Rachel Taylor has come a long way since Launceston. The Tassie born actress has fought off Transformers, she's been one of Charlie's Angels, she's even starred in Grey's Anatomy. She's also a campaigner against domestic abuse and violence against women, having taken out an AVO on her then-boyfriend, Matthew Newtown. This week Rachel Taylor is entering the Marvel Universe in the new Netflix series Jessica Jones.
It’s based on a comic book called Alias, and Jessica Jones is a hero that is incredibly flawed and incredibly complicated. I play a character called Trish Walker, based on Patsy Walker, who is one of the oldest Marvel heroines. She was around in the 1940s, 50s?
Precisely. She’s a former child star, who has had a Lindsay-Lohanesque collapse in her teens, and has since gone to college, rebuilt her life and become this earnest woman.
You're a talk radio host, aren't you.
Yeah; Trish Talk! I wish I would have met you before I shot it, I would have got some interview pointers!
Really? I'm glad that I'm exuding that kind of confidence.
It was quite nerve wracking doing the radio talk show host bit, and experimenting with my radio voice.
Go on, give us your radio voice.
Ooh! It's very Radio National!
That's not it at all, because also I'm American, and this is Australia, so that's a weird hybrid of what it was? But it's fun.
Hey, it works! There's a really interesting trend in American television in the last couple of years in that more of the powerbrokers are women; Jessica Jones’ showrunner Melissa Rosenberg is one of them, of course. What do you think is needed to get to parity?
On one hand I don't want to be, 'rah rah, it's really tough for women in Hollywood' because think it's really tough for women all over the world, so I don’t want to overstate. I'm in a very privileged position.
It's a very public representation though...
Absolutely, and it speaks to a bigger problem about the space women occupy in the world, and whether or not we see them as equal. Hollywood is in front, in some respects, casting women in these positions of power and having female show runners. Certainly the show that I'm on is an extraordinary example of not only a female-driven show but a feminist show. I think there's a way to move the needle, and moving the needle as much as possible is a good thing. Hopefully then communities follow suit.
When you reflect a vision of the world back on to people, it can change minds.
I hope so.
What do you think a feminist show is?
To me, the word feminism just implies equality; that both genders should be perceived as completely equal. One of the reasons I wanted to do Jessica Jones is because Kristen Ritter (who plays Jessica Jones) and I play best friends, and there's an incredible journey of friendship between the two of us over thirteen episodes. And not once do you hear us talking about shoes or a man. Ever.
So it passes the Bechtel test!
Yeah! It really does!
That's so rare.
I hadn't read anything that was saying that and doing that, and I think that's radical.
What do you think the general public misunderstands about domestic violence? If there's one misconception that you'd like to correct for once and for all, what would it be?
That the victim is in any way implicated. That it's a woman's responsibility, to… you hear, 'why didn't you just leave?' That's a treacherous statement.
When you hear that, what goes through your head?
I think, “you have no idea how tricky the dynamics of being in a violent relationship are, because if it were that simple of course, victims of domestic violence across the country would leave.” But it's not that simple.
There's a bunch of different entanglements there - financial entanglements are a really important one - and we need to have some serious conversations about aid, and how we support women who are in violent relationships, and what it means for their life once they leave the relationship. There are women who have children who stay to protect their kids, or try to hold the family unit together; it's complex.
What would you change about the way we talk about it, or legislate about it?
There's a lot. Some of it, in terms of legislative change, is slightly above my pay grade…
Well, George Clooney's out there saving the world. Come on, Rachel Taylor could be too…
I think judicial reform is a big one to tackle. Aid for women, and coming up with an infrastructure that they feel protected and safe in. But really the most important thing that we can do right now is have really honest conversations and find a good supportive language that a woman who finds herself in a violent relationship feels that they could have the space to be able to talk about it. That's the most important piece. Graciousness and patience and understanding, whether it be among counsellors or in communities. How do we handle someone who says, “I'm stuck in this situation and I'm not sure what to do; can I talk about it?”