Rachel Gordon isn’t in the slightest bit bitchy or spiteful in real life, which viewers on Seven’s The Secret Daughter, would find hard to believe. Every time the Brisbane actress faces off with young star Jessica Mauboy on the show, her claws come out accompanied by mega vitriol. So nasty is Rachel’s character, Susan, that after every scene she makes a beeline for Jessica to make up.
“It’s extremely difficult for me because I have to be mean to Jess who is such a sweetheart,” she said. “And after every single scene I just hug her and say I love you and we have that little moment where we have to let go of it.”
The expression of love and caring is not out of place on the set, with Rachel praising the cast.“Everyone in the cast is incredibly lovely which is not always the case,” she said.
“Jess of course is such a beautiful person and incredible performer herself, so I think her energy sort of filters through the rest of the cast and crew making the whole experience so full of joy.”
Rachel said that the current season of The Secret Daughter was a lot stronger than the first and thought it had “really found its feet”. “In terms of what the show is and the story we are trying to tell is a lot more exciting,” she said.
Talking about her role as newly-widowed Susan, Rachel said even though her character “goes through a dark journey”, there were elements of her behaviour that were “quite nasty”.
“In playing it, I try and really focus on the fact that she’s a really broken women because her husband, the love of her life, has just died and she’s found out a lot of stuff that she didn’t know and felt betrayed,” she said.
Rachel, who has a Masters degree in Psychotherapy and works a lot in the drug and alcohol area when not acting, said the show had been really interesting because it was so “beautifully written and is so complex and layered”. She said it was a joy to play Susan.
“Like, she does behave in really extraordinary ways sometimes,” she said. “What’s been really interesting to me is being able to explore like, how would I react if I was in that situation?
“It has been wonderful to explore that as an actor and what normal people do in extraordinary circumstances and also grief and the loss of family and how that kind of impacts people and how that tears families apart.”
Rachel said that after playing “nasty” Susan it was difficult for her to go home and be mum to her own children aged 5 and 3. She said being an actress and a mother was a “constant juggle.”
“It’s constantly feeling like you are failing in some area, but what motherhood has given me is that I let go of perfectionism and just try and show up and do the best I can in whatever i’m doing at that point.
“I guess I really love the fact that as a woman, who is also a mother, I get the opportunity to show my daughter that it is possible to have a career and do something that you love and be a mum as well.”
It also helps when you consider her great-grandmother, Dame Edith Lyons, was the first woman to be elected to the Australian House of Representatives as well as the first woman appointed to the Federal Cabinet. The mother of 12 was also well known for her fight for women’s equity and equality.
Rachel’s favourite places in Brisbane include West End, The Gunshot Cafe, all around QPAC, Racecourse Road and Paddington, “Brisbane has had this crazy resurgent, its become a real hotspot for theatre and culture,” she said.