YOUNG AT HEART
Sharing the screen with Jemima and Big Ted has been an intriguing but enjoyable change of pace for Abi Tucker. Guy Davis peered through the round window to speak with the former McLeod’s Daughters star.
After handling horses and wrangling livestock down on Drovers Run during her two-year stint as Grace Kingston on the long-running Nine series McLeod’s Daughters, Abi Tucker is working with a diff erent kind of animal in her new job – a stuff ed bear known as Big Ted.
Yes, Tucker is the latest familiar face to join the line-up of presenters on what could certainly be called one of Australia’s favourite kids’ shows, Play School.
Joining the ABC program and sharing the screen with the well-loved likes of Jemima and Big Ted has proven to be an interesting change of pace for the multi-talented performer, who’s equally well-regarded as both an actor and a singer-songwriter.
After all, while playing a role in a fi lm or a TV series requires an actor to ignore the camera, becoming part of the Play School family and engaging the show’s young audience means making friends with the camera.
“ That’s something I’ve had to get used to, but I’ve fallen into using the camera a lot more because it becomes another person on Play School,” said Tucker. “ It’s a diff erent kind of play, really. And I’ve worked with diff erent guys on the show – some of them, like Matt Passmore and Jay Laga’aia, were also on McLeod’s – and every time I do a new episode with someone I get great advice.”
Tucker was contacted by the makers of Play School before the most recent round of auditions for new presenters, and found the process of screen-testing for the show fun and intriguing … if a little unusual.
“ The toys are the characters you’re bouncing off ,” she laughed. “ You’ve got Jemima on one side, Big Ted on the other and you think ‘ OK then, here we are’. It’s not so much about acting or singing as it is about storytelling.
“ And I’m learning the technique of storytelling – if you’re holding an imaginary box in your hands, you’re trying to convey the vibe of the box. It’s been an interesting process but I love its use of simple things to convey a message.”
And being Abi Tucker on screen, as opposed to Grace Kingston or any other character she has portrayed, has also taken a little getting used to.
“ You have to try to relax but at the same time not relax too much, so it’s a strange dynamic,” she said.
“ When you’re playing a role, it brings out certain facets of yourself. You know, your emotional side or this or that. But this is completely being yourself, which is something that takes some getting used to when you’re a character actor, when you’re working on a TV series and playing someone else.
“ It’s diff erent. It’s a good challenge for me and I felt very lucky when I got it.”
Tucker is currently balancing her Play School appearances – “ I’ve done fi ve episodes so far and each one of them has been a diff erent experience,” she said – with writing a new batch of songs ( her second album, One December Moon, was released last year) and occasionally hitting the road on an impromptu tour.
“ I’ll go on a bit of a jaunt occasionally, pulling a band together and going out to do gigs here and there,” she said.
Learning curve: Actor Abi Tucker is getting more comfortable playing “ herself” on Play School.