Soapies get se­ri­ous

Two fa­mous Aussie ac­tors are thriv­ing in a dif­fer­ent TV genre, writes Colin Vick­ery

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

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

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