Rachel Griffiths is a peculiar type of famous person. She’s proud, private and grounded. She’s enormously respected in Hollywood, but somehow she’s managed to stay real and Australian. Obviously, you remember Rachel’s breakout role in Muriel’s Wedding alongside Toni Collette. Since then, she’s played Brenda in HBO’s Six Feet Under and Sarah in Brothers and Sisters. And now? Well, she’s teaming up with Sportscraft to celebrate 100 years of fashion.
When Rachel was in Sydney to launch Sportscraft’s 100 year Anniversary Collection, we sat down and chatted about, well, everything. From the clothes she loves, to the way we treat asylum seekers, and why she gave her kids the most Australian names she could. Here she is, Ms Rachel Griffiths, front and centre.
KL: Who are your favourite Australian designers?
RG: I wear the surf labels a lot. The most important item in my wardrobe is a wetsuit… which you kind of want to be sexy and functional. Collette Dinnigan for her endurance. I’ve always loved Saba for basics, I like Country Road for my kids, big fan of Seed, I think Seed’s a great Aussie label. I’m always looking for knits and flats, those schlepp-around mum oufits in the hurry of what we juggle. I love Scanlan for cocktail and function stuff.
KL: Beautiful list. What makes you feel patriotic? What makes you feel proud to be Australian when you’re representing us overseas?
RG: It’s always nice to feel as though we as a country are batting above our population in all fields – at the last Academy awards it was pretty exciting to see two designers in the costume design category. The depth of the design talent here.
KL: Do you ever feel ashamed of being Australian overseas?
KL: Never? My sister moved overseas and she feels ashamed whenever people talk about the way we treat asylum seekers here. Does that ever make you feel ashamed?
RG: To be honest, having spent time in England, I wouldn’t say Australia’s very different in our fear of incoming people, of how people come, and how they change the country. In America, there is zero asylum seeker hysteria but there are 11 million people who go there illegally, or undocumented immigrants. That debate there is often extremely rancourous and racist and fearful and lacking facts. It’s probably equally, you know, complicated in the solution. So I don’t think we’re actually exceptional, although some of us like to fan our exceptionalism and say we’re the only people that lock up people who arrive under those terms. I don’t think that is actually true, I don’t think we’re more fearful or more racist than any other country. I don’t think there are any countries who like not controlling who comes in their borders. I think it’s a human fear.
Whilst I’m extremely sympathetic to refugees and work with the charity that I’m involved in, Hagar, we work with cases who have suffered the worst human rights abuses, who seek asylum in this country. I don’t actually judge my fellow Australians for the fact that, you know, it raises some pretty primal feelings in people and it’s hard to keep the debate real and fair and truthful and non-hysterical from both sides.
KL: Let’s talk about the evolution of your career. You’ve been on Aussie TV, like your part in Rake, and then being so successful overseas. What’s the difference, working there and working here?