Erika’s home run
It’s taken a lifetime for model, actor, singer and presenter Erika Heynatz to land her first television drama series gig. DEBBIE SCHIPP reports
IT has taken Erika Heynatz her whole career to find a place to call home.
Home and Away, that is, into which the 40-year-old strides this week as new biology teacher Charlotte King. Of course, it wouldn’t be Home and Away if it was a simple entry. Charlotte is popular with students and is looking for a fresh start, but is hiding a secret history which will divide one of Summer Bay’s favourite couples.
Suffice to say there’s intrigue, if not trouble brewing, and Charlotte’s arrival isn’t low key.
“There’s no slinking into the show in the background – she definitely makes an entrance,” Heynatz says.
And that’s just the way Heynatz, who accepted the gig after two years touring with the Australian Rocky Horror Show as the Usherette and Magenta, likes it.
Home and Away is Heynatz’s first TV drama series gig, and she is relishing the change of pace.
She’s been shooting since January, so this week’s airing of those first episodes has been a strange wait for an actor more accustomed to instant audience response to her work.
“I had been doing musical theatre, where you get that instant gratification from an audience, so this is so different,” Heynatz, who might be new to Home and Away but not to television, says.
“Part of me feels like it’s a great thing not to be going straight on screen, because if you were in any way critical of yourself that could be a bad thing. Instead for six months I’ve just been immersing myself in it and learning as I go.”
As well as modelling, Heynatz’s bulging CV also includes former host of Australia’s Next Top Model, a string of film and TV credits and winning singing reality series It Takes Two alongside opera singer David Hobson. She went on to host that show, then found musical theatre success in Legally Blonde before Rocky Horror. As a woman accustomed to life on the move, the role of Charlotte had instant appeal.
“I related to her initially in that she is looking for a fresh start,” Heynatz says. “When I grew up my dad was in the Navy and we travelled around a lot and we did a lot of different schools I can really relate to that feeling of being the new kid in town.
“That feeling of having to work really hard to ingratiate yourself with a whole new group of people and get their trust. And even just professionally within the entertainment industry the roles change all the time.
“You do a photo shoot one day, you do a musical another, it’s a transient life, you are constantly trying to find your feet and to forge your relationships and it can be really tricky to find friends and find your place.”
She may have found her place in Summer Bay, but Heynatz confesses there’s one more place she’d really like to feel at home – in the surf.
“My friends always make fun of me. I love surfing but my talent does not match my enthusiasm,” she laughs.
“My husband will be checking the swell and saying, ‘It’s great, it’s massive, it’s six foot over there’ and I’m the opposite. If I check the surf report and it’s one-foot rollers I’m texting girlfriends saying, ‘The surf is perfect’.”
Earlier this year she suffered nasty grazes after being well and truly pounded out on her board, and she now wears the humiliation, and the nickname it earned her, as a badge of pride.
“My husband was watching from the sand and when I came out there was blood gushing out of some graze and he said, ‘It’s all about how you tell it and you can tell people you got into a barrel and you got a fin chop’,” she laughs. “So now they laugh and call me Fin Chop. They say, ‘Get out there Fin Chop, give it a go’.”
HOME AND AWAY
MONDAY TO THURSDAY, 7PM, SEVEN