She was asked many times, but Mary Coustas, aka Effie, finally succumbed to going down to the ballroom for dancing with the Stars.
She will be running for her chosen charity Youth Off the Streets in Series Seven hosted by Sonia Kruger and Daryl Somers.
For Coustas, it’s even something of a showbiz reunion, given a celebrated performance by the Red Faces Friends forever.
“Daryl and I have a long history because I gave my first, I guess, comedic dance routine as Effie with Norman Gunston,” she recalls.
“It was a classic at the time, and fans often tell me it’s the best thing they’ve ever done.
“Two little virgin characters who were in the hearts and homes of the Australian public had to do this really silly song that we couldn’t parody because it was Andrew Lloyd Webber. He was too rich to risk parody and be sued, so we had to perform like a legitimate song and try to put comedy into the visuals and choreography. We did Hey Hey it’s SaturdayYes. It was very funny.
But don’t expect to see any dance retaliation Friends forever.
“Look, nobody’s asking, so it didn’t happen!”
Since she was too terrified to accept earlier, what changed her mind this time?
“I’ve done more ‘Mary work’ in the last couple of years, and it made sense to me to keep taking those ‘Mary’ risks. I thought I should give it a try.
Coustas admits that he prefers working in character, but has more recently come out from behind the mask.
“I’m like a mother of the show. I just push my little characters forward… and I never thought about doing ‘Me’. Last year I premiered my one-woman Mary show at the Opera House, which I’m performing this week in Sydney, and that kind of openness opened the door. It’s about time you start exploring more of them now. Not that I would ever give up my work on the character because I love him so much. It’s so liberating and fun and theatrical,” she continues.
“But strangely, those fun theatrical components are on Dancing with the Stars. I wear sequins and short dresses. I feel like I’m Effie without the “boof”. It’s a rather theatrical world.
Seven has ensnared an impressive cast this season including Charlie Albone, Christie Whelan Browne, Emily Weir, Issa Schultz, James Magnussen, Matt Preston, Paulini, Pia Miranda, Virginia Gay, and more. Judging this season will be a revamped judging panel comprising Craig Revel Horwood, Sharna Burgess, Todd McKenney and Mark Wilson.
The pre-taped season means there are only a few days between shoots, a punishing schedule to learn more routines.
“At one point, you have five alien dancers in mind. Steps you’ve never even heard of, let alone done,” suggests Coustas.
“That pushed me – as everyone who has done this show will tell you – well beyond a comfort zone. I literally thought my feet had their own heartbeat for the past eight weeks. They throbbed and blistered and bruised and all those things. I have never put myself under more physical pressure than this show has. There’s something very liberating and joyful about that when you come around the corner with it, but it’s punishing until then.
“I was full of regrets, thinking ‘I can’t do this! What was I thinking?’ For the first two weeks I was completely terrified of the challenge. I’ve also seen it in the faces of all my co-stars. We are very close, the 14 of us, we adore each other… we can’t get enough of them. But you see that dread in every single face, and the tiredness, the hours — and then all of a sudden, it starts looking funny.
She has also been approached for other reality shows.
“Yes, I was asked. I feel that life has traumatized me enough. I really don’t need to go to a jungle and get caught on camera being terrified and traumatized by nature and the different pressures that people put under it. I’ve streamed all that stuff before,” she insists.
“But, the reason I love dancing with the Stars so much is a joyful skill that I would never have sought, joyful skill. It’s a feel-good show. Yes, you are competing, but not really. Ultimately you are competing against yourself.
She is naturally full of praise for dance partner Aric Yegudkin.
“I don’t know how they did it, but they put the right people with the right partner. Bonds are for life. Sure, you’ll love anyone with that amount of patience. How he didn’t try to kill me at some points!
“Aric has won a couple of times. He has his own studio, he’s married to a dancer, his relatives are dancers, it’s a big Russian thing. You know, ballroom dancing, Latin dancing, Russians can’t get enough of that. He’s super talented and a lot of fun to hang out with.
“It’s such a great show for a family to watch…..Tim Chappell did all the costumes and he’s an Oscar winning genius and so are the make up artists and hair stylists. Everyone is top notch on this show. You really feel supported.
But will the big question make Effie make an appearance too?
“I can’t say for legal reasons. I was advised not to say anything. I will say one word: stay tuned!
Dancing with the Stars returns at 7pm Sundays out of seven.