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She’s one of Australia’s most beloved performers, starring in iconic tv comedies, Kath & Kim, Big Girl’s Blouse and Fast Forward, and on the big screen in Babe, Kate and Kinderella and Bran Nue Dae. She is also a talented voice over artist and has appeared in movies such as Happy Feet. Yet Magda Szubanski, 54, says growing up, her mother, now 91, was considered the funny one in the family.
A lovely photo of Magda wth her older sister and mother
Her mother has always been a great storyteller, too. However, it was her father’s “extraordinary story” of espionage in wartime Poland that prompted Magda to pen her new autobiography, Reckoning: A Memoir. – GET 16% OFF* THE BOOK HERE
The death of Magda's father inspired her to write Reckoning
“After he died that was really what started the whole ball rolling,” she adds. “He certainly wanted to write his story but he didn’t know how to go about it,” explained Magda, who says she also learned a lot about herself while writing Reckoning.
Magda opens up about her father in her new memoir
‘A brave and tender book about everything that matters most in life.’ Cate Blanchett
“I’ve always had a nostalgic temperament. And I think there’s something about being 54 where you get to a point in your life where you’re really looking at the last part of your life, and you really want to assess what the first part of it meant, and means, and we’re you’re going now. Reckoning is a really great title for the book because that’s exactly what’s been going on.”
Watch Magda describe her journey of self-discovery
“I learnt that I judged myself in a lot of ways and still experience some shame in certain things. Through the process of writing the book I kind of let go of that stuff, actually,” she adds thoughtfully.
Magda was a rising, young star who was loved by many fans!
Like many of us born in the 1950s and 1960s, Magda grew up admiring stars of the small screen. “We were the television generation. Everyone I know was obsessed with shows, and it’s still the same in a lot of ways, but you only had a few channels and shows back then. I loved things like Lost in Space and Get Smart and particularly I loved The Brady Brunch,” she says.
The cast of the iconic Aussie television show, Kath & Kim (Photo: Facebook)
Exploring her experiences through writing
Magda developed a knack for storytelling from an early age, and reading and acting became her way of connecting with the world. “I felt like I was an only child because there was an eight year and 10 year gap between my brother and sister and me. And effectively once they got older and left home I was on my own.”
In her memoir, Magda reveals her quirky side, recalling her obsession with space exploration. “I was obsessed with the moon landing. Everyone took an interest in it, but I was obsessed. I had scrapbooks. I was just completely fascinated with all forms of exploration really, still am. I’m a bit of a James Cook buff. I love reading books about James Cook, his explorations. I’ve always had a bit of a quirky, nerdy sort of streak me in.”
The comedic genius writing in action
Magda’s thoughts on Australian comedy
Magda’s father always knew his daughter had a special gift for comedy, but like many parents of the time, he encouraged Magda to pursue a more academic career path.
“There was very little comedy in Australia back then, so the idea that you could make a living from comedy seemed inconceivable. It was partly a migrant thing of being sensible and getting a proper education, but it was also a pretty astute reading of the circumstances,” she says.
Chenille was one of Magda Szubanski's funniest characters from tv show Fast Forward
“If someone had told me at the age of 24 that I’d still be doing this 30 years later and making a living from it, I thought it would be impossible. Because there was Mavis Bramston and that was it. There was nothing. There was no sort of comedy industry, and it’s still sort of intermittent. I’m really lucky—touch wood—that I’ve never been out of work. But I’m very diversified in what I do, and you have to be in this country, because no one stream will keep you constantly employed.”
We loved Magda for the many hilarious characters she played
It wasn’t until Fast Forward in the late 80s and early 90s that Magda realised that she could make a good living from her chosen profession.
“Until then it had been sort of poorly paid jobs, really intermittent. But Fast Forward went for a while and then it just kept going. I’m still waiting for it to end in some ways. I’m wondering how long I can keep doing this, putting on silly wigs and funny voices,” she says.
It may have taken a while for Magda to finally make a living from her talents but it surely paid off in the end
On working on Kath & Kim
One of her most iconic roles was playing Sharon Strzelecki in Big Girl’s Blouse and Kath & Kim, acting alongside Jane Turner and Gina Riley.
“We we’re great friends, and to have a job where you get to go in and laugh and write what you want to write and comment on what you want to comment on with your dearest friends is just a dream come true, really. So I consider myself extremely fortunate,” she adds.
What was your favourite episode of Kath & Kim?
Magda says some of Sharon’s most familiar character traits were inspired by her own experiences. “[The quote] ‘I’ll put on some footy franks’ came about because I actually love footy franks, and ‘Tia Maria’ because it was one of the drinks of my youth. And ‘Here if you need’ was a netball thing she (Sharon) used to say, which is what netballers actually say.”
Her favourite all-character?
“I have a great affection for all the characters. Sharon is probably paramount. She’s very recent and I love her. But I really did love Lynne Postlethwaite (from Fast Forward), as well. It was a very mean character – polar opposite of Sharon.”
Who is your favourite character that Magda has played?