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Real Life

REAL LIFE: My mum found fame as a TV star in her 70s on Stan's hit series Bump

''Life is an adventure until the end.''

By Mitchell Jordan

John De Giusti, 50, from Sydney, NSW shares his mum's journey to stardom with Take 5's Mitchell Jordan:

I held my mother's hand as we sat together in hospital.
My father, Ruben, had been diagnosed with stage-four brain cancer, which had taken us all by surprise and he'd quickly gone downhill.
For a while I'd noticed a change in Dad's behaviour – he'd stare right through me vacantly or be unable to finish stories, but we were expecting it to be Alzheimer's, not a terminal illness.
For my mum, Claudia, this was a lot to take in.
She and Dad had left Argentina during the seventies, when I was only five, so my sister, Maria, and I could have a better life away from the political unrest of our country.
In Australia, Mum struggled to adjust to living with all that she'd left behind.
Back home, she'd been involved in the theatre, while Dad, a musician, had to settle for a factory job once we landed in Sydney.
John with his dad, Ruben, and mum, Claudia. (Image: Supplied)
Together they saved every cent so we could return to Argentina for regular family holidays.
"It's important to remember your culture," Mum told Maria and me.
I soon discovered through those trips just how different the two countries were.
In Argentina, it was normal to eat dinner at midnight and go out to clubs at 2 am – even on a weekday!
"Australia's a five-star cemetery!" Mum joked, referring to how everything closed so early.
No doubt all these memories, and more, were flooding her mind as we waited in hospital, knowing Dad's time was drawing to a close.
Seeing Mum only a shell of herself was so hard.
Claudia faced some big changes. (Image: Supplied)
"Listen," I said to her, "this may be the end of Dad's life, but it's not the end of yours. What do you want to do with your life?"
"I want to act," she replied, her voice still distant and deflated.
Although Mum had gone on to do some theatre roles in Australia, she hadn't been on stage in decades.
"Then that's what you're going to do," I told her. "Right now, you think there's no light inside you – but that light's going to shine again soon."
When my father passed away, age 78, Mum, Maria and I were all devastated.
Our family had been so close, but I didn't want my mother, who was now living alone, to become so consumed with grief that it enveloped her completely.
Maria and I took her out as often as we could.
"Remember what you told me before," I reminded her, hoping she might pursue the acting dream.
John with his mum. (Image: Supplied)
Although she was in her seventies, I was sure there'd still be plenty of roles available, even if it was just as an extra to keep her mind busy.
I started contacting agents looking for work and was amazed to see that one film company wanted a woman in her seventies to appear in a TV program for the role of a grandmother who was the matriarch of a Latino family.
Something told me this was meant to be, so that night I went to Mum's and filmed her audition.
Three months had passed since we'd lost Dad, but as I watched her perform, I got goosebumps seeing the same strong, courageous woman I'd known all my life return.
Just two days later, she was invited to an audition in-person.
The audition was a success. (Image: Supplied)
There, she met with actress Claudia Karvan, who was also the creator of Bump, the comedy series that Mum had come to audition for.
"Acting is life, and life is a big stage," Mum told her.
The whole team were impressed with her attitude, but even more so by her skills and she was offered the role of Bernardita, the Chilean grandmother.
At 79, my mother was about to be a star!
Bump, which shows on Stan, has been hugely successful and she's contracted to appear in a few more series.
Claudia as Bernadite Hernandez in Bump. (Image: Roadshow Rough Diamond)
Her agents at X Division have also helped her navigate this change of career so late in life.
I'm proud of what Mum's achieved, though she's constantly surprised when we go out and she's recognised in the street.
"That's called fame!" I joke with her.
Although I've been busy helping her learn all the lines, I think she's a natural when it comes to performing.
"I couldn't have done this without you," she told me, smiling.
"No Mum," I told her, "I passed you the ball – you're the one who scored the goal."
Of course we wish Dad was here to see all that she's achieved, but I know he'd be just as proud as my sister and I am.
My mother and I have a very special relationship – she's always been there for me whenever I need it – and I'm glad others now get to see the same special woman I do.
With Bump co-creator and actress Claudia Karvan. (Image: Suplied)

Claudia, 79, tells Take 5:

You are never too old to give things a go.
Life is an adventure until the end.

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