TV’s chem­istry les­son

Es­ther An­der­son tells Colin Vick­ery about that les­bian kiss on Home and Away

Herald Sun - Switched On - - News -

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).

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