Kat Ste­wart:

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

how Off­spring changed her life

It’s a chilly af­ter­noon in Mel­bourne and Off­spring’s Kat Ste­wart is talk­ing to us from her car. She’s parked out­side the re­hearsal venue of her new play, where her four-month-old daugh­ter has spent the morn­ing with her while she works. After Kat’s chat with us, Gigi will be due for her next feed.

It’s a glimpse into the busy life of the pop­u­lar ac­tress who be­came a house­hold name with her award­win­ning per­for­mance in Un­der­belly in 2008, and cap­tured hearts in her role as Bil­lie Proud­man over five se­ries of Off­spring, which has screened in 11 coun­tries around the world since its de­but in 2010.

The se­ries five fi­nale (shown here early last year), was to be the last of the much-loved show, which fol­lowed the chaotic life of ob­ste­tri­cian Dr Nina Proud­man and her close, com­plex and en­dear­ingly fren­zied fam­ily. But, to the de­light of fans, it was an­nounced in Septem­ber 2015 that the show would be back for a sixth sea­son.

Kat, 43, who had com­mit­ted to that sea­son be­fore fall­ing preg­nant with Gigi (Ge­or­gia), was faced with the choice of ei­ther break­ing the obli­ga­tion or bring­ing her then three-week-old girl and a babysit­ter on set. After con­sul­ta­tion with the Off­spring crew, she chose the lat­ter. She’s had ex­pe­ri­ence in that jug­gle be­fore, hav­ing done the same with her son Archie in sea­son four, which she started film­ing when he was just five weeks old.

“I am so lucky Off­spring are so sup­port­ive,” she says of the de­ci­sion. “Gigi was ba­si­cally run­ning the show – when she was hun­gry, we would stop and I would feed her and then we would get back on.

“Credit to Off­spring, and to the play I am in at the mo­ment, for mak­ing that pos­si­ble. I felt re­ally strongly that I wanted to be with her and feed her be­cause she was so lit­tle, and I am sure it prob­a­bly drove them crazy some­times but they made it pos­si­ble. I am very lucky to be do­ing both.”

While she works, her hus­band, fel­low ac­tor David White­ley, takes the reins at home with four-year-old Archie. Asked how she has man­aged the ad­mirable task of work­ing with a new­born, Kat is hum­ble.

“I am prob­a­bly run­ning on adrenalin to be hon­est, be­cause she is still very lit­tle. ‘I don’t know’ is the hon­est an­swer; I am just mud­dling through like ev­ery­one else does. I’ve had the help of a babysit­ter on set, which is huge, and means David is free to look after Archie and the house.”

Sea­son six started with a bang last month with the shock death of cen­tral char­ac­ter Darcy Proud­man (John Wa­ters) – father of Nina, Bil­lie, Jimmy, Ray and a newly re­vealed brother, Will.

Kat says John Wa­ter’s de­par­ture was a blow for the close-knit crew, but ul­ti­mately pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity for the writ­ers to ex­plore new ter­ri­tory with the char­ac­ters.

“It sets the tone for the se­ries be­cause it is such a pro­found shock and change, and it re­ally shakes up the whole fam­ily. Even though it is re­ally sad and I per­son­ally miss John, it has given all the char­ac­ters an op­por­tu­nity for growth. Darcy’s place in the fam­ily was huge and he was such a force for good. He was frus­trat­ing for [exwife and Bil­lie’s mum] Geral­dine, but ev­ery­one loved him.”

Kat says while Darcy’s char­ac­ter is gone, his pres­ence is very much a part of the sixth sea­son be­cause peo­ple are miss­ing him.

“But in typ­i­cal Off­spring fash­ion, not in the way you might ex­pect,” says Kat of their grief. “Bil­lie is wait­ing for it to hit her and she doesn’t know why it hasn’t. Ev­ery­one di­gests grief dif­fer­ently I sup­pose and cer­tainly that is the case with the Proud­mans. They all re­act dif­fer­ently.”

It has been two years since the ac­tors last worked to­gether but Kat says con­nec­tions have re­mained strong between the cast. “With friends and fam­ily – and I think we have mor­phed into that – you pick up where you left off.”

