Harsh reality of Rebel Wilson’s TV breakthrough

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In one illuminating section from her new memoir Rebel Rising, Rebel Wilson recalls her rise in the Australian comedy scene in the early 2000s, when she battled professional scorn from her male co-workers.

In an extract from the book published in this week’s Stellar, Wilson recalls how despite finding success on the early noughties TV series Pizza – on which she played Toula, who she calls the show’s “first recurring character who wasn’t a sexy blonde bimbo” – she was fighting an uphill battle behind the scenes.

Wilson recalled that her role in the cult SBS comedy was to be the butt of “many, many derogatory jokes about my size and appearance.”

“I knew the jokes weren’t directed at me personally – my role was to be the big fat whale that got laughs. And I was willingly playing into that.”

But Wilson said she was also determined to give the character of Toula “depth,” improvising her own lines and fighting to get more screen time among the show’s largely male cast.

“I felt like the girl who had gained access to a special men’s club. It was very clear to me what they found funny, and I went with it. I was in a boys’ show, so I had to take their fatphobic jokes right on my double chin,” she recalled.

As the show’s popularity grew, so too did Wilson’s, as Toula turned into something of a scene-stealer. Then a struggling actress in her early 20s, Wilson moved to capitalise on this first flush of fame, writing her own one-woman stage she which she would debut at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Wilson recalls in the book that her efforts were met with a withering response from Pizza series creator and star Paul Fenech, who she says approached her on set one day to tell her simply: “You try too much.”

Wilson certainly takes no prisoners in the new book, also taking aim at comedian Sacha Baron Cohen over his alleged conduct when she appeared in his 2016 film Gimsby.

Wilson revealed that British comedian was the “a**hole” she had been referring to on her social media that she had written an entire chapter about. In the book, she alleges that the Borat comedian pressured her to film a nude scene, which she refused to do.

She said her experiences with Baron Cohen had prompted her to adopt a “no a**holes” policy in deciding who she works with, and had said that she’d warned many other people away from working with him.

Baron Cohen has stronglt denied Wilson’s claims.

Elsewhere in the book, Wilson makes a surprising confession about her sex life: She only lost her virginity nine years ago, at the age of 35.

“People can wait till they’re ready or wait till they’re a bit more mature,” Wilson explained to People magazine of why she broaches the subject in the book.

“And I think that could be a positive message. You obviously don’t have to wait until you’re in your thirties like me, but you shouldn’t feel pressure as a young person.”

Wilson confessed that for years she’d avoided the topic when asked about her sex life (or lack thereof) by friends.

“Normally I would just leave the room when the conversation was happening,” she added. “And then the people that said, ‘Oh, at 24, it’s so late.’ And then I’m sitting here thinking, ‘Oh my God, my number’s 35.’ What the hell? I’m going to look like the biggest loser.’”

Read excepts from Rebel Wilson’s new memoir in this week’s Stellar, inside The Sunday Telegraph (NSW), Sunday Herald Sun (VIC), The Sunday Mail (QLD) and Sunday Mail (SA). Rebel’s book Rebel Rising is released on April 2.