Magda Szubanski has discussed what she described as the “toughest year of her life” in a wide-ranging chat on Andrew Denton’s Interview.
In the interview aired on Tuesday night, Szubanski broke down in tears talking about losing her mother just weeks before the announcement that Australia had voted in favour of same-sex marriage.
The comedian became the public face of the “yes” vote and told the talk show host that because she “had the armour on” during the aggressive campaign she admitted she hadn’t properly processed her mother’s death.
“It has been the toughest year of my life, without question,” she said.
“Mostly because of mum, but the marriage equality stuff was really something I was so proud to do.
“I just felt so nervous the whole time because if I put a foot wrong, I could be blowing it for everyone. I felt a tremendous responsibility. I haven’t had a proper break since that.
“I really didn’t get to process [her death]. I was there for her the whole time, it took seven days for mum to die.
“It was brutal. We don’t talk a lot about how it’s actually fucking traumatic, watching someone die… You’re not normal after someone you love has died and you’ve been there.”
Szubanski spoke to Denton about the origins of some of her iconic comedic characters but also recalled the private struggles she faced as a closeted actor before she was ready to come out publicly as gay in 2012.
“I think this happens to a lot of LGBTQI people, that our potential isn’t realised… When you’ve internalised society’s homophobia, it’s like it corrupts your operating system, is the best way I can describe it,” she said.
“For me, it was like a virus in my system, that shame I felt… Totally misplaced but it kind of meant I did not feel like I was standing on solid ground.”
Magda said after the successful “yes” vote was announced last December she felt immense relief but she’d “felt rage” during the campaign.
“I’m really dismayed by the way in which people conduct debate now. But to be honest when you look back at every big civil rights fight, it’s always been ugly, the gloves are always off,” she said.
“The same things are always said… ‘It’s a threat to the family, it’s a threat to society.’
“Friends of mine who had kids were made to feel like bad parents. Even now that makes me angry, more on their behalf than my own… to see them being vilified and shamed and the absolute lies that were told.”
Magda said she believed both her parents would have been thrilled to see her “standing up for myself and standing up for other people” during the marriage equality campaign.
“I wish she’d been here to see the vote. She couldn’t understand it when families would turn on their gay kids, ‘I don’t understand how people turn on their own like that,'” she said.
“She had a real sense of injustice. The depth of her compassion was extraordinary.
“I think [the ‘yes’ vote] would have made her really happy, not just for me and my friends but also for what it meant about this country.
“An old Polish friend of my father’s, a woman who had seen some hard times, said to me, ‘Your parents would be so proud.'”