The Alice: articles

Luke Carroll

Luke Carroll: would like to be cast as a character, and not just as an indigenous character.

Pride and prejudice

The Alice’s Luke Carroll wants to be more than the token Aboriginal.

Luke Carroll knows which side his bread is buttered on. The problem is, he’s not all that interested in eating bread anymore. Instead, a whole parallel universe of carbs—rices, pulses, pasta, potatoes, cereals, grains—calls for his attention.

As an indigenous actor, the 26-year-old Carroll faces a familiar bind, caught between gratitude for the opportunities his background has given him and frustration at the roles that same background denies him.

Carroll, who appears in Channel Nine’s drama series The Alice, has been nominated for actor of the year, along with Leah Purcell, Deborah Mailman and David Page, at this year’s Deadly Awards. The Deadlys recognise excellence in music, sport and entertainment in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

Carroll says he has had a charmed run in acting. His big break came when he was nine. A friend of one of his teachers spotted him in class and suggested he send some photos to an agent. The agent was impressed, and a career was born.

Since that day, Carroll says, “I’ve had plenty of opportunities—where the roles have been indigenous.

Every young indigenous role that’s come up over the last few years, I’ve been offered.”

The story changes when it comes to non-indigenous roles.

“At times it’s been frustrating,” Carroll says. “There have been roles that I’ve thought I could have done, but I haven’t got them because I was indigenous. Because of what I’ve done so far, people seem to overlook me for roles that aren’t indigenous. I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’m just not good enough.”

He had a breakthrough last year, when his interpretation of Puck in Belvoir Street Theatre’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream received copious amounts of critical drooling.

“So slowly but surely, it is happening,” Carroll says. “I’m starting to get a more diverse set of roles.”

He considers Mailman and Aaron Pedersen particular inspirations: actors who have been able to build an impressive portfolio of roles without needing to stay wedded to the stereotypes of their ancestry.

“Like them, I’d like to be cast as a character, and not just as an indigenous character,” Carroll says.

At the same time, it’s clear that Carroll, whose parents are Wiradjuri, reserves a great deal of respect for the community he’s part of. He declares himself “proud and honoured” to be representing his people and reserves special praise for those such as Ernie Dingo who have guided him through the early stages of his career.

“From the start, I’ve had elder Aboriginal people giving me advice and helping me out. That’s the great thing about being indigenous—we have that sense of community, that sense of pride in what we do and in what others in the community do, that sense of togetherness.

“We’re all looking out for each other. We’re a family.”

Carroll says nothing illustrates that sense of family better than the Deadly Awards, now in their 11th year.

“It’s amazing how talented we are.

If anyone should be telling us that, it should be us.”

By Aaron Timms
September 16, 2005
The Sydney Morning Herald