‘ It’s my ‘ life to live
Don’t ask The Divorce’s Lisa McCune about her personal affairs
Four-time Gold Logie winner Lisa McCune has a few words of advice for young actors.
“If I knew someone who was just starting out I’d say ‘just talk about your work, you don’t have to talk about anything else — that’s the smart way to go’,” she says during a break in filming on the Werribee Mansion set of ABC musical soap opera The Divorce.
One of Australia’s favourite actors since 1991 when she debuted as the “Coles check-out chick”, she won most popular television personality four times playing Maggie Doyle in Blue Heelers from 1993, had a long-running role in Sea Patrol and has appeared in a series of successful stage musicals.
The 44-year-old’s reluctance to discuss her private life is not surprising.
Public interest increased in 2012 when pictures emerged of her kissing and cuddling South Pacific co-star Teddy Tahu Rhodes, despite her long marriage to Tim Disney with whom she has three children — Archer, Oliver and Remy.
The fascination seems fuelled by the disparity between the gossipy reports and her girlnext-door image.
“I totally feel like I’m a grown up and that it’s my life to live and I certainly won’t be held at all (to the media’s portrayal),” she says.
“The media don’t represent you in the right way sometimes. I think it’s very rare when you read an article where the person you are comes across.”
She says this in a matter-offact way, rather than as a complaint, and in person she’s warm and friendly — happy to laugh about a Women’s Weekly article on the affair quoting ad guru Dee Madigan saying it “makes her much edgier and much more interesting … this will make her one of Australia’s most bankable stars”.
“Hysterical,” she says. “But I’m really edgy, people just don’t know me.
“I’m always cast as the sweet girl, but I’m so edgy, I just can’t tell you. I quite often say to people I have a really independent, off-mainstream idea about things, but I’ve always been cast in mainstream, commercial things because it’s where I’ve always just fit in.”
She hopes the public sees her as “an accessible human being”.
“I hope that people like what I do because I’m actually not that different to everybody else,” McCune says.
“I leave my workplace, I catch the train, I take my kids to school, my car breaks down, all those things happen to me.
“I’m so completely normal, and if that’s what’s attractive about my persona (so be it).”
In The Divorce, McCune plays Louise the childless, unlucky-in-love sister of Iris (Marina Prior), who in turn is the soon-to-be-ex-wife of Jed (John O’May).
The four-part series covers the events of a single night as the couple throws a lavish party to celebrate their impending divorce.
“It’s a complex matrix of a storyline because it’s (written by playwright) Joanna MurraySmith,” says McCune.
“(Louise) has just fallen in love with her sister’s husband and there are some complications there and that all starts to bubble away beneath the surface as the divorce party starts.”
When we chat she’s in the middle of a quick 18-day shoot at Werribee Mansion, but the cast (which includes pop star Kate Miller-Heidke and Hugh Sheridan) had rehearsed for a few weeks and recorded their songs in a studio.
Despite being developed as an opera, McCune says the TV series is neither high brow nor inaccessible. “Purists would go: they’re not singing opera, because we’re not,” she says.
“This is a comedy version and nothing to take too seriously — we’re not opera singers. Marina and Kate are probably the closest thing to opera singers in the cast.
“I like the fact something new is being done, I like the fact we’re trying something.”
The Divorce is McCune’s first major foray into television since Reef Doctors in 2013, which was caught in the Channel Ten curse of the time, shunted around the schedule before being cancelled.
“South Pacific came up and it was so incredibly successful and then the opportunity came up after that to do The King and I — and they’re (roles that are) not going to happen for me again in my performing lifetime (because of my age) so I kind of had to do them,” she explains.
“I spoke to my agent and said ‘I can’t say no because it’s actually not going to happen for me again and if I don’t do any TV that doesn’t matter’. And they ended up being, I think, the highest-selling shows at the Opera House — and that’s awesome.”
I’m always cast as the sweet girl, but I’m so edgy, I just can’t tell you
THE DIVORCE, ABC, MONDAY TO THURSDAY, 9.30PM
says the glamour of showbusiness disguises how normal she is.