Acclaimed actor Kerry Armstrong joins I'm A Celebrity! But why?

"For a girl that wanted to be Katharine Hepburn, this is certainly a turn in the wrong direction," admits Kerry Armstrong.

The acclaimed actor is relaxing in a villa in a remote part of South Africa, just two days before filming starts on I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! (The exact location is kept secret, to thwart paparazzi.)

Once she is dropped into the campsite, Armstrong will be fed boiled ostrich anus and rat milkshakes. She'll be dangled high above a gorge, with predators watching from the trees. And there's a good chance someone will put her head in a box of live spiders.

Armstrong is not your typical reality TV contestant. Her film work (Lantana, Oyster Farmer) has drawn critical praise and prestigious awards.

She was part of the hit ABC drama Sea Change, which attracted huge audiences. She has performed Shakespeare, and co-written a screenplay about a 19th century impressionist painter.

Last year, Armstrong's agent phoned her. "I got a ridiculous call from the I'm A Celebrity people, wanting you to go on their show," he said. "Of course, we're going to pass."

But the idea kept niggling at her. Eventually, she said yes.

"My three sons have left home, so I'm an empty nester," she says. "This feels like a third act. I can do this gracefully, or I can do it in the wildest way that I can."

Recently, someone asked Armstrong if she'll be "the mum of the camp".

"I couldn't think of anything worse!" she laughs. "I've done my 'mumming' and I loved it, but I just want to be completely irresponsible in there. Ever since my boys left, I feel I'm allowed to be more mischievous and cheeky."

This year, Armstrong will turn 60. She relished her role in Ten's drama The Wrong Girl, and believes more good parts are in store.

"A huge shift is happening with the whole #MeToo and Weinstein thing," she says. "Instead of being a prop beside a man, women are interested in hearing from other women - women who have their hearts wide open and are flawed and cranky and beautiful."

On Sunday night, Armstrong will learn who her fellow contestants are - including former AFL footballer Josh Gibson, who has played for North Melbourne and Hawthorn.

"People think, 'Oh, footballers are tough'," Gibson says. "But football is very different to some of the challenges we'll face."

Technically, the program's location is considered to be "the bush" by South Africans, not "the jungle". But that doesn't mean it's benign.

In our accommodation nearby, we're warned to keep our doors closed, lest a hungry leopard wanders in. We see snakes in the driveway and baboons outside our windows. ("Don't underestimate those baboons," our driver warns. "They kill leopards; they just sink their long teeth into its neck and it's dead.")

Gibson has a weak stomach, and fears the "tucker trials" more than anything else.

But he's equally daunted by the thought of subsisting on tiny rations of rice and beans.

"I did [intense training] camps when I was playing footy," he says.

"But at least I wasn't deprived of food. When you're hungry, you don't know what kind of animal you'll turn into."

I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! starts Sunday 7.30pm on Channel Ten.

The journalist travelled to South Africa courtesy of Ten.

This story Acclaimed actor Kerry Armstrong joins I'm A Celebrity! But why? first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.