Turning down “those bimbo roles” in Hollywood has paid off for Melissa George.
Taking the lead in NBC Universal’s new drama series Heartbeat came after years of knocking back bit parts and eventually taking a pay cut, before being rewarded with topbilling as pioneering heart surgeon Dr Alex Panttiere.
As added incentive, her character is also at the centre of a sexy love triangle with Brothers And Sisters favourite Dave Annable and her Australian co-star of Offspring fame, Don Hany.
You’ve had a history of playing strong women on television — in Alias, Hunted and more recently in The Slap. Was it hard to hold out for those meatier roles? Yes! To give you an example, I got offered two movies, I won’t say for what networks, or what channels, that I would have made a very substantial amount of money from, at the same time The Slap came up, the American version. They’d already cast the whole show and were looking for their Rosie (the role she played in the Australian series for the ABC) and they didn’t have enough budget (to hire her). So I basically took it knowing I’d be turning down a fortune. My agent said ‘you’re paying back into your career, trust me’ and of course, it was NBC who did The Slap and then in the last week of filming The Slap they offered me this role in Heartbeat.
It must have been tempting as a young actor in Hollywood to just take any work? Of course. As soon as I got to (Los Angeles) I turned down those bimbo roles...the sex object, the wife, the girlfriend, the one that had nothing to say. My first roles were in Mulholland Drive and I did the pilot for LA Confidential. I just wandered along like that and drew those kind of (serious) roles and said no to the rest.
This role gives you the chance to play a real-life power woman, based as it is on US heart surgeon Dr Kathy Magliato. When we met, it was like a match made in heaven. We were almost like the same person. She’s a woman who also has children, juggles a career, who does it all and doesn’t say no. In a man’s world she thrives, which in a way is the same as me.
Working opposite Dave Annable and Don Hany ain’t so bad either... I absolutely love it. I’ve never had my shirt off in the show but the guys are constantly walking around without their shirts on and I find it so funny. They’re all paranoid about getting into shape and I’m looking at them going ‘eh hmmm, that sounds good...’ (giggling).
HEARTBEAT, UNIVERSAL, SUNDAY, 7.30PM
Melissa George is prepared to turn down big money to play meatier roles.