Cate Blanchett had a busy day on February 17.
First she turned heads in the front row of the star-studded Burberry show at London Fashion Week in a severely tailored black pantsuit, then that night added a metallic silver and blue longline jacket to her look for the UK premiere of The True History of the Kelly Gang.
Days later, it was the double Oscar winner’s style choices for a different outing – in the upcoming ABC series Stateless – that had social media buzzing.
Blanchett plays a cult leader called Pat, who runs the secretive Gopa with her husband, played by Brit Dominic West (The Wire.)
It promises transformation through song, dance and intimate healing sessions.
By West’s admission, the “disturbing” roles meant the actors wore the “most appalling clothes”.
For perennially best dressed Blanchett, that mean key looks heavy on 1980s pastel ‘parachute’ tracksuits, as previewed on Twitter on Thursday.
The frivolity of the fashion is a stark contrast to the serious themes of six-part Stateless, which uses explores Australia’s maligned and controversial immigration policies.
It shows the emotional and mental effects for four characters whose journeys from other places see them experience a detention centre in the South Australian desert.
There’s a guard who just wants to look after his family (Jai Courtney, Suicide Squad), an Afghan asylum seeker (Fayssal Bazzi, The Commons) and a Canberra bureaucrat (Asher Keddie, Offspring.)
Yvonne Strahovski (The Handmaid’s Tale) and Marta Dusseldorp (A Place To Call Home) also star.
Blanchett, 50, is also co-creator on the show, which is directed by Emma Freeman and Jocelyn Moorhouse.
It was filmed last year and premieres next week at Berlinale before launching on the ABC on March 1.
The mother of four’s interest in immigration and detention in her home country was sparked by the real-life case of Cornelia Rau in 2004.
A German citizen and Australian permanent resident with schizophrenia, Rau was sedated, restrained and transported without her permission to SA’s Baxter detention centre.
She was thought to be an illegal immigrant and was detained for four months until her family, who reported her missing, recognised her from a media story.
Rau’s extraordinary tale is “so rich and so complicated and so painful and so unlikely and so surprising and bewildering that you could make a series in itself”, Blanchett told The Guardian.
But “there were so many things we wanted to talk about”.
Strahovski’s character Sofie is a German air hostess with schizophrenia like Rau, who is drawn to the Gopa cult.
Blanchett told the UK newspaper she’s always found it tough to talk to overseas friends and colleagues about the treatment of asylum seekers in Australia.
“They knew nothing about the Tamils on the roof, nothing about children sewing their lips together [in detention centres],” Blanchett said.
“They would actually start with nervous laughter because they thought I was exaggerating.”
It’s not amusing for the Where’d You Go Bernadette star: “There’s a profound anxiety about where we’re all heading and the erosion of empathy and, of course, that’s the space where the drama takes place.
“None of us are interested in preaching to the converted.”