When a humble Waleed Aly accepted his TV WEEK Gold Logie in 2016, he used his speech to shine a spotlight on his wife Dr Susan Carland – and for good reason.
An academic, author, mother and UNICEF ambassador, Susan is as awe-inspiring as Waleed told us she was.
Now, she's adding TV host to her list of credentials on new SBS series Child Genius. Part documentary, part competition, the show follows Australia's brightest young minds as they compete for the top spot. Here, Susan sits down with TV WEEK to tell us all about it.
TV WEEK: Was hosting a TV show a career goal?
Susan: I don't really have career goals. I just float into opportunities that come along if I think they sound interesting or challenging. It's been like that with everything I do. I know most people my age have very clear five-year and 10-year goals, and that's probably quite smart. But I guess not being on a specific track means if something comes along out of left field that I wouldn't have thought, I can say, "Well, why not?"
Your husband Waleed co-hosts The Project. Did he have any tips for you before you started?
I don't think so. I remember I decided to ask him some of the spelling questions from the show and he didn't do very well! You need to see these spelling words, though – they would bamboozle the vast majority of adults, let alone kids.
You've been married for 16 years – what's your secret?
I think it's not just that we love each other, we really like each other. I also think it helps that we both feel we married up. When you both think that, it tends to work pretty well.
How did you find the distance while filming Child Genius in Sydney?
It was hard. My family is in Melbourne, so the flight away was tricky and I miss them a lot when I'm away. But it's such a great opportunity and a good show.
What was it about this series that made you want to get involved?
I loved the idea of the show because we're living in a time where some of the heroes or people we celebrate can be quite superficial. It feels like it often comes down to "How do you look on Instagram?" So I think it's nice for kids to see intellect celebrated as something praiseworthy and to aspire to. Also, I love kids, so it's fun to hang out with them at every shoot.
You've experienced negativity on social media. How do you cope with that?
Well, I've turned off comments on all my posts, so that helps. I place very little weight on social media influence – it's quite meaningless. I enjoy aspects of social media because I think it's a nice way for people to stay in touch.
I like following people I'm friends with that I might not live near. But beyond that, I think it's a very superficial world. So I consciously try to not take it very seriously – the good or the bad.
The kids on the show are amazing. What was it like working with them?
They blow my mind. Every episode there has been a moment where I've thought, "How did they do that?" And it's not just that they're smart – they perform well under pressure too. Plus, they're funny and quirky and cheeky, as kids should be. It's lovely to look to the future and think that this country's in great hands in 10 or 20 years. These will be the people who'll be running the country – running the world! – and I feel very relaxed about that.
Do you become invested in the kids' journeys on the series?
I really do. A couple of times I've watched kids get knocked out and it's hurt my heart to see them go. They're all so smart and lovely.
We're not sure we could answer half the questions the kids can…
I know! At the end, I asked Dr Joshua Chou, who sits next to me and is an expert in this field, "How many did you know?" He said maybe four.