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Geoffrey Rush uncovers fighting spirit in his ancestry

Monday, July 20, 2015

“I can identify with the uncertain nature of what’s going to come next in the life of a creative person. The artist is always at the mercy of the people in power, the people with money, the people who are dishing out the funds.” – Geoffrey Rush


New Who Do You Think You Are? series premieres Tuesday August 4, 7:30pm on SBS

Internationally celebrated actor Geoffrey Rush believes he hails from a long line of farmers but an exploration of his heritage in the new series of Who Do You Think You Are? sees him discover an ancestor fighting for justice in the face of corruption and another desperate to succeed in a golden age of creativity.

Geoffrey can trace his paternal line back to his Great, great grandfather John Thomas Rush, the first of his ancestors to arrive in Australia. However he knows nothing of this man’s earlier life in Ireland or why he came to Australia. What he uncovers is a David and Goliath battle in which his Great great grandfather stood up for his rights and proved his resilience surviving the harsh beginnings and injustices of European Australia.

On learning of John Thomas Rush’s life Geoffrey remarked:
“He was one of potentially many voices that were from their lowest position in the social ladder -
vigorous and rigorous enough to want to challenge the system. We know that he spoke up when he needed to.”

Geoffrey then travels to the Sunshine Coast to meet his mother Merle and Sister Rosanne. Merle is from a long line of German immigrant farmers arriving from Europe in the mid 1800’s. Amongst Merle’s family memorabilia is the death certificate of her Great Grandfather Johann
Willms. It reveals that Johann Willms’ father was a musician back in Germany.

Geoffrey flies to Germany and traces his musical lineage back to his seven times Great Grandfather, another Johann Willms. Johann Willms was born around 1680 at a similar time to J.S. Bach and at the height of the Baroque period in music. Johann’s story is one of passion, creativity and determination to succeed in this golden age of music and to leave an incredible legacy of successful musicianship.

Geoffrey reflects on the spirit displayed in both of his ancestors, revelling in their strength and courage to take on the systems of the day – ancestors who used the written word to make their mark- not so different from Geoffrey Rush today.

Who Do You Think You Are? is produced by Artemis International and Serendipity Productions for SBS.
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For further information and interview requests please contact:
Jessica Parry
(02) 9430 3786 || 0428 767 836 || jessica.parry@sbs.com.au