TV’s chemistry lesson
Esther Anderson tells Colin Vickery about that lesbian kiss on Home and Away
ESTHER Anderson must be shell-shocked. A few weeks ago she was talking excitedly about the Home and Away storyline that had policewoman Charlie Buckton discover she was gay.
For Anderson, it was a welcome development — one that stretched her as an actor and enriched Charlie who, until then, had been the stereotypical tough cop.
Instead the controversial scene sparked a free-for-all. There has been an angry reaction from some parents and conservative groups.
Talk that Channel 7 was about to edit last Tuesday’s kiss between Buckton and deckhand Joey Collins (played by Kate Bell) infuriated lesbian groups who staged a protest at Federation Square.
Bevan Lee, Seven’s head of creative drama and development, says two kisses were filmed and Seven decided to air the more gentle version. He says he’s sad that ‘‘a beautiful six-week story has been reduced to a facile argument about six missing seconds of screentime’’.
Now it is time for Anderson, the actor at the centre of this storm, to have her say. How did you hear about the lesbian storyline for Charlie Buckton? The producers asked me. It’s a big storyline and requires commitment and it’s emotional. They asked if I was OK with that. I said yes because it’s great to have a meaty storyline, something you can explore and that helps you grow as an actor.
It shows a bit more of Charlie’s vulnerability after seeing this hard cop all the time. She’s not just this tough chick with no heart. Did you discuss the storyline with any friends? I talked to gay friends and asked people who weren’t gay what they thought of it. I wanted to make it an accurate portrayal. I didn’t want the gay population out there to say ‘‘that’s just a load of crap’’.
It’s an interesting development for It’s amazing that it’s still such a taboo subject in this day and age because it’s everywhere. The gay population is growing. To me there’s no difference— love’s love. The fact that your partner’s the same sex is no different. The only difference is all that stigma society attaches to it.
The storyline explores all those issues of discrimination and stigma but it also shows it’s a beautiful love story like any other romance on the show. The gay community can be very vocal. What do you think their reaction will be? Not everyone will agree because we’re only telling one story. It’s Charlie’s story. We can’t be accurate for everyone. That’s where I found my acceptance with it.
Charlie isn’t quite sure what to make of the attraction to Joey at first, is she? Charlie gets a bit of a surprise within herself. In her mind, it’s come from nowhere. After a while she thinks ‘‘it must have always been part of me’’. In the beginning it throws her world upside down, it changes her whole identity. What were your feelings leading up to the kiss? Everything that ran through my mind I used when I did the scenes. I thought: ‘‘I have to tell my parents about this’’. That’s what you would be like if you were coming out. I understood the character in that sense of why it’s still maybe tough for people to come out. How did your parents react to the lesbian plotline? They were wonderful. Mum said: ‘‘Well, you just throw yourself into it like you would with any relationship with one of the boys.’’ I have a very supportive family and it made me realise that if I was gay in real life they’d love me. What were the challenges for you in doing this storyline? First, the workload. It’s my first big storyline. I was working a lot more hours, a lot more scenes. And just emotionally— I’d never been tested like that. As a heterosexual, how can I relate to that and make it real? You really have to open yourself up emotionally. It was really draining. When you have to do that, physically you actually feel the emotion. Your body’s shaking. You think: ‘‘If I feel that, hopefully the audience will too’’. You and Kate also have to convince viewers there’s a physical closeness between the two of you. We talked about it a lot. She’s lovely and we both had the same idea about the story and how we wanted it to come across. We were telling a love story and we wanted to treat it with the respect it deserves. I think we found the chemistry.
has a lot of young viewers. Do you think they’ll be OK with this storyline? I think so. You learn pretty much everything at school. I don’t think I’m lifting the lid on something they don’t already know about.
Kiss and tell: Esther Anderson (right) talks about her Home And Away lesbian storyline with Kate Bell (top left) which has led to criticism and kiss-in demonstrations (below left).