Is the hi­lar­ity one would ex­pect in mak­ing a show like Off­spring a

re­al­ity? “Yeah, I lose it,” Kat says with a gig­gle. “We are work­ing with just such funny peo­ple. There were some op­por­tu­ni­ties for me to do some scenes with Deb­o­rah Mail­man, Ali­cia

Gar­diner and Jane Harber [who play Cherie, Kim and Zara] this sea­son, and I pride my­self on be­ing able to keep it to­gether, but

I was ab­so­lutely help­less – I just couldn’t go on and I ru­ined so many good takes.”

Asher Ked­die [Nina] also had a baby between sea­sons five and six and she too brought one-yearold Valentino on set. “Valentino is quite a bit older than Gigi and at the run­ning around stage, so we didn’t see as much of him be­cause he is a busy guy, but he is just gor­geous,” says Kat, who is close to Asher.

“We get on so well, there is short­hand between us as peo­ple and char­ac­ters. You can’t put a price on the hours we have spent to­gether and the ex­pe­ri­ences we have had over the past seven years.”

The char­ac­ter who has gone through the most no­tice­able change since the last se­ries wrapped is Nina’s on-screen baby, Zoe Proud­man-Reid (Is­abella Mon­aghan).

“She was a baby at the end of last se­ries, and now she is three,” says Kat about the lit­tle girl her char­ac­ter Bil­lie has helped Nina raise on the show. “She’s amaz­ing. She was a nat­u­ral when she was a baby and she is a nat­u­ral now – she can im­pro­vise.”

With ba­bies be­ing a cen­tral theme of Off­spring, and in the life of her char­ac­ter Bil­lie, it was in­evitable it may have some ef­fect on Kat’s own de­ci­sions around moth­er­hood.

“That is more than a bit true,” Kat says. “In se­ries two Bil­lie is try­ing to get preg­nant and was in­ves­ti­gat­ing IVF and so – stan­dard char­ac­ter re­search – I did a bit of read­ing on it. I was 38 at the time and when I looked at the stats I thought, hang on a minute. I hadn’t re­ally put moth­er­hood at the front of our agenda, be­cause I was so busy, but see­ing those stats forced me to think about it and I am so glad I did be­cause by the end of se­ries four my son was on the way.”

It took some clever work with pizza boxes, pot plants and large hand­bags to con­ceal Kat’s ever grow­ing belly. Then there was a trip to New Zealand, where char­ac­ter Bil­lie com­mu­ni­cated with part­ner Mick over Skype.

“They could have eas­ily used my preg­nancy in the story, be­cause Bil­lie wanted to have a baby, but I am so happy they didn’t be­cause ba­bies aren’t the an­swer for ev­ery­one and it isn’t the only recipe for hap­pi­ness. I like that Bil­lie has ex­plored that on TV.

“The great thing with Bil­lie is I have never got bored with her – they are al­ways toss­ing up new chal­lenges. I re­ally thought at the end of sea­son five that it was prob­a­bly it, and I am just thrilled that we got the chance to do it again.”

When film­ing wrapped on sea­son six, Kat jumped straight into her next project – the Mel­bourne Theatre Com­pany play Dis­graced, which runs un­til Oc­to­ber. After that, she and hus­band David will swap roles.

“Oh God, he is ab­so­lutely amaz­ing,” she says of her spouse of eight years. “We have re­ally had to take turns this year. Once I have fin­ished this play, David starts a play, and he also has some TV stuff to do, so I will be man­ning the fort at home and he will be work­ing for the rest of the year.”

But while she is look­ing for­ward to some time at home with her chil­dren, it may not be long be­fore we see her back on our screens.

“I have a few things on the boil – I have been de­vel­op­ing a project with Jane Harber, who plays Zara on Off­spring, and an­other won­der­ful ac­tress called Dianna Glenn. It is a show called The Ele­men­tals about three co-de­pen­dent, past-their-prime su­per­heroes liv­ing to­gether. We have just re­ceived some fund­ing from Film Aus­tralia to de­velop that.”

Her prac­tice be­ing a su­per­woman this year may just pay off!

LEFT: As Bil­lie in Off­spring with Asher Ked­die and baby Is­abella Mon­aghan and (bot­tom) Ed­die Per­fect.

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