Kate Kendall set for a juicy new season on Ramsay Street as her Neighbours secret plays out
WHEN Kate Kendall played feisty undercover detective Angie Piper in Aussie crime drama Stingers back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, no one would have predicted the actor would become one of Australia’s favourite TV mums.
Piper, teamed with Senior Constable Peter Church (Peter Phelps), was too busy busting bad guys to get all motherly.
Things are very different in 2014.
Kendall is married to former AFL footballer Wayne Johnston. The pair have a four-year-old son Darcy and Kendall is mum to four adult step-children from Johnson’s previous marriage.
On Neighbours, Kendall plays Lauren Turner who, along with husband Matt (Josef Brown), has three children – Mason (Taylor Glockner), Amber (Jenna Rosenow) and Bailey (Calen Mackenzie).
Kendall is a one-woman Brady Bunch with real life and TV families to take care of. Julie Rafter – eat your heart out.
“Neighbours works in so well, fitting in with family life,” Kendall says. “I’m home at a reasonable hour and that was really important to me.
“I’m also at a time in my life when I want a bit of security happening. That definitely played a part in my decisionmaking (joining Neighbours).
“Executive producer Richard Jasek had been a director on
Stingers. Seeing the direction the show was taking and the character – I thought, ‘Let’s go for it’.”
Neighbours fans know the character of Lauren Turner first appeared on the show in 1993 and was originally played by Sarah Vandenberg. The actor quit the following year, reportedly after producers said the character would have less screen time.
Lauren is the daughter of Lou Carpenter (Tom Oliver) and in her first stint had an affair with Brad Willis (Scott Michaelson). In the final episode of
Neighbours for 2013, Kendall’s Lauren dropped a bombshell to Lucy Robinson (Melissa Bell) that she had a baby to Brad, but never told him. She had been keeping this secret from everyone except her mother Kathy (Tina Bursill) who helped her hide the pregnancy.
The baby died and feelings of grief still engulf Lauren. That has the potential to rip her marriage to Matt apart. The couple live across the road from Brad. Matt already senses that Lauren still has feelings for her former flame.
Lauren’s life unravels further as she deals with eldest son Mason heading off to pursue a new job. Lauren had brought her family back to Erinsborough from Mount Isa after Mason was sent to juvenile detention for a local robbery.
“Because Neighbours has so many fans, I’m sure there are people who are brutally aware that I do things differently to the original actor,” Kendall says.
“It (Lauren’s original appearance) was such a long time ago that I was given carte blanche to create a new character. We still hark back to historical facts like the relationship between Brad and Lauren but if you’re going to play a character that might be there for a while you can’t be doing somebody else’s interpretation on it.
“Lauren has taken lots of interesting turns this year. She has a big heart and is the centre of her family and home but I’ve been looking for interesting ways to portray her so that she’s not too much of a domestic goddess.
“That (domestic goddess) is so far removed from me. I don’t bake. Lauren’s always whipping out a cake and taking food around to other people’s houses.
“She is a wife and a mother that on the surface could look
quite bland and I wanted to take her out of that area. She has secrets which makes the character more interesting. It gives her a bit of an edge. Otherwise she could come off as perfect. If you have kept a secret for a long time then there is usually a bigger explosion when it comes out.” Shooting 192 episodes of
Stingers – sometimes 40 in a single year – was great training for Neighbours.
After Stingers ended in 2004, Kendall took on a string of theatre roles including the lead in the Melbourne Theatre Company production of Next to
Normal and a feature part in the musical version of An Officer
and a Gentleman.
Kendall’s TV work has
included comedy The Librarians and teen thriller Conspiracy 365.
“Working at such a rapid pace (on Neighbours) is a challenge,” Kendall says. “You’ve got to be really prepared. You literally have 25 minutes for a scene sometimes – 40 minutes if you’re really lucky.
“I remember when I first started I also fell into that trap of calling Jackie Woodburne ‘Susan’ and Alan Fletcher ‘Karl’.
“Working with a new family was a really tricky thing too. We had to make it real for the audience – so that it didn’t look like we had just been thrown together. When you do so many scenes with your on-air family, they do start to feel like your children.
“In real life, being a step mum has been an amazing ride but it is different to having a little person that you have given birth to.
“Motherhood is the best thing.”