After 14 years Nicola Charles returns to Neighbours, having survived some turmoil of her own, writes Colin Vickery
‘‘I grew a Gandalf beard in the time it took me to watch The Hobbit.’’ Seth MacFarlane @SethMacFarlane Charles sitting in front of me is still mighty glamorous but older (she is 42), wiser, and, she admits, a heck of a lot humbler. A failed marriage and a bitter custody dispute will do that to you. Charles has paid a steep emotional, financial and career price for lovegone-wrong.
‘‘ Neighbours was my first acting role and I chose to walk away from it — and often that is a big mistake,’’ Charles says.
Charles married Irish actor Jason Barry ( Titanic) in August 2003 but the pair split in 2008. During that time they moved to Los Angeles so that Barry could pursue his career.
The pair have two daughters, Freya and Nova.
It was Charles that ended the relationship after, she says, ‘‘ I reached my limit’’.
‘‘ I fantasised a life for myself and my marriage and my family that didn’t exist,’’ she reveals.
NICOLA Charles knows what it is like to hit rock bottom. It is 16 years since the British-born former model sprang to fame on Neighbours.
Those were the glory days – a golden period when Charles made headlines as Sarah Beaumont. Charles appeared on Neighbours from 1996 to 1999 and was central to one of its most memorable storylines — the affair between Sarah and her boss, Dr Karl Kennedy (Alan Fletcher).
The sexual tension was palpable as Sarah and the married Karl declared their love for each other at the end of the 1997 season. Karl and wife Susan (Jackie Woodburne) had been Neighbours’ favourite couple.
The steamy romance provided a huge ratings boost to the Channel 10 soapie.
Viewers never did know whether Sarah and Karl had or hadn’t done the deed.
Charles’ career soared, she was hot in the UK, and she was named one of the world’s sexiest women two years in a row.
Then, in 1999, Charles quit Neighbours — and pretty much disappeared.
Jump forward to now and the Nicola
‘‘ Eventually you have to face the truth — that the people around you that you think have your best interests at heart don’t care about you at all.’’
The next years were consumed by a drawn-out custody battle for Freya and Nova in the US courts.
‘‘ It (the custody dispute) was extremely terrifying,’’ Charles says. ‘‘ I felt beleaguered and out of luck — that it was never going to go my way.
‘‘ I sat there (in court) and felt immensely shameful and disappointed in myself — that I had got into a situation in my life where it was going to take a third party (judge) to sort my business out.
It humbledme beyond what I thought possible
‘‘ It was an open court (to the public) so there wasn’t privacy on any level about finances or relationships or anything. I thought ‘ how does a person get to this point?’ ’’
Charles had to take a crash course in US family law and she eventually won the custody battle— but the scars remain.
‘‘ Perhaps if I’d made different decisions and been more mature, I might not have ended up in that situation,’’ she says. ‘‘ It humbled me beyond what I thought possible — the guilt and the shame.’’
Last June, Charles married British DJ Mark Tabberner. They have a son, Archie. Finally, there is some stability in Charles’ life again.
Tabberner has brought newfound happiness.
‘‘ Now I am with someone who brings so much joy and fun (to my life),’’ she beams. ‘‘ Mark is like a fourth child — a big kid — and that’s why children love him and why he’s such a great dad.
‘‘ I’d never been around someone (before) who wants to do the fun things in life.
‘‘ I’m quite a serious person and work-focused. If I had to pick one word to describe me it would be ‘ boring’.’’
She is also back doing a stint as Sarah on Neighbours.
‘‘ When I saw the scripts I was absolutely flabbergasted. Everything is on the page. I was actually shocked reading it,’’ Charles says.
Rhys Uhlich, also a modelturned-actor, joins Charles in the cast. Uhlich, crowned the winner of Make Me a Supermodel in 2008, plays Scotty Boland, a strapping farmer who follows his high school sweetheart Georgia Brooks (Saskia Hampele) to Erinsborough. ‘‘ Ever since I got into modelling, acting has been something I’ve wanted to pursue,’’ Uhlich says. Neighbours, Eleven, weeknights, 6.30pm
Erinsborough visitors: Rhys Uhlich and Nicola Charles.