Updated: Oct 15, 2018
By Elizabeth Gracen:
I met Carmel Macpherson many years ago in a drafty chateau in Paris, right before we wrapped production on the last episode of HIGHLANDER: THE RAVEN. At the time, she was writing an article for a fan publication, and I had no idea that within a few short years she would become one of my dearest friends. She’s an Aussie in the best sense of the word—full of laughter and light—always willing to lend her time and effort. I adore her, and I can’t wait for you to meet her.
EG: Carmel, you travel constantly, you write, you organize fundraising endeavors for various charities, and you just ran the final HIGHLANDER convention in Los Angeles not too long ago. You seem very happy and content. Please tell me it’s true! Part of me is living vicariously through you!
CM: I do feel blessed. I was fortunate enough to work for an airline some years ago, as did my dear friend Annie Christie, so we are both able to take advantage of opportunities that would otherwise be financially impossible. I normally tie travel into various stop-overs that allow me to meet up with others who I work with in a volunteer capacity such as The Peace Fund with Adrian Paul, and, of course YOU! Annie and I have just returned from northern Italy and France.
I feel very grounded, and like so many others, I derive enormous pleasure from my two children and their partners and my 5 grandchildren. I live in Canberra, in Australia, where I am surrounded by natural beauty and a very close family network. In addition to my daughter, Amelia, and her husband and 3 daughters, there is also my sister Lynne, her husband, Rob, and 3 of their 4 daughters and their families. On top of that, I still run my Human Resources consultancy—Role Affinity.
EG: You've been a fan of the HIGHLANDER films and television show from the beginning. One of the reasons I wanted you to write for Flapper Press is that you have a real appreciation for the scifi/fantasy fanbase. They are a fantastically loyal group of people—full of appreciation for the actors, writers, producers, and everyone involved with the genre. Why do people love this genre so much?
CM: As a young girl growing up in Sydney’s outer suburbs in the 50’s and 60’s, I can still remember the thrill of discovering authors like Dorothy Dunnett (The Lymond Series), science fiction ("A Wrinkle in Time," "Day of the Triffids"). Suddenly my tiny world was h:u:g:e with wonder, fascination, and possibilities. Dunnett took me to 16th century Scotland, England, France, the Mediterranean, Constantinople, and Russia.
No one was allowed to disturb me when Star Trek was showing! Every time I use Google Translate I am back on some alien planet using my Universal Translator. Every time I use my credit card I am standing alongside Cpt. Kirk in an interstellar bar paying for my drink with a “credit token.”
Sci-fi/fantasy fans know exactly what I am talking about. We have all been taken on a journey that started when we were young and our minds were expanded with wonder, hope, and possibilities. We are thankful for the people who guided us, excited us with endless futures that could be ours. This wasn’t a superficial gift. It was something to be treasured, as were the people who created it: the writers, editors, publishers, and book-sellers. It was a natural transition for me (and Highlander fans) to take this same broader appreciation into the production world of Highlander.
It wasn’t an easy transition because sci-fi fandom was derided as a crazy bunch of people who needed to grow up. I remember taking someone to task about this and pointing out the elitism in play: it was apparently “normal” to be fanatical about your sports team, dress up in their colors, spend hours every week watching endless replays, etc. etc. but not to appreciate a TV show? It is well known that the demographic of sci-fi/fantasy fandom is one that is well educated, thoughtful, inclusive, collaborative . . . people who think outside the box and are positive towards cultural diversity, technological advances, and the importance of nurturing creativity and the artists, authors, and production teams who bring it all to us. I think that there was also a lot of snobbishness around “novel” vs “TV show,” or written word vs transmitted word. What does the medium matter if what is being delivered has the power to engage, enthrall, and embrace?
EG: Back to the idea of fandom. I’ve always been struck with the close-knit, almost family-like quality of the HIGHLANDER fans. There is something quite wonderful about seeing people so happy to be together, sharing what they love, just being together. I recognize that these people have found a way, even if it’s just for a weekend, to give and receive a form of love. I think it’s important and refreshing to see. You’ve organized big events that bring these people together. Why do you do it?
CM: Highlander commenced right at the beginning of the Internet, and suddenly there were these Forums and Discussion Lists available with people all over the world! The writers of Highlander and actors would also 'pop in' and suddenly a whole new world was there that offered discussion and analysis opportunities that hadn’t been available since University—and only then face to face.
(Series showrunner) David Abramowitz spearheaded a writing team that offered us genuinely meaty ethical issues in Highlander. I loved history, chivalry, values-oriented shows, swordplay and travel—and it was all there in Highlander. It also offered an entirely new way of communicating and connecting with people who you got to know from their discussions. It stripped away color, age, size, looks, location. None of that mattered. I was working to advance diversity at that time, and I found these virtual communities were a very tangible demonstration of how unimportant those peripheral characteristics were.
The discussions took you to the essence of a person. It is so easy to maintain friendships that simply echo our own beliefs, etc. Here was an opportunity to become very good friends with people whose political and religious beliefs were irrelevant. I still maintain many of those friendships today.
