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From por­tray­ing Roberta Wil­liams in Un­der­belly to a coke- snort­ing TV pre­sen­ter in Tan­gle, Kat Ste­wart rarely plays nice, writes Dar­ren Dev­lyn

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

KAT Ste­wart stood anx­iously in the shad­ows, wait­ing for her cue.

Wear­ing wings, the Grade 2 stu­dent was nudged gen­tly on stage to make her act­ing de­but in a na­tiv­ity play.

A love of per­form­ing may well have been sparked in Ste­wart that day in Vic­to­ria’s ru­ral Bairns­dale, but she’s hardly been of­fered a ‘‘ good girl’’ role since. Ste­wart had bit parts in

lo­cal dra­mas in­clud­ing Blue Heel­ers and Stingers, but the sem­i­nal mo­ment in her ca­reer came when she was cast in the orig­i­nal and best se­ries of Un­der­belly.

Such was the hype about Un­der­belly that Roberta Wil­liams, the wife of slain un­der­world fig­ure Carl Wil­liams, ar­rived on set hop­ing to meet the ac­tor play­ing her.

It’s prob­a­bly for­tu­nate Ste­wart wasn’t on set at the time, given Wil­liams later said Un­der­belly was ‘‘ a load of crap’’ and that she was por­trayed ‘‘ as ev­ery­thing I’m not – a bad mother, a filthy- mouthed skank’’.

Ste­wart, mean­while, was busy col­lect­ing an AFI Award and Lo­gie for the feral in­ten­sity she brought to the screen.

She in­vested so much in play­ing Wil­liams she ‘‘ missed her’’ when shoot­ing ended.

‘‘ You have to try to see life from their point of view,’’ Ste­wart says.

‘‘ I al­ways find my­self at­tached to them be­cause of it.’’

Ste­wart has man­aged to bol­ster her stocks fur­ther with stand­out per­for­mances in Tan­gle and Off­spring.

Bil­lie, her char­ac­ter in Off­spring ( re­turns to TDT in May), has been de­scribed as ‘‘ out there’’, abra­sive and spikey.

In Tan­gle, she’s TV pre­sen­ter Nat Man­ning, who thinks noth­ing of snort­ing a line of co­caine as a ‘‘ pick me up’’ to help her re­cover from a late night.

It’s a far cry from Ste­wart’s real life role as a wife and mother.

Just two months ago, Chan­nel 10 sent out a re­lease an­nounc­ing Ste­wart had wel­comed her very own off­spring into the world with the birth in a Melbourne hospi­tal of her son Archie Ni­cholas, the first child for Ste­wart and her hus­band David White­ley.

‘‘ It would have been a chal­lenge to work through preg­nancy on Tan­gle and re­turn to work so soon on Off­spring,’’ says Ste­wart, if she’d not had the staunch sup­port of her hus­band and the pro­duc­ers of the two shows.

‘‘ At the mo­ment I’m film­ing Off­spring, which is go­ing well and it wraps in the next three weeks.

‘‘ I’ve been very lucky. I’ve got Archie here with me right now. He’s here with David and I’m about to go and feed him. I do have a new­found re­spect for work­ing moth­ers. I am very lucky I can have Archie on set.

‘‘ I’ve got such a sup­port­ive work en­vi­ron­ment where they are do­ing ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble for me. I am much luck­ier than most, try­ing to do both [ act­ing and moth­er­hood]. I am thrilled, it’s fan­tas­tic.

‘‘ It might be more dif­fi­cult hav­ing him [ Archie] on set down the track when he’s run­ning around hit­ting peo­ple with sticks,’’ she adds with a laugh.

Ste­wart’s lips are sealed when asked about a ru­moured new drama she’s ex­pected to film along­side Shaun Mi­callef later this year.

She’s more vo­cal when of­fered the op­por­tu­nity to talk about Tan­gle which, like

Off­spring, is pro­duced by John Ed­wards and Imo­gen Banks.

Tan­gle is one very com­plex re­la­tion­ships drama.

Max ( Blake Davis) is Nat’s teenage son and the prod­uct of her ro­mance with Tim ( Joel Tobeck).

Max has for years lived with his dad and step­mum Chris­tine ( Cather­ine Mccle­ments), but de­cides he’s leav­ing home and mov­ing in with Nat.

Of deep con­cern is that Nat be­haves like a teenager her­self and is cer­tain to find form­ing a con­ven­tional mother- son re­la­tion­ship chal­leng­ing.

‘‘ I didn’t know where they were go­ing to take Nat this se­ries,’’ Ste­wart says.

‘‘ That’s half the fun, be­ing shocked along the way.

‘‘ It’s al­ways been a show that can be con­fronting, with char­ac­ters that are a lit­tle grey, not wholly good or bad.’’

How will Max’s friends and school­mates re­act when they re­alise his mum is to ap­pear in a bill­board cam­paign pro­mot­ing safe sex?

‘‘ She never thinks that way [ about the pos­si­ble im­pact on her son],’’ Ste­wart says of Nat.

‘‘ She just thinks it’s great cov­er­age, it’s lots of money. And she feels she’s help­ing peo­ple be­cause peo­ple know she’s had a lot of sex and can give them good ad­vice.’’

Af­ter a night out, Nat is seen snort­ing co­caine be­fore she races out the door to work. It seems in­evitable her life­style is go­ing to clash dis­as­trously with her role as a mother.

‘‘ Nat’s al­ways had this dream to have Max back, for him to love her,’’ Ste­wart says.

‘‘ But she also wants to . . . have her own life, so she’s go­ing out all the time.

‘‘ She pushes it too far.’’

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