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Back To The Outback: Isla Fisher Shines the Spotlight on Australia’s Critters

Back to the Outback’s Isla Fisher shares how she fell in love with her character, Maddie, based on the “scary” animal’s early character sketches.

Netflix’s Back to the Outback is a sweet-natured animated film that follows a band of nominally dangerous animals escaping from a Sydney-based zoo to return to their natural habitat in the Australian Outback. At the center of the film is Maddie (Isla Fisher), the Tapian, a slippery snake with the lethal capability to kill multiple men. In reality, Maddie is the soft-hearted leader amongst her friends, with dreams of reuniting them with their families.

Fisher leads the cast of Australian acting and comedy legends and gives Maddie an almost naive sense of optimism. During an exclusive interview with CBR, Fisher spoke about her favorite elements of getting to bring Maddie the taipan to life in Back in the Outback. The star also discussed what it means to her to bring such a sweet-natured story to young audiences.

CBR: Your character, Maddie, ends up having this interesting element that makes her so naive but also the leader of the group. There’s such an optimistic exploration of the world — what were some of your favorite elements of Maddie?

Isla Fisher: I know. It’s interesting that you bring that up. I did question how, very early on in the story, Maddie is rallying everyone and convincing them to take these modes of transport to get back to the Outback. But yet she’s also the one that’s been raised in captivity since she was an egg. So, I played it like, aside from the story, maybe her mom explained to her some of the things because her leadership is there very early on despite not having any experience.

I think she’s just so shocked by having everyone that she thought loved her [like Chaz], see that she’s actually something hideous [to them.] That’s such a shock and such a conflict for her. Her journey [becomes about] self-empowerment and self-acceptance and realizing the thing that makes her unlikable is actually the thing that makes her unique. It is her strength. That’s such a great message for kids.

Snakes can be a frightening animal to people, myself included. I was surprised by how genuinely appealing Maddie’s design is. What was your response the first time you saw her?

I actually thought it was a very iconic looking image right away — just her color and her eye shape and the symmetry of her face. I was very attracted to how contrasty and bright she was. I felt like she had the makings of being a… She’s the lead of the movie. So I wanted her to really work visually. I think they did a fantastic job animating her. It was very special to watch her in action, because obviously you only see her as a line drawing at the beginning.

This is a film with sweet messages. Even beyond the lessons about accepting one’s self and not judging others before you know them, Back to the Outback is a celebration of Australia’s wildlife. What does it mean to you that young audiences, especially young Australian audiences, get to grow up with this story?

It’s fantastic — even just all the characters that are on display. There are so many Australian animals that are famous: the kangaroo, the wombat, the platypus, and the possum. We just adore them and we’re so proud of them, but we’re also proud of the fact that we do have nine of the ten most dangerous and deadly snakes and spiders. We wear it as a badge of honor that we have all these creatures that can kill you.

So it’s just nice to be inclusive of them and to have a story set around them. Something like the Taipan snake, that Maddie is, the character I play, one drop of her venom can kill ten men. Yet a Taipan, I think, has never killed anyone. I’m not saying they’re as shy and gentle and sweet as Maddie, but it is nice to put these characters, these unlikely heroes, center stage for once.

To watch Fisher embody the deadly sweet snake, Maddie, catch Back to the Outback, streaming now on Netflix.