Soapies get serious
Two famous Aussie actors are thriving in a different TV genre, writes Colin Vickery
HOW the mighty have fallen. That would be the first reaction of a lot of people to news that former Gold Logie winners Georgie Parker and John Wood are starring on serial dramas Home and Away and Neighbours.
For decades, actors looked down their noses at Aussie soapies. To them, no ‘‘ serious’’ thespian would be caught dead in Summer Bay or on Ramsay Street.
Home and Away and Neighbours were a good place for inexperienced actors to start their careers — think Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan or Delta Goodrem — but then it was quickly on to bigger and better things.
Stars including Melissa George ( In Treatment), Jesse Spencer ( House), Sianoa SmitMcPhee ( Hung) and Chris Hemsworth ( Thor) have used Aussie soaps as a springboard for US success.
Back home, Home and Away’s Todd Lasance graduated to lawyer Ben McMahon on Crownies and Lincoln Lewis stepped up to Underbelly: Razor.
Long-term soapie actors such as Ray Meagher, Stefan Dennis and Jackie Woodburne have lacked respect. It doesn’t matter that they have huge international fan bases or that they can forge compelling characters amidst punishing work schedules.
Slowly but surely that perception is changing. Parker and Wood joining Home and Away and Neighbours isn’t a sign of how far those acclaimed actors have fallen.
Instead, it is a sign of how far Australia’s two favourite soapies have risen in the eyes of the industry — not only actors but directors, producers, and script writers.
Parker says she has no time for the snobs who dismiss Home and Away.
The former All Saints and A Country Practice star signed a three-year contract with Channel 7 in 2010 and has no regrets. She is relishing her role as Alf Stewart’s estranged daughter, Roo.
‘‘ It (joining Home and Away) was a no-brainer,’’ Parker says. ‘‘ It comes down very simply to whether you want to be a working actor or whether you want to wait for a particular kind of job.
‘‘ I’m not an actor who is overly concerned about how other actors view my career.
‘‘ Some actors are concerned about the genre of soap and how they will be perceived if they join a soap. I’m not one of those people.’’
Parker says acting on Home and Away is every bit as challenging as All Saints and A Country Practice.
‘‘ There is an inherent challenge in making TV work at this level because you are working very fast and very long hours. (As an actor) you have to make very quick, spontaneous decisions and they have to be right.’’
Wood has often been a fierce critic of commercial TV networks and their commitment to quality Australian drama but you won’t hear him complain about Neighbours.
The former Blue Heelers star signed on for a six-month guest role as surgeon Dr Martin Chambers, a golfing buddy of Karl Kennedy (Alan Fletcher).
‘‘ The great delight was turning up on the first day not knowing what to expect and finding that I was part of a really well-oiled machine,’’ Wood says. ‘‘ I ran into half a dozen old Blue Heelers crew so it was like coming home.
‘‘ I haven’t felt the need to change a word in any of the scripts, which is a really good indication of how well Neighbours functions. He (Martin) is obviously a very intelligent man. I think it is a really wellrounded character.’’
Lincoln Lewis is another actor who is happy to soap up. The 23-year-old quit Home and Away in 2009. Now he is filming a one-month stint on Neighbours.
‘‘ I’ve wanted to be on Neighbours since I was a little kid and finally it has happened,’’ Lewis said recently. Neighbours, Channel 11, weeknights, 6.30pm. Home and Away, Channel 7, weeknights, 7pm Good gig: Georgie Parker is enjoying her work on