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

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - NEWS -

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’.”

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