Critically acclaimed ABC drama, Total Control is coming to an end in 2024 and for star Deborah Mailman, knowing that this was the final instalment, allowed the cast and crew to “really raise the stakes”.
Speaking to Mediaweek in December 2023 — and before the season premiere on January 14 — Mailman admitted that there was a “confidence that came with knowing” that this was where Alex and Rachel’s (Rachel Griffiths) story would draw to a stunning conclusion.
“You can write to that,” she said. “You can go, ‘Okay, well, how do we want to end this? What’s the strongest possible ending we can make for the show?'”
The final chapter will begin two years after the explosive events of the second season where Mailman’s outsider turned kingmaker, Alex, is completely at home in the nation’s capital.
“It’s such a great drama in that you are watching these two female characters in particular, just surviving the bloodbath that happens in that place,” she said, adding that throughout the show’s run, the creative team really “leant into” conversations with former MPs and current MPs to “really get that insight and that authenticity and that lived experience.”
“We tried to get as close to the bone as we possibly could in terms of what that life looks like for politicians and the scrutiny that happens for female politicians,” she said.
What can we expect from Alex Irving in the final season of Total Control?
As for Alex, a black female politician, Mailman said that once again “she’ll be put through the wringer”.
“She’s a black female politician and she gets that sort of scrutiny from all areas,” she said. “Her community, her own family and of course, the other politicians in Parliament House.”
However, despite the naysayers, Alex comes into the season “all about fighting for justice”, empowered to challenge the government that is in power.
“She comes in with that intention,” Mailman said. “And what’s really interesting is that you find over the season that it’s not a straight path in politics. She’s often wondering, who can I trust? Who are my allies? What she’s willing to compromise on? She’s constantly scrutinised, not only our community of families but people in Parliament who just think she’s a joke so she’s pushing uphill this whole time.”
Thankfully, according to the Boy Swallows Universe actor, Alex will get to a point where she “ends up playing the game better than anyone else.”
“That’s the great sort of moment of triumph for Alex is that she’s not the good person in all this,” she admitted. “She has to make a few snake moves in this as well because she realises to play the game, ‘I’ve got to be better at everyone else doing this. Got to beat them at their own game’. She realises that she can’t be clean and all this.”
How Total Control 3 shines a light upon social injustices in Australia
While the overall experience of playing this role for three seasons has meant a lot to Mailman, having a job that helps to tell First Nation’s stories is extremely powerful and poignant, particularly as Total Control highlights the social injustices in our country including youth incarceration and deaths in custody.
“The show doesn’t shy away from those uncomfortable confronting issues that our communities are faced with every day,” she said “It’s the lived experiences for so many of our mob that are often away from people’s ears and eyes and hearts.”
In fact, as an artist, Mailman said that it was important to her being a First Nations woman to do a show “that is absolutely about interrogating what that means, what that looks like for people who have no idea or understanding of what that is.”
“This is why I love doing this sort of work and working with Blackfella Films because it’s just shining a light on what’s happening,” she said. “It’s about sharing, it’s about collaborating and I think for the wider community to take pride in our First Nations storytelling and to do a show such as Total Control, for me, hopefully, people can come and go, ‘Gee, that was a great Australian drama'”.
Total Control Season 3 premieres on Sunday 14 January at 8.30 pm ABC iview and ABC TV.