Celebrities journey into pasts
STATESMAN Edmund Burke said “people will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors”.
That said, comedian Magda Szubanski, cricketing icon Rod Marsh, singer Tina Arena, actor and presenter Shane Bourne, actor, dancer and TV chef Paul Mecurio and Gold Logie winner Georgie Parker will have much to give their future generations.
This eclectic group of some of the nation's biggest stars form the cast of the third series of the popular SBS production Who Do You Think You Are?
The series takes these celebrities on a journey into their past to allow them to make discoveries about the ancestors who shaped them.
The hour-long episode with each celebrity can take up to two years to develop and film, and shows the celebrities as they truly are, a long way from the glitz and glamour of the red carpet or the television studio.
“That's what the audience loves, stripping back the media façade. And we say to them, we aren't bringing a Winnebago, there isn't make-up, it's you with your backpack. You are on the road with your team,” series producer Celia Tait said.
“It's a very different way of working than if you are on a drama set or if you are performing for a singing gig.”
Which is where the producers face their very first challenge (of many) to get people who are trained to be “on” to be themselves.
“It depends on the personality and how really honest they are going to be with themselves,” Tait said.
“I always say at that first meeting, we just want you. We don't want any acting, we just want you.”
And that request seems to work, because right from the start of series three, as Szubanski discovers the shocking history of her maternal grandmother, you couldn't be further away from the Sharon Strezlecki she is best known for.
Travelling to Ireland and Poland to track down her family history, Szubanski braved one of Europe's coldest winters to be with the Who Do You Think You Are? team.
“Magda was a trooper,” Tait explained.
“I believe (taking part in the series) has affected Magda profoundly.
“We editorialise our stories quite heavily.
“We really do look at what is fair for them to discover on screen because some of the stories we discover in the ancestral tree are not suitable for the public domain.”
Along with Magda's revealing documentary there is also a very emotional journey with songstress Tina Arena.
Tune into the series three premiere tonight (Sunday) from 7.30pm on SBS One.