Greta Scaachi, the multi-national actor Australia loves to claim as its own, is currently featuring on Australian TV in her most Biblical role to date.
She plays the pivotal role of Mary, mother of Jesus, in the TV series A.D. Kingdom And Empire, now airing Sunday nights on Channel Nine.
Scaachi was born in Italy to a Catholic Italian father, which gave her a childhood familiarity with Biblical stories.
However she said in an interview on the set of A.D. that her Bible knowledge prior to the role had really ended at Jesus, and that she hadn’t known much about how the Bible and the early church had formed.
“I knew nothing really of what happened after the crucifixion; that was kind of an end,” she said.
Playing the role of Mary was “surreal” for Scaachi at first, because she had only thought of the historic figure as the religious icon seen in paintings.
“I can’t help thinking a lot about the paintings because we’re not used to hearing her voice,” she said. “We’re more used to an image, and the image is serene and mute.
“So suddenly I’m given lines and it feels kind of strange for her to speak.”
She said she was shocked at first to be given the role of Mary, but that the process of getting into costume helped her settle into the role.
“I was a little stunned when I was told that I had the part, and that within a couple of days I was going to be flying out to Morocco to start shooting,” she explained. “So it was all a bit surreal.”
“But as soon as I went in for my costume fitting, which is one of the first things we do, and I met Luciano Capozzi, he started with putting this white wimple on [me] and then he found this crushed green linen, then he put on the blue muslin, the kind of colour that we associate with [Mary]… he just swathed me layer after layer.
“And each layer I looked at myself in the mirror and the colours brought out this sort of luminosity, complimenting my eyes. And I started thinking, OK , I’m getting this, I like this feeling.”
Scaachi said being in the cast of A.D. was a learning experience for her.
“I certainly have learnt a lot about this period of time, which is less talked about, it’s less preached about. [I’ve learnt] about the bravery of this initially small group of people who were so inspired by Jesus and His qualities and His teaching, that they were able to stick with a struggle, a hope that things would get better for their people in a time of terrible oppression.”
Scaachi was born in Italy, began learning her craft as a young woman in Perth, has dual Italian and Australian citizenship, and speaks fluent French, German and Italian in addition to English.
However she has spent much of her life living in Sussex, England, and has a refined British accent.
She told SMH.com.au that she loves Sydney, and thinks of herself as “kind of half English, half Italian and half Australian.”
“I’m a different person in England to when I’m in Italy, where I express myself in a different way,” she said. “In Australia there’s such a range of cultural identities I never feel like an outsider.”
Scaachi has won Emmy, AFI Award, Logie and Golden Globe awards for her work. She’s known for her starring roles in films like The Player, Heat And Dust, White Mischief, Presumed Innocent and Looking for Alibrandi.
One of her most recent roles was a 2014 documentary called The Last Impresario, about theatre and film identity Michael White.
- Greta Scaachi appears in A.D. Kingdom And Empire’s first five episodes.
- She has supported the Christian Aid campaign on climate change.