Not for the cameras

Aussie actress Anna McGahan explains why she doesn’t do nude scenes anymore

Dr Blake cast
Dr Blake cast members: Frank Carlyle (Rodger Corser), Jean Beazley (Nadine Garner), Craig McLachlan (Dr Blake), Anna McGahan (Rose Anderson).

It's hard to make it in Hollywood. In a dog eats dog world where bodies are currency it is not uncommon for an actor or actress to have to sell theirs for a role, laying it bare before a camera crew and, more broadly, anyone with a television.

When she started in her role as 1920s prostitute Nellie Cameron in Underbelly: Razor, Australian actress Anna McGahan perceived it as "artistic expression".

She was distraught when she realised many perceived it as a pornographic act.

"I was naïve," she wrote on her blog.

"And in my naivety, I was not able to protect myself from an industry that did not consider itself responsible for me, or how my body was experienced and understood by a public audience.

"I had been told that I was brave. I had been told that the lighting was very beautiful. I had been told that it was tasteful. I had also been told that if I wanted to work as an actress, I had to be prepared to get my breasts out."

It comes with the territory, many would say, and few actors would do what she did next: refuse to do any more nude scenes, disqualifying herself from dozens of roles.

My body is mine, and worth more than their money”She explains why.

"As a female actor, I have continually had to assert the forgotten truth that my body is mine."

"I now say no to nudity for many reasons," Anna told Eternity News. "One of the reasons is the thought that I could be perpetuating a culture that teaches young men in particular to view women in that way, and encouraging the pornography culture. I actively want to encourage the positive, enriching, holistic understanding of who women are.

"Another reason is an ongoing conversation between me and Jesus about it, about my own body, about my own purity."

Anna did not grow up in church. "I was familiar with the term of God," she tells a church audience on Easter Sunday in 2015, "and I was very against the name of Jesus."

But she says she had a loved and respected Christian friend who intrigued her.

Although she thought going to church might make her "lose everything", she accepted her friend's invitation to attend a service.

"I lied to everyone and told them I was just going to mock it," she says.

"I couldn't come out with the truth, and I couldn't understand it either. I thought, 'Why do these people believe this? It's not cool, so why would you do it?'"

When she walked in, she recalls, her hands felt like they were on fire. A feeling hit her and though she didn't know what it was she knew it was pure and good and could be trusted.

Mystified, fascinated, drawn in, she continued going.

But she was also terrified.

"I didn't want to be in a cult," Anna says. "I didn't want to be 'born again'. I didn't want to be a Jesus freak. I resisted.

"And it got to this point where I just needed to know for myself."

At a hotel, in the drawer where she knew it would be – because they always are – was a Gideon Bible, and she began reading.

Anna McGahan
Anna McGahan. (Photo Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

"It pulled me," she says, "I couldn't walk away. I wanted to, so much, but I felt so drawn...

"Over the few weeks I read the four gospels [the Bible's books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John] my life completely changed."

She started to pray to God, tiny, soft prayers of "Are you there? And if you are I'm sorry because I haven't addressed you until this point," and she saw God move.

She experienced healing. "One morning I woke up and looked at my body and said, 'It's beautiful'. I haven't had an issue with my eating disorder of eight years since."

She also experienced a freeing sensation of ownership and love over herself, her body, and her sexuality.

That is why she no longer does nude scenes. "My body is mine," she says, "and worth more than their money. I do not want to beg for an opportunity to be used."

It is also why she no longer takes drugs, or swears: "the words feel strange in my mouth".

When she told her family and friends she now believed in God she explains they rejected her, mocked her, and told her this was just another phase.

So for a while, she did lose a lot. But she finally understood why so many people choose to follow God even when it was hard: it was worth it.

"Over the last three years I have transformed completely in His grace [undeserved kindness]," Anna says.

"I know that He sees me and He knows me.

"My heart is so full from what He has called me to do."

Anna is currently playing Rose in the latest season of The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Elspeth in the feature film Spirit of the Game due for release in October, and Alice Lawson in an upcoming thriller Project Eden: Vol.I.

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