STEWART MAKES THE BOLD LEAP FROM UNDERBELLY TO OFFSPRING
KAT Stewart has found it difficult to escape the aura of Roberta Williams. The actor won accolades for her portrayal of gangland figure Carl Williams’ wife in Underbelly, but it came at a cost.
It was a career-defining role — one that had viewers coming up to Stewart on the street to quote choice dialogue. Williams called Underbelly ‘‘ a load of crap’’ and was stinging in her assessment of Stewart’s performance.
‘‘ I was portrayed as everything I’m not— a bad mother, a filthy-mouthed skank,’’ Williams said at the time.
Williams even arrived on the Underbelly set during filming. Fortunately Stewart wasn’t there.
For months Stewart was concerned there would be a real-life confrontation with Williams.
Even now, Underbelly defines most people’s perception of Stewart and her talents. She
I’m grateful for Underbelly and I loved doing it, but it was three years ago
received an AFI Award and Outstanding Actress Logie for the performance.
Stewart has moved on professionally, but confesses Williams is never far from her thoughts.
‘‘ As an actor it’s your job to understand the characters that you play,’’ Stewart explains.
‘‘ You have to try to see life from their point of view and their reasons for coming at it from that point of view.
‘‘ I always find myself attached to them (characters) because of it. I loved her (Williams) and I miss her.’’ Playing Marion West in the Comedy Channel’s advertising satire 30 Seconds showed Stewart could play for laughs.
The role of TV presenter Nat Manning in the Showcase relationship drama Tangle was far darker.
But it’s Stewart’s performance as Billie Proudman in quirky romantic drama Off
spring that is set to wipe memories of her in Underbelly from the public’s mind.
‘‘ I’m grateful for Underbelly and I loved doing it, but it was three years ago,’’ Stewart says.
‘‘ I’ve done a lot since, but that (Underbelly) was very high-profile and this (Off
spring) is my first thing on network (commercial) TV again.’’
Offspring revolves around Nina Proudman, played by Asher Keddie, a thirtysomething obstetrician whose chaotic family — especially sister Billie (Stewart)— is never short of emergencies.
The show, aimed firmly at female viewers, features extended voiceovers and fantasy sequences as it charts Nina’s search for love and fulfilment.
The series, produced by John Edwards and Imogen Banks and co-created by Debra Oswald, also stars Don Hany (East West 101), Deborah Mailman (The Secret Life of
Us), Eddie Perfect (stage show Shane Warne The Musical), Linda Cropper (Melba) and John Waters (All Saints).
‘‘ There was no script at first, but the idea was that it (Off
spring) would be buoyant and fresh and unusual and that excited me straight away,’’ Stewart says.
‘‘ The notion of it being about a loving and messy relationship between sisters also interested me. I’d visited some of that territory with
Tangle, but this sounded quite different.
‘‘ What I like about Billie is that she’s quite out there, quite spiky and abrasive, but there’s something about her honesty — and her vulnerability — that I really like.’’ The success of Off
spring will depend largely on the authenticity of the relationship between Nina and Billie. Viewers have to believe they really are sisters.
Stewart says that she and Keddie clicked from the start.
‘‘ I’ve admired Asher’s work ever since I saw Love My
Way,’’ Stewart says. ‘‘ We have quite different energies, but there’s a great chemistry. I think those different energies (as actors) reflect the different energies of the characters.’’
Evolving: Kat Stewart enjoys the honesty and vulnerability of Billie, the character she plays in
Offspring, which stars Asher Keddie (above).