TV

Jessica Marais opens up about living life in the spotlight, her daughter Scout and what the future holds

'I have an acceptance and understanding now'

It's blue skies one minute, dark and dreary the next. Ever-changing is the only way to describe the weather rolling across Queensland during our exclusive photo shoot with Jessica Marais. Just like the weather, Jessica's career has also become increasingly unpredictable.

With both the TV dramas Jessica starred in – The Wrong Girl and Love Child – axed suddenly in 2017, the actress currently finds herself in an unfamiliar position: out of work.

"It's been an interesting ride, let's just put it that way," she says.

The South African-born actress admits she's nervous to be talking about herself.

"I'm so sorry," Jessica says. "It's just been a while since I've done an interview. I can't remember the last time I did one."

The 33-year-old, who rose to fame as Rachel Rafter on Channel Seven's popular family drama Packed To The Rafters in 2008, can be excused for feeling a little bit overwhelmed. Not only is this the first time she's sat down with a journalist for a while, but Jessica reveals she also hasn't been in front of the camera for several months.

"I'm working on things, but just not filming anything at the moment," she says coyly.

You can't keep Jessica down for long, it seems. Her hints come in the wake of the Nine Network not renewing Love Child after four seasons.

"It was very emotional saying goodbye to the show," Jessica recalls of shooting her final scenes in Love Child. "But I wasn't surprised we wrapped it. We had a really decent amount of time on air for an Australian show, let alone any show anywhere in the world.

"To make it to four seasons was phenomenal. I'm so proud of what we had done. And it gave me huge pride to know that the show really struck a chord with people."

Although Jessica has a new project in the pipeline – Nine Network's crime drama Bad Mothers, which starts filming in October – just how concerned is she about the future? The actress takes a moment to reflect.

"I do worry about not having work – it's a great fear," the five-time TV WEEK Logie winner admits. "Everyone worries about unemployment and making ends meet. I think it's only natural in today's climate – it's a massive issue."

Jessica was 23 and a recent NIDA (National Institute Of Dramatic Art) graduate when she landed the role in Packed To The Rafters. And dodging paparazzi suddenly became the norm. It's a part of living life in the public eye that Jessica has struggled to accept until now.

"I think privacy is something people need," she explains. "It's a basic human right. If it's breached, it can feel depersonalising when it's taken away from you."

The media's fascination with Jessica gained momentum in 2015 when she split from her then fiancé, Home And Away star James Stewart.

The pair share a daughter together – Scout, now six – and they're often attracting headlines.

"I try not to let it affect me anymore," Jessica says. "In the past, I'd get very angry, but I have an acceptance and understanding around that now. I too can be guilty of being interested in someone if they're a public figure."

While Jessica does her best to put on a brave face, the continual media interest in her family, her friends and relationships can still be a cause of angst. She's frank about how it affects her.

"Obviously, I get angrier when I read something I don't like, or if it feels incorrect or misconstrued," Jessica says. "Or sometimes angrier if I feel it's something true and private that doesn't need to be shared because it's confronting."

As a mother, Jessica is acutely aware she has to set a good example for Scout. But as an actress, she's quick to question being a role model, saying she isn't one to emulate.

"It's difficult, because we naturally want to idolise people," she says. "It's human nature to put people on a pedestal."

For Jessica, however, the pressure that comes with being a role model frightens her.

"I used to actively fight against it for fear of letting people down – and of not being enough," she explains. "I don't want people thinking I'm some superwoman who can do everything, because I can't. I have a lot of help. I have teams of people making sure my life is comfortable."

For more from our exclusive interview with Jessica Marais, pick up a copy of our new monthly magazine, TV WEEK Close Up. On sale now!

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