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How an Australian Singer-Songwriter Got Famous in Sri Lanka

Georgie Fisher was a child actor in the Australian TV series ‘Spellbinder’, which found a fervent following in Sri Lanka

Georgie Fisher

Ghinthaka Arambewala

In 2021, Australian singer-songwriter Georgie Fisher started noticing comments from Sri Lankan social media users on her Facebook and Instagram pages that sent her spinning down memory lane.

Growing up in Sydney during the late 1980s and 1990s, Fisher spent seven years working as a child actor in Australian television, most notably playing roles in A Country Practice, The Miraculous Mellops, Police Rescue, and Spellbinder, before quietly fading out of the industry during her teens.

In her early twenties, Fisher shifted her focus to music. She spent the next decade living in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. In 2013, Fisher relocated to Berlin, where she built a life as a touring folk musician and recording artist.  “Acting was never something I thought about too much,” she said, speaking to Variety Australia from Berlin. “It was just something that happened in my life.”

A mid-1990s Australian children’s television classic, Spellbinder (1995), told the story of Paul Reynolds, a Sydney teenager who accidentally tumbles into an alternate dimension where a ruling elite – the spellbinders – controls modern technology and uses it to rule over the population. In the award-winning show, Fisher played Reynolds’ 12-year-old younger sister, Christine. “’Spellbinder’ was actually my final acting job,” she reflected.

While reading through the comments on her social media pages, Fisher made an interesting personal discovery. In 1997, Sri Lanka’s national television network, Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, subtitled and broadcast Spellbinder in Sinhalese as Maya Bandana. After it captured young viewers’ imaginations across the country, they aired Spellbinder there several more times. In the process, it became an intergenerational family favourite.

“My initial reaction was surprise,” admitted Fisher. “I had no idea the show had even been screened there, and I was suddenly getting all these really sweet and adorable messages saying things like, ‘Thank you for making our childhood special.’ I thought it was cool, but it really came out of left field.”

Three years later, Fisher decided to spend a month in Sri Lanka on holiday with an old friend from high school. “It’s a place I’d always been fascinated by,” she said. “After I got those messages on Facebook, it was always in the back of my mind that I’d go there one day.”

Before they boarded their flight from Sydney to Colombo, Fisher used her social media pages to post about her impending visit. Twelve hours later, she was greeted by thousands of likes, comments, and links to several local news articles announcing her arrival. “I didn’t have any contacts in Sri Lanka, so at first, I didn’t understand what was happening,” she reflected.

After two nights in Colombo, Fisher and her friend headed south to the beach. “I’d booked a gig at a little beach shack in Mirigama,” she said. “My plan was to play some covers, hang out at the beach and go swimming, but that got knocked out of the water very quickly.”

Once word of her arrival spread across Sri Lankan social media, Fisher started receiving interview requests from local newspapers, television channels, and media websites including Ceylon Today, TV Derana, Daily News, and the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation.

Credit: Ghinthaka Arambewala

“After the first interviews went live, I started to get recognised everywhere,” she said. Realising that their holiday had turned into a media tour, she asked her friend she was travelling with to act as her manager, and they leaned into the whirlwind.

On Monday, February 19th, Fisher appeared on Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation’s morning show. Afterwards, they hosted a fan meetup for her. “When I came out, people wanted to say hi, take selfies, and some people had brought me gifts,” she recalled. “There were hand-drawn portraits, people had made clothing, and someone had even written a book of ‘Spellbinder’ fan fiction in the 72 hours since I’d arrived. That was when I truly understood how important the show was to people there.”

As the trip continued, Fisher was asked to speak at the Whyteleafe Performing Arts Academy and the Lanka Television and Radio Academy, where she met Athula Ransirilal, who subtitled Spellbinder in Sinhalese. She was also invited to sing at the prestigious Raigam Tele’es television award ceremony and visit the historic Sri Dalada Maligawa temple in Kandy.

Online, Fisher watched in disbelief as the comments and messages kept rolling in on her social media pages. At the peak of the trip, she had to ask two friends to help with filtering through the volume of correspondence she was receiving. “People were offering me influencer deals, photoshoots, and hotel discounts,” she laughed.

At the end of February, Fisher returned to Berlin, where she’s been able to decompress and reflect on her experience. “One of the main things people asked me about was how the rest of the cast were doing,” she said. “I plan to get in touch with them. I don’t know if they realise how much love for ‘Spellbinder’ exists in Sri Lanka, but if it were me, I’d want to know.”

Follow Georgie Fisher on Spotify and Instagram.

From Variety Australia