Entertainment

We Asked Margot Robbie About Her Greatest Role: Donna From 'Neighbours'

We sent our Donna Freedman-obsessed intern to meet Robbie on the day of her Best Actress Oscar nomination for "I, Tonya."
February 1, 2018, 3:58am
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It’s a great time to be Margot Robbie. The proudly Australian actress is enjoying a career high, with her performance as disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya earning her an Oscar nomination for best actress—along with Golden Globe, SAG, and BAFTA nods.

For Tonya Harding, the film marks the culmination of her public image rehabilitation—some 24 years after she fell from grace in the wake of revelations she was involved with the kneecapping of her rival skater Nancy Kerrigan. The 1994 attack was orchestrated by Harding's ex-husband, but she also received a lifetime ban from ice skating.

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Robbie’s sympathetic, class-conscious portrayal of Harding manages to infuse emotional complexity into this tragic American figure—now considered by some a working class antiheroine and gay icon.

When VICE met with Margot in Sydney, she'd just gotten word of her Oscar nomination. Which is amazing. But we wanted to ask her about her most iconic role: Donna Freeman from Neighbours. We've loved Margot since she made Australia lose its collective shit over Donna's kiss with the misunderstood Sunny Lee. If performances on Australian soaps were eligible for the Academy Awards, this honour would've come a long time ago.

VICE: Hi Margot, great to meet you! Obviously this is an incredible time for your career, congratulations on your Oscar nomination and getting to celebrate on home ground.
Margot: Thanks!

I’ve been a huge fan for a while of your acclaimed performances of controversial and complicated women. But I’d actually like to start off by asking about my first favourite role of yours: the iconic bisexual stalker Donna from Neighbours.
[Laughs]

Do you think there are similarities between Donna and Tonya?
I think the first similarity I’d find is that their both very unapologetically themselves, and I love that about both of them. I love characters who say what their thinking, because I think in real life I so often can’t do that. It's kind of liberating to be on set and just have no filter.

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I heard you begged the writers for a big dramatic death for Donna. Do you think her “happy ending” move to America worked out as well as yours did?
It’s funny that she moved to New York to pursue her passion, and I also found myself in New York working on a TV show pursuing my passion. So yeah, Donna and I kinda had the same happy ending!

Would you rather date Toadie from Neighbours or Jeff, Tonya Harding’s ex-husband?
Ohh! Well, I mean, since I know Ryan Moloney and know that he’s a great guy—and I think Toadie is also a great guy—I think he’d be the pick. Plus, if I married Toadie then I’d get to live in Australia instead of Portland. Portland is awesome but I would love to be living at home.

What are the differences between your time on the Neighbours set and your experience of working in Hollywood?
It’s very different. Neighbours was the best training ground ever but more than that it was the best kind of family atmosphere because you all have one green room. You're all in it together, there’s like 30 cast members and your together all the time. Day-in, day-out. Then I got to America and everyone's segregated into different trailers or dressing rooms or whatever and it’s really lonely. I felt like I was never alone on Neighbours. I was always with everyone and I loved it. There really didn’t feel like there was a segregation between cast and crew, we all hung out. You know, you’d get a cup of tea for that crew member, they would get you one. It was never like someone getting your omelette order or something like that. It was a family and I loved it. I loved it.

Does being nominated for an Oscar make amends for losing Most Popular Actress at the Logies?
Oh, absolutely. Yeah I still would have loved a Logie but honestly, it’s been… actually I have to say the Logies are probably the funnest awards to go too. They are so much fun.

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Yeah, I’ve heard they are wild.
They are wild! And it’s not actually as fun going to the Oscars. It is a great honour to go to the Oscars, of course! But the Logies are fun.

The anecdote that you didn’t know that Tonya Harding’s life story was real has quickly become legendary.
Yeah!

Was it more or less believable than some of the Neighbours plotlines?
It was equally as unbelievable as some of the Neighbours plotlines. Yeah, sometimes real life is just crazier than what we depict on screen. Although we did depict some crazy stuff on screen on Neighbours—considering the time slot and rating we had. I think we were pretty out there with some things.

I, Tonya is the first big success for your production company. Why was it important for you to produce your own work?
Well, we have the company because we want to promote females in the industry, whether it’s through female characters, filmmakers, directors or editors. Our female editor just got an Oscar nod for I, Tonya… it’s important that we keep moving forward in trying to find 50/50, find equality. It’s just really unbalanced at the moment.

Yes, it’s certainly time. You’ve come so far since Ramsay Street. What’s the next challenge you want to tackle as an artist?
I mean we kind of have our hands full with producing. I feel like this producing venture has turned out really well, we have a lot of other projects on our slate that I really hope we can also do justice. So I guess to have those projects get greenlit, get made, and be received the way we want them to be received. That would be incredible. And then, in couple of years, I’d love to try directing.

Wow! Donna would be proud.

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This article originally appeared on VICE AU.