Suzy Wrong as Roxy in ‘Hungry Ghosts.’
Suzy Wrong worked as a performer in her native Singapore but apart from a guest role in an episode of Crownies in 2011 she had abandoned hopes of acting.
As a transgender woman she saw little or no hope of playing trans characters, particularly because those few she had seen were almost always portrayed as tormented and struggling.
Happily that all changed when she won a key supporting role in Hungry Ghosts, Matchbox Pictures’ four-part, character-driven supernatural drama based on an original idea by Timothy Hobart, which explores three generations of Vietnamese Australian families, all haunted by the traumatic events of war.
Commissioned by SBS and produced by Stephen Corvini and Hobart, the Shawn Seet-directed series opens on the eve of the Hungry Ghost Festival in Melbourne when a vengeful spirit is unleashed, wreaking havoc across the Vietnamese Australian community.
Bryan Brown stars as Neil Stockton, a photographer famous for his collection of Vietnam War photographs, with Clare Bowen (Nashville) as his daughter Liz.
Catherine Davies is May Le, an aspiring chef who begins to understand that she alone has the power to control the evil spirits. Wrong plays Roxy, a trans woman and gifted clairvoyant who is May’s best friend.
“I play probably the first trans character you will see on TV who does not have to explain herself, does not tell you her sob story and is living her very best life,” Suzy tells IF. “Hopefully she will be a joyful change for queer viewers everywhere.
“Roxy and May are very close. They have almost a Mulder and Scully relationship. Unlike trans people who are negatively portrayed, Roxy is vibrant, funny and exuberant. She’s a clairvoyant who suddenly meets ghosts and she could not be happier.”
Davies, who had been a guest on Wrong’s podcast, suggested to casting directors Leigh Pickford and Marianne Jade they look at hiring her to play Roxy.
Pickford gave her an outline of the character and asked her to meet with Seet. After chatting for half an hour he asked her to audition, although she had not read the script, so she did a cold read and nailed the part.
She especially enjoyed working with Seet (“a great communicator and incredibly sensitive”), Davies, Brown, Ryan Corr, who plays a first-year doctor who encounters May, and Susie Porter as a UN worker who is infected by ghosts.
All she has seen is a three-minute cut which was shown at the wrap party. She enthuses: “It looks so spellbinding and is very cinematic. It was a huge privilege to be part of the show.”
After moving to Australia in 1996 she did a theatre and film studies degree at the University of New South Wales. After that she opened an art gallery in the Blue Mountains, which didn’t pan out, and then worked in digital media.
She transitioned to female in 2011, recalling: “Unlike some other trans people, I was able to deal with my gender dysphoria quietly, so I waited for many years until I felt it was safe to do it.”
Since 2013 she has been a prolific theatre critic, reviewing about 200 productions each year for her website Suzy Goes See.
After Hungry Ghosts premieres she hopes more roles will come her way. “There are more trans characters appearing on TV in the US and the UK,” she says. “Australia is often three or four years behind, but things are definitely changing. “