AS CARRIE BICKMORE PREPARES TO RETURN TO THE SHOW SHE’S ANCHORED SINCE IT DEBUTED, JUST IN TIME TO CELEBRATE ITS 10TH BIRTHDAY, SHE TALKS FAMILY LIFE, THE LOGIES AND THE EARLY DAYS OF THE PROJECT
Carrie Bickmore has a new philosophy as she prepares to return to the grind of the daily news cycle. The much-loved newsreader and TV personality will be back behind The Project desk on Monday night, after eight months’ maternity leave.
As the last remaining original anchor of the award-winning current affairs show, which will mark its 10th anniversary later this month, Carrie has poured her heart and soul into the show’s mantra of ‘delivering the news differently’.
“I’m someone who invests everything into everything I do,” she says.
“I’m so passionately involved with things; I’m there in all the conversations, meetings, debriefs, planning – sometimes it’s not physically possible to ride the wave to that intensity (anymore). My philosophy is ‘don’t sweat the small stuff ’ – to skim along the top and not feel the highs and lows too much. It’s worked really well for radio so far and I’m taking a similar approach for The Project.”
Carrie and her partner Chris Walker welcomed the arrival of their second daughter, Adelaide, in December.
“With every addition to the family, life changes and adjusts,” she says. “Every time my contract negotiations roll around I think ‘OK, is whatever I’m doing right for my family?’ I only ever do it if it feels right for my family, and it feels right now – but speak to me a few weeks in (laughs).”
If the 38-year-old looks refreshed for a mother of a six-month-old, four-year-old and 11-year-old, it’s not because Adelaide’s been letting her sleep through the night. The news hound relished the opportunity to undergo a self-imposed digital detox while on leave.
“I did take a big break away from the news cycle,” she says. “In a job like ours you need to be tapping into everything that’s happening in the world. It all moves so fast. I took a chance to step out of it, which was good for me. In terms of my phone use, I’ve really tried to cut back. I try to keep the phone in the other room when I’m with the kids; I try not to always have it on walks; I try not to take it to brunch or dinner with friends. I don’t necessarily think we’re always trying to pick it up to avoid what’s happening in front of us. It’s habitual; it’s a hard addiction to break.
“It’s not something I’ve cracