You may know her best as the much-loved Rhonda who stole Ketut’s heart in the AAMI Insurance ads, but there’s more to Mandy McElhinney than one half of Australia’s famous love story.
The auburn-haired actress’s latest role sees a wardrobe shift from bathing suit to ‘fat’ suit as she takes on the character of mining heiress Gina Rinehart in Channel Nine’s high-profile television event, House of Hancock.
A dramatisation of the controversial and epic story of the Hancock dynasty, House of Hancock explores the bizarre love triangle that emerged between mining magnate Lang, his daughter Gina and his beautiful Filipina housekeeper, Rose.
“It’s a really gripping story,” says McElhinney of the two-part drama that saw her dull down her looks with prosthetics, make-up and wigs.
The Western Australian saga is close to home for the Perth-born actress, who attended Stella Maris College in Geraldton and St Joachim’s High School in Victoria Park before completing a degree in Performance Studies at Curtin University.
Years of drama classes compounded with her Performance Studies degree, where she spent most of her time in Curtin’s Hayman Theatre, has crafted McElhinney into a well-rounded and versatile performer with a passion for research.
“[The Hayman Theatre] was an amazing training ground. I got to do everything. I got to sit up in the bio box, I got to direct, I got to act, I got to write.”
McElhinney’s ability to portray real-life complex characters with verisimilitude has resulted in a portrayal of Gina Rinehart the Sydney Morning Herald described as ‘superb’.
“I really love studying the person, trying to get inside the mind of another human being,” she says.
“[With Gina] I just wanted to present a human being who’s flawed and who also has great strengths, and is the product of what’s happened to her.”
With two Logie nods and one prestigious AACTA Award already under her belt for roles in Paper Giants: Magazine Wars and Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War, the future looks very bright indeed for the Rhonda-turned-Rinehart thespian.
Missed House of Hancock? You can also watch Mandy McElhinney playing tough hospital matron Frances Bolton in the new Australian series Love Child, a drama inspired by the forced adoption policies of the 1960s for unwed mothers.