that, Aaron, who plays her father in the series, used to babysit her when she was five.
“We go way back; he’s been great to have around.”
She is also relishing working alongside Judy Davis. “I am one of those actors who likes to do some work on a scene by myself. On the day of shooting, I like to deliver something not too over-rehearsed. I can’t wait to see how Judy works for the camera and I am sure I’ll be taking notes,” she says.
Madeleine is determined to carve out a career as an actor and plans to look for opportunities when in the US next year for the American premiere of Picnic at Hanging Rock, which has been picked up by the Amazon streaming service.
She’s proud of her involvement in the six-part series but says filming a period drama wasn’t without its challenges.
“I had to wear a corset for 14 hours on set. I came out with bruises and welts. I was very restricted and couldn’t move much. It was incredible to see how the period costumes transformed us back to that time and place.
“But I loved being part of a film told through a feminist gaze. For me it’s a triumph knowing I’ve been involved in something so powerful.”
Picnic at Hanging Rock
- Pemieres in 2018
- Foxtel Showcase