We established 'Highlander DownUnder' (now 'Highlander WorldWide'), because we thought . . . why not? There must be lots of others out there who love this show and who would love to travel to Australia and meet up with each other. So, in 1997, we held our first Convention in Brisbane, Australia, and since then have held 11 Conventions (Brisbane, Sydney, Leeds, Los Angeles, and Vancouver) and run 5 Tours (Tuscany, Scotland, France, and Vancouver). Highlander became the drawcard for a global travel club!
We have just celebrated our 20th anniversary with a Convention in Los Angeles. What was particularly pleasing to me was the proof that is has been possible to ensure that fans and guests alike are treated with the utmost dignity and respect and to witness the genuine warmth that permeated the weekend.
For the actors, writers, and directors it was a great opportunity to truly experience first-hand what a deep impact they have had on the lives of so many people. From the very beginning, the interest for me was the 'craft of production'—seeing and acknowledging that the finished product is the result of the skills of so many different people all working together to produce something really worthwhile. This is why I have always had actors as our guests, as well as those who gave them the lines, provided the settings, filmed and edited the final product. I have worked for many years in senior management (Human Resources) and was fascinated to watch the project management and 'people' management required to bring these shows to our screens.
EG: In the time I’ve known you, you’ve lived in Tasmania, Canberra, Sydney, and now back to Canberra. I’ve had the good fortune to travel to Australia a handful of times, and I have loved every moment that I’ve spent there. Tell me what you love most about your country and how you think it differs from the USA.
CM: I don’t know what I did to be born in Australia, but whatever it was, I am deeply thankful. Australia is roughly the same size as the U.S., but with only some 24 million people—and most of those live scattered around the coast in 7 major cities.
I love its physical and human diversity, its 'live and let live' attitude. Don’t get me wrong though—like any other country we have our issues and problems, but there is an under-pinning in Australia of 'mateship' and disparagement of anyone who gets too big for their britches. Must be our convict origins!
I feel very safe here and am delighted that we have gun control. I’ve travelled extensively in the U.S. as well and love the extraordinary beauty of the country and the diversity of landscapes. Both countries need to treasure and nurture the values that made them such great places to grow up in for so many people. We both still have a lot of work to do to help those who still live in poverty and who feel trapped behind walls of discrimination and neglect.
EG: When I first met you, you worked in HR at Qantas. What is it like to work in that position, and how did you end up in that profession?
CM: I started my career in the early 1970s as a Senior High School teacher in History and English and from there moved to an academic career lecturing in Cultural Foundations in Education in a Teachers’ Training College. In that position, I was also on the national executive of the academic union and took a special interest in the position of women and the increasing casualization of the workforce (mainly affecting women!). We were living in Melbourne at the time, and my husband got a promotion to a senior position in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, so I had to re-think my career.
I realized that what I loved was being responsible for the growth and development of those under my care and actively working to improve equal employment opportunities. In Canberra I applied for a position as Equal Employment Opportunity Officer in Australia’s largest R&D organization with a brief to improve the position of women in science and technology. From there I found myself promoted to the GM of Human Resources and eventually after a 'drop out' 2 years in Tasmania (another story), we returned to Canberra where I took up a position as Director of Human Resources for the Australia Federal Police. From there, I ended up running a huge chunk of HR for Qantas. I retired from Qantas in 2009 and have been running my own HR Consultancy since then.
EG: You are a great lover of history and have traveled extensively. What is your favorite destination thus far and why?
CM: Gosh that is a hard one. I have always been drawn to Scotland—particularly the Western Highlands and Isles. I’ve often wondered where this has come from but do remember a painting in my grandmother’s house of the Highlands with a huge elk in it. I was fascinated by it. Irish and Scottish music permeated our home, and when I was in my early teens I came across Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond series of novels and was instantly besotted: 16th century Scotland and a cast of characters (including strong women) to die for. Lymond, the main character, travelled throughout Scotland, France, the Mediterranean, Turkey, Russia . . . and Dunnett brought those places ALIVE.
I finally got to go to Turkey in 2011 and couldn’t wait to visit the places that Dunnett had immortalized for me. I think that is where I got my love for “location” travel: visiting places that I first came to know in novels, movies, and TV shows.
You can see why Highlander was such a draw for me with its flashbacks to so many different periods of history and such different geographic locations . . . and sword-swinging strong male and female leads with complex backgrounds, varying ethical issues, and dealing with a fundamental concern to us all: protecting the people and things we love.
EG: I know that you are going to write about whatever strikes your fancy for Flapper Press—at least I hope you do! Can you give us a hint about what you’ll be sharing?
CM: I’ll be using my travels to bring up issues and make observations on the things that connect us all: protecting our values, craftsmanship, diversity of landscapes and people, and food. I'll draw on my family and friends to make observations on the various issues that mark our life journeys. I also enjoy poetry, so I'll make sure I find a way to highlight some of the poetry and writing of others that has had the most impact on my life.
E: Carmel, it has been a pleasure to. I can't wait to see what you have to say!