Rake’s Kate Box, 40, got a major confidence boost filming five seasons of the much-loved ABC TV show as the owly folder carrier-turned-chief of staff Nicole to Richard Roxburgh’s bad boy barrister and eventual senator Cleaver Greene.
“He’s so charismatic, rude and kind and a great comic too, and I learned a lot from his boldness,” the NIDA graduate says of Roxburgh.
“When I first started in TV, there was this fear of being too big or making massive choices. But watching actors do that is a really exciting thing.
“It gave me the courage not to make myself smaller.”
There’s nothing small about her latest role as Lozza, a lovably loud bong-smoking advertising exec in ’80s power suits in new ABC miniseries Les Norton, loosely based on the cult crime novels by Robert G. Barrett.
Box plays the flatmate of newcomer Alexander Bertrand’s Les, a country boy who becomes an illegal casino bouncer in Sydney’s infamous Cross.
The brilliantly ocker show also stars Rebel Wilson as a gun-toting brothel madam and David Wenham as a ruthless club owner.
“I’m a mother with three small children and my life is nappies and The Hungry Caterpillar, so playing someone who’s a bit sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll is a total joy,” Box tells The New Daily.
“She has a skewed moral compass and no inhibitions, which is a lot of fun to play.”
The wild costumes take Box back to a time when she would sing along to Whitney Houston while bouncing on a trampoline in her family backyard, her mum dressed in sarongs and parrot earrings.
“Wardrobe on this was the most fun, because you’d get in there and they’d be like, ‘hair?’ ‘Yes, absolutely yes. Can we tease that a little bit higher?’”
Talking to The New Daily from a poolside in Broome, Box is about to enjoy eight weeks off with her daughters – a three-year-old, two-year-old and five-month-old – while her actress partner Jada Alberts (Wentworth, Cleverman) films the second series of Mystery Road.
Together for ten years, the couple lives in Marrickville with their girls, and Box can’t wait to see Albert in Mystery Road after getting a sneaky peek at her in costume: “There’s a really rad photo of her looking like a total cowboy walking into town.”
Pre-holiday, Box has one more day’s filming left in South Australia’s Port Augusta on the Cate Blanchett-led and produced refugee detention drama Stateless.
“Stateless has been incredibly moving and hard, but great work,” she says. “So I’m enjoying parent catch up mode, building a lot of sandcastles and going to water parks.
“So often I feel I have one foot in the family and one foot out the door to work, so just being here with them is really special.”
Juggling her schedule with Alberts’ and the girls can be a headache. “The diary has so many highlighted colours our youngest daughter is like, ‘It’s a rainbow,’ and I’m like, ‘It’s a nightmare’,” Box says.
Living in a rainbow family meant shooting ABC drama Riot, marking 40 years since the original Mardi Gras protest in Sydney, was a career highlight for Box. She won the best actress in a television drama AACTA award for her role as activist Marg.
“That was a massive one for me,” she says.
“I cried so much making it. It’s such an under-told part of our history and one that has shaped me and my two-mum, three-girls family.
“So getting to portray these people on screen in such a heroic and honest way, honouring those ’78ers, was pretty extraordinary.”
Les Norton airs on ABC and iView on Sundays at 8:30pm from August 4.