Legend; Mandy McElhinney © Cross Border Productions
Australia fell in love with Mandy McElhinney almost 20 years ago as we watched her character Rhonda fall in love with Ketut in these AAMI commercials.
While we all know Mandy as Rhonda, the actress sees Rhonda as another character she’s inhabited for a while and is proud of how she’s become an Australian icon.
Rhonda is certainly a very different character than Amanda, Mandy’s next role in the Tennessee Williams play Glass factory playing at His Majesty’s from August 2-21.
Produced in 1944 and widely regarded as Williams’ finest drama, Glass factory won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American Play.
Mandy stars as Amanda Wingfield in the family drama. She tries to push her children Tom and Laura up the social and financial ladder in their father’s absence while the children struggle to free themselves from their mother’s imposing ways.
Mandy is no stranger to the works of Williams, first performing a monologue by Glass factory when she was at school in Geraldton.
She says a role in another of Tennessee Williams’ masterpieces, A tram called Désir was probably the highlight of his career.
“Led by incredible performances from Cate Blanchett, Robin McLeavy and Joel Edgerton and directed by the sublime Liv Ullmann, it was an absolute honor to take the stage each night in this gem of a room,” she said.
“Rhonda represents all that is good in people, a sweet person who has found happiness and I love that she was taken into people’s hearts.
“Of course when I first took the job I was really doing it to help pay the rent and if I had been better off I probably wouldn’t have taken it. I was afraid of giving up some integrity as a professional actor.
“It was a risk I took and no one could have predicted at the time how big it got. I was lucky that colleagues in my industry knew that I was more of a character and kept the door open for me.
“I have no regrets now and when a member of the public approaches me with a smile on their face and tells me how much they love Rhonda, I smile too. I helped bring some joy into the world and it can’t be bad.
Born in Perth and raised in Leeman, Mandy has performed dozens of film, television and theater roles and has fond memories of them.
“Wakefield, which recently aired on ABC, was a really special experience for me. Set in a mental institution, the show attempted to break down much of the stigma around mental illness and demonstrate how it is possible for anyone to experience it at some point in their life. .
“It was really unique and special TV and I loved the challenge of playing Linda, she was unlike anyone I’ve played before. The show was done with great care and by very creative practitioners and talented and will always hold a special place in my heart.
She talks about her role as Nene King in The magazine war was an absolute treat to play.
“His dynamism and volatility was so much fun and it was also the first time I was given a starring role on television, so it was delightful to immerse myself in the role all day, every day.”
Mandy has also had some fabulous lead roles in Sydney theater over the past few years. She says the opportunity to star in a play written by a master playwright is always an actor’s best reward and training.
Although acting comes with many challenges, Mandy finds it incredibly rewarding.
“The theater is really a medium that it is impossible for an actor to fake. It takes courage, a lot of hard work, it’s exhausting and the pay isn’t as good.
“Added to that, once it’s over it’s all put away never to be seen again, there’s nothing to show for all your hard work which can be a bit heartbreaking.”
Bringing the role of Amanda to life in a play so familiar to so many will be a challenge for Mandy.
“I love Amanda so much and have been blessed to see great actors play her, most recently the phenomenal Pamela Rabe. All I can do is try to serve the writer’s intent. Speak out the words as he wrote them and bring this character alive with the only tool I have – me.
“I don’t see my job as an actor to impose myself on the character but rather to serve the needs of the character. My Amanda will be a different interpretation simply because I will bring my unique self to meet her.
Now living in Sydney, Mandy says she has a large extended family in WA and many lifelong friends. So it’s wonderful to finally work here and stay for a long time.