Hear a familiar voice coming from your TV set? NITV's new animated children's series Little J & Big Cuz has a cast of super talented (and famous) actors who bring these unique characters to life.
Little J - Miranda Tapsell
National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) graduate from Darwin, Miranda Tapsell, is an award winning actress. Having starred in popular television series, Love Child, Redfern Now, Black Comedy and Cleverman, as well as the hugely popular feature, The Sapphires.
Miranda voices Little J, a five year old who has just started school. He’s curious, fascinated by the natural world around him, loves learning and most days he can’t wait to get to school. He loves the outdoors and could happily spend his whole life exploring and day-dreaming about the worlds that lie just outside his Nanna’s backyard.
He’s a proud young Indigenous boy who respects his elders and his heritage. Little J is enthusiastic, creative, imaginative and good with his hands. He enjoys building and inventing things. He loves the stories his Nanna tells about their people and their connection with the land.
Despite being easily distracted, once on a mission Little J never gives up. Nothing can stop him, except heights. He hates heights!
Big Cuz - Deborah Mailman
Deborah Mailman is one of Australia's most celebrated actors, having starred in successful films such as Bran Nue Day, Rabbit Proof Fence, Radiance and The Sapphires with Miranda Tapsell and Shari Sebbens. From Mount Isa to the small screen, Deborah is a familiar face on Australian television, most well-known for her roles in the Channel 10 award-winning series, The Secret Life of Us and Offspring.
Deborah voices Big Cuz, Little J’s nine-year-old cousin. Big Cuz is a planner, and looks for ways to solve problems. She's not too comfortable being in the spotlight, but occasionally her enthusiasm gets the better of her and she'll be eager to share something to audiences, like her classmates.
Even though she and Little J can fight like cat and dog, they are really very close. She likes to play tricks on Little J - but she can’t stand it when Little J plays tricks on her! Big Cuz is learning to overcome her fear of standing out with Nanna and close friend Sissy’s support.
Nanna - Ningali Lawford-Wolf
Wangkatjungka woman, Ningali Lawford-Wolf is a stage and screen actress, also trained in dance. She is from near Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia with father who was a stockman and her mother. Ningali starred in quality Australian films like Last Cab to Darwin, Bran Nue Dae and Rabbit Proof Fence and is also known for her stage performances; her one-woman show, Ningali, Walkabout, The Secret River and Bran Nue Dae The Musical.
Ningali plays grandmother to Little J and Big Cuz, Nanna, the smart matriarch with a strong sense of self. Nanna is smart but doesn’t deliver her knowledge from on high. She encourages learning and the kids think there’s a bit of magic about how much she knows - but in reality she’s seen most things before. She’s a good tracker, knows all the plants and their uses, and knows where to find the best bush tucker. She also makes the best Spaghetti Bolognese and can fix just about anything mechanical.
Nanna works part time at the local council and while she is an independent woman, her grandchildren are everything to her.
Old Dog - Aaron Fa’Aoso
Samoan, Tongan and Torres Strait Islander actor and presenter, Aaron Fa'Aoso is known for his roles in critically acclaimed Australian television such as ABC's Black Comedy and The Straits, and SBS' R.A.N, which he received a nomination for the Logies 'Graham Kennedy Award for Most Outstanding New Talent'.
Fa'Aoso plays Old Dog, who can be a bit of an scoundrel, but acts like an ‘adult’ presence whenever he and the kids go off exploring. Like any good dog, he is loyal and protective towards the kids.
Nothing much seems to faze Old Dog, apart from his nemesis; a big old Goanna. Given his age and disposition, Old Dog’s fastest speed is a reluctant trot. He seeks out shadows on warm days and groans as he flops down. When he’s still, fleas always seem to plague him. Old Dog would like to come into the classroom but he’s not allowed. So he resorts to looking in through the window or slumping down in the shade.
Ms Chen - Renee Lim
Perth actor and presenter, Renee Lim was the lead presenter on the television series Food Investigators, and a co-presenter on Destination Flavour, both for SBS. She held a regular role on gritty crime drama East West 101 and a recurring role on ABC’s courtroom drama Crownies. Other television credits include Packed to the Rafters and All Saints, Please Like Me and SBS mini-series, Deep Water.
Similar to Renee's Chinese-Malay heritage, her character Ms Chen, Little J and Big Cuz’s teacher, also has a father who was born in South East Asia. Ms Chen's mother's family, however, has been in Australia for generations.
Ms Chen is enthusiastic, dedicated but not gushy, and engaged and perceptive with the kids. She understands the importance of Aboriginal culture to her community even if she may not understand of aspects of it. She is keen to learn and has chosen to be teaching at this school. She’s a dedicated, best practice teacher and she is one of the reasons that all the kids love to come to school. Ms Chen is passionate, committed, caring and intelligent.
Uncle Mick - Mark Coles Smith
Mark received an AACTA nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and won Best Supporting Actor at the Film Critics’ Circle of Australia awards for his standout role as Tili in the feature film Last Cab to Darwin. He has also starred in television credits such as, Old School, Gods of Wheat Street and US hit, Modern Family. Mark has a certificate in Aboriginal Theatre from WAAPA and a Bachelor in Indigenous Studies.
Mark plays Uncle Mick, a Search and Rescue worker and coach of the school sport teams. He is fit and strong but quite a shy and reserved individual. He’s very family and community-minded and puts in a lot of effort at the school. Mick is the father of Little J’s school friend Ally.
B Boy & Sissy - Shari Sebbens
Shari Sebbens originally dreamt of being an astronaut before seeing Deborah Mailman perform on the big screen in Radiance. It was then, as a teenager, Sebbens was determined for a career in film and television.
After growing up in Darwin, she moved to Perth to attend Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) followed by another three years at NIDA. Shari’s breakout role came in the hit feature film The Sapphires, where she starred alongside Little J & Big Cuz cast members, Deborah Mailman and Miranda Tapsell. She followed this up with major roles in the ABC series The Gods of Wheat Street and 8MMM Aboriginal Radio, and groundbreaking new series Black Comedy and Soul Mates.
An acting multi-tasker, Shari voices two characters in Little J & Big Cuz. First is Sissy.. Having recently turned 10 year old and attained ‘double figures’, Sissy naturally assumes command of Big Cuz and the little kids. Sissy and Big Cuz are mostly friends and occasionally rivals but despite their ups and downs they admire each other a lot.
The second is B Boy, Little J’s four-year-old neighbour. As he’s younger he doesn’t go to “big school”. However, he occasionally turns up and takes part in Little J’s lessons. Everyone is aware that B Boy is under no obligation to be there but Ms Chen and all the other kids are happy to have him participate. Although viewers catch glimpses of his house next door, we never properly see where B Boy lives or meet his family or carers. He regularly turns up at Nanna’s looking for a feed and some companionship. He has a knack of materializing whenever food is mentioned. He soaks up love, care and food.
Levi - Voice of Ursula Yovich
Ursula Yovich grew up in the Northern Territory. She has been listed in the Top 21 most iconic Women of the Australian Stage, Page & Screen by The Age and is a five time Helpmann Award nominee. One of Australia’s most celebrated performers, she has amazed audiences all over the world, appearing at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, Carnegie Hall in New York, and the Concert Hall at the Sydney Opera House.
Ursula’s recent theatre credits include Power Plays, The Golden Age, Love and Information, The Secret River and Bloodland for Sydney Theatre Company, Mother Courage at the Queensland Theatre Company, The Magic Hour for Deckchair Theatre Company, The Barefoot Divas for Sydney Festival and North American Tour and Waltzing the Wilarra for Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company.
Ursula plays Little J’s best mate, Levi. He is up for any activity, anywhere, any time. He is a sciencey ‘brainiac’ but can leap to incorrect conclusions after some spur of the moment theorising - inspired by his hero - his (unseen) grandpa. Levi is generous, enthusiastic, and always there to follow through on Little J’s wild schemes.
Meet more of Little J & Big Cuz's friends and classmates...
Jacko & George - Katie Beckett
Katie Beckett is a writer and actor. Recent stage credits include critically acclaimed Which Way Home (writer/performer), and Cornaderrk, both for Ilbijerri Theatre Company.
She performed in Nakkiah Lui’s Kill the Messenger at Belvoir and in Lighten Up at Griffen Theatre. Previous stage credits include Onwards and Upwards, This Fella, My Memory and many others. Katie’s television credits include Redfern Now, Black Comedy and HBO’s The Leftovers.
Katie is the voice of two characters,
Jacko, who is who gets around in a wheelchair. Viewers get the sense Jacko been in a wheelchair from a young age. He’s pretty comfortable with it and realistic about what he can and can’t do. He has a strong sense of self and thinks you don’t have to be like everyone else to be cool. He plays basketball and with a bit of encouragement is even up for doing circus tricks with his wheelchair.
And George, who is an eleven-year-old, laid back kid. George has an 'avoidance relationship' with Ms Chen and he doesn’t make direct eye contact with her or speak to her directly. Ms Chen understands this is polite behaviour on George’s part and they both find ways to manage in the classroom.
Ally - Kylie Bracknell (Kaarljilba Kaardn)
Kylie Bracknell was born in Perth and raised in the wheat-belt town of Pingelly. She has performed in numerous theatre, television and film roles, and is well known as the main presenter on the NITV children’s series Waabiny Time. Her screen credits include The Gods of Wheat Street, Redfern Now, Sa Black Thing for SBS, NITV’s Marngrook Footy Show, and feature film Stone Bros.
Kylie plays young Ally, Uncle Mick’s daughter. She’s very open and direct. Ally adores her father and loves it when he volunteers to do things at the school. She’s always on the go - climbing, running and jumping.
Monti - Miah Madden
Miah Madden is a Gadigal and Bundjalung singer and actor. She has had significant roles in a number of ground breaking and popular Australian television series, including Athena in the ABC series The Gods of Wheat Street, Mattie in Redfern Now, and Billie in The Moody’s.
Monti, five, is usually quite quiet but can be excitable on certain occasions. He thinks a lot but he’s a few months younger than Little J and as the youngest in the class he sometimes gets a bit overwhelmed by his emotions.
Watch Little J & Big Cuz weekdays @ 4pm and Fridays 7.30pm on NITV Ch. 34, or nitv.org.au/littlejbigcuz
You can catch Ep.1 of Little J & Big Cuz right here at SBS On Demand