Madeleine Madden | Freedom Fighter 2.0

by Hannah Jackson

Though Madeleine Madden has only just premiered her first American production—this summer’s family blockbuster Dora and the Lost City of Gold—her family’s legacy of activism in her native Australia precedes her. The 22-year old actress comes from a dynasty of freedom fighters: her great-grandmother Hetty Perkins was an elder of Australia’s Arrernte tribe, and her grandfather Charles Perkins was an activist and played a key role in the 1965 Freedom Ride, which sought to end discrimination against Aboroginal people in New South Wales.

“When we were kids we were never left out of these discussions about the world. We were always involved and asked what our opinions were,” Madden notes of her politically-charged upbringing. “Having a kind of political voice and views from a very young age has been amazing and has really opened my mind. It has also been difficult when you’re kind of finding yourself as a person and you want to get out in the world and start doing things and making a change.”  

When Madden was only 13-years old she delivered a televised address to the nation on the future of Indigenous Australians. Though she may have taken a more artistic career path, the influence of her ancestors is not lost on her.

“I feel like there is a legacy that my grandparents and my mom and dad have left, that my family has made. I want to uphold that history and do my bit for my community,” she says earnestly. 

In fact, Madden—a Freedom Fighter 2.0 in her own right—feels a stronger call to action, now more than ever. “We’ve always been raised that if you have a platform to generate change and raise awareness, then that’s what you need to do,” she says. Her Instagram reflects just that: her page is riddled with posts about issues spanning from climate change and literacy, to violence against women and the experiences of Indigenous Australians. 

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“The power of social media can launch a movement into another stratosphere, and the power that the people have is huge!” she exclaims. “Everything that I have in my life and that I’ve been able to do is really because I’ve had incredibly strong family and community and ancestors that have gotten me here, so I feel eternally grateful for everything that I have because I know that people have sacrificed their lives so that I could get this opportunity.” 

The presence of pioneering role models has certainly been a great foundation for the young rabble rouser, and her preference for feminist fictional inspirations is no different. 

“I’ve always been a bit of a Star Wars nerd [laughs], so I would love to be apart of a Star Wars film,” she admits. “Stepping into that kind of world would be something that I would love to do. Especially because Star Wars has such strong female protagonists in the franchise and I would love to join their ranks in my life[time].” 

Though she may not be dwelling on Alderaan quite yet, Madden is already bringing impressive female protagonists to life onscreen. Though her character Sammy, from Dora and the Lost City of Gold, wasn’t initially too keen on the titular character, Madden delivers a flattering portrayal of both of them. 

“Sammy is definitely a strong, feminist young woman with a lot of big ambitions and dreams, and she definitely prides herself in her intellect. She is initially quite threatened when Dora comes to her school, and is kind of on her turf, because Dora is very smart and so authentically herself. Dora’s infectious good nature eventually spreads throughout the group and has an impact on them and they all realize that it’s okay to be yourself and that the only version you can be of yourself is an authentic version.” 

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Though Madden has had a taste of stardom—which by her definition, seems to be a billboard on Sunset Boulevard—she has remained remarkably grounded. She gushes over her Flaunt shoot that took place days prior to our chat. “I mean, god, it was such a once-in-a-lifetime shoot—shooting on Sunset in LA, in the summertime. It was really special and so fun,” she says giddily. 

When I ask Madden if she sees herself living in LA permanently one day, she is quick to offer a tentative, but sanguine, yes. “I also love the entire American culture with the industry. People line up outside the cinema all day every day to watch a movie, and I love that culture. People are so passionate about movies and storytelling over in the States and it’s a very electric feeling,” she says. 

Though LA may be the end goal, Madden’s current foreseeable future is located in Eastern Europe—the Czech Republic to be exact. The day I talk to her is at the end of her first day on Wheel of Time, a new Amazon series starring Rosamund Pike, adapted from the novels by Robert Jordan. 

“My character is Egwene, and she comes from the small town in this world that we’re creating. She and the other kids from her village go on—[laughs] sorry this is the first interview I’ve done about it—pretty much go on an adventure that spans years and experiences that you could never imagine or think of,” she explains. 

Though Madden hasn’t quite started work on Wheel of Time, she is exhilarated for the upcoming 11 months of filming. The only thing she isn’t looking forward to? A European winter. 

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Photographed by: Lili Peper.

Styled by: Sunzhique.

Hair: Rena Calhoun using at SWA Agency.

Makeup: Mai Quynh at using La Prairie The Wall Group.

Produced by: BJ Panda Bear.