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Who’s Who in Central Australian Drama ‘True Colours’

After a long absence, detective Toni Alma is assigned to investigate a suspicious car accident in her hometown of Perdar Theendar. What was the injured young local woman, Mariah, doing in a country forbidden to men? And who was driving the other car whose tracks remain behind his? Detective Nick Gawler arrives to help, and along with local police officer, Samuel Alma, the three have a mystery to solve.

From creators Warren H. Williams and Erica Glynn, and writers Steven McGregor, Erica Glynn and Danielle MacLean, the creative team brings references such as now, sweet country and Mystery Road.

true colors is an SBS and NITV collaboration featuring English and Central and Western Arrernte languages. The breathtaking Yeperenye (East Macdonnell Ranges), 300 km east of Mparntwe (Alice Springs), is the setting for the series’ fictional township.

With a strong ensemble cast and plenty of rookie actors from Australia’s central and eastern desert, true colors will air for four consecutive nights during NAIDOC week, at 8:30 p.m., Monday, July 4 through Thursday, July 7 on SBS and NITV.

Here is who is who.

Toni Alma (Rarriwuy Hick) – Senior Detective

Born in the small community of Perdar Theendar (pronounced Per-dar Theen-dar), meaning Solid Rock, 300km east of Alice Springs, Toni moved to Adelaide with her white father Scott when her parents separated . Her visits to her Native mother Vivienne and her brother Brendan became less frequent as she grew older. Now living in Alice Springs, Toni’s job takes her back to her birthplace, forcing her to reconnect with her family and her culture, ready or not.

Toni must navigate two sets of laws in the investigation, one that culturally prevents her from entering the crash site, and another that makes her presence essential if she is to solve the case. Her ex-boyfriend and detective Nick arrives to help her, and she also works with her police officer uncle Samuel, who seems to know more than he’s willing to share.

Sydney-born actor Rarriwuy Hick has appeared on stage, film and television, including in now, Intelligent man, Black comedy, Wheat Street Gods and as Ruby Mitchell in Wentworth. Of Toni Alma’s role, Hick said, “There’s something special about playing…a woman trying to figure out who she is and what she wants, she’s also drawn to her family and her culture when confronted with it. Hick, who grew up in northeast Arnhem Land and speaks Yolngu Matha, learned Central Arrernte for the role.

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Nick Gawler (Luke Arnold) – Detective

Nick is a white man who moved to Central Australia to work in Aboriginal communities. Toni broke off their relationship shortly before being assigned to investigate Mariah’s car accident alongside him. He already knows many people in Perdar Theendar and hopes to help understand what happened, as well as spending time with Toni.

Working on stage, film and television, Luke Arnold has appeared in Problem, Preparers, RUSH and Panic at Rock Island and won a Logie for his portrayal of Michael Hutchence in Never Tear Us Apart: The Untold Story of INXS. Arnold’s film credits include dead man standing, Why choose not to love, Half-Magic and broken hill. The talented actor is also a novelist, with his third book due out this year.

Samuel Alma (Warren H. Williams) – Native community policing officer

As a community police officer, Samuel, Toni’s maternal uncle, bridges the complex gap between cultural and Western laws with a quiet intelligence, if not always strictly within the rules. Technically Toni’s subordinate in this investigation, he is wise enough never to tell his niece that she is anything but in full control. Aware of men’s business, Samuel knows more than he lets on, and Toni knows it.

A Western Arrernte man from Ntaria (Hermannsburg), Warren H. Williams co-created true colors with writer/director Erica Glynn. Williams is also a country music star with 10 studio albums to her name and an ARIA nomination for It’s raining on the rock, a collaboration with John Williamson. Viewers in Central Australia will also know Williams from his broadcast on CAAMA Radio.

Brendan Alma (Kurt Abbott) – Toni’s brother

When their parents separated, Brendan stayed in Perdar Theendar with his mother Viv and his sister was greatly missed. Brendan was a sweet, fun kid who the other kids adored. Now he drinks too much and his peers ridicule him. He doesn’t know how to get his life back on track and has a lot of things he’d rather hide from his detective sister.

Born in Katherine, Kurt Abbott works as a boarding parent at Yirara College in Alice Springs and plays in the AFL for Rovers. This is Kurt’s first television role. He appeared in the short film by Viviana Petyarre Bright.

Isabelle Martin (Miranda Otto) – art dealer

Isabelle visits Perdar Theendar every year and takes the work of internationally renowned local artists around the world, plus a significant portion of the profits for herself. Isabelle is in town to organize her latest exhibition, ‘Love Magic’, for a Parisian gallery. Genuinely interested in Arrernte culture and language, Isabelle has been adopted into the skin system and is close to artists including Viv, Toni’s mother.

Over her decades-long career, AACTA, Logie, and SAG award-winning Miranda Otto has appeared in television series including Country, 24: Legacy and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and movies including The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Downhill, What lies below and the girl. Otto was most recently seen on the acclaimed ABC series, Fires and SBS series, The unusual suspects.

Vivienne Alma (Sabella Kngwarraye Ross Turner) – Toni and Brendan’s mother

A loving mother, Viv welcomes Toni with open arms. Viv is heavily involved in the community, performing night patrols and playing a prominent role in the art center. She believes that art can forge better understanding in the wider community and keep histories and culture alive. She supports Isabelle’s visits to the community and they have forged a strong friendship.

Sabella Kngwarraye Ross Turner is a former Arrernte Elder in Alice Springs. Sabella is a senior cultural adviser with the Central Australian Aboriginal Medical Service and a founding member of the Grandmothers’ Group, which supports ‘children in the countryside, not in police custody’. This is Sabella’s first acting role on a television show.

Taurus (Erroll Shand) – Mariah’s father

Bull, a whitefella and Mariah’s father, runs backpacker accommodation and has a questionable side hustle. He taught his daughter, whom he raised after the death of Mariah’s Aboriginal mother, the importance of earning money, but he comes to regret the full extent of what she learned in watching him.

Character-driven actor Erroll Shand’s TV credits include Harry, Underbelly, Mystery Road and Rake. In movies, Shand played a lead role in an Oscar-nominated Brazilian feature film little secret and shone in highway, alongside Emma Thompson. It also appears in Bunny King Justice, the bear and in 2021 starred in Butterfly, To help and blind panic.

Karl aka Gingerbread Man (Ben Oxenbould) – Government Affairs Manager

Perdar Theendar’s WBG uses its administrative role within the federal government to its full advantage, financially and to actively avoid work. His goal is to pay for his house in the south and dominate his position over the community.

Ben Oxenbould started his career as a brash 10-year-old in Bold Finnish. As an adult, he appeared in films including The passage and black water and television series including The Kettering Incident, deep waters, Mystery Road and season 2 of wolf creek and Mr. In-between.

To know more true colors, go to the program page. For all of the NAIDOC week’s lineup, check out this article from NITV.

In its television premiere, true colors airing for four consecutive nights during NAIDOC week, at 8:30 p.m., Monday, July 4 through Thursday, July 7 on SBS and NITV.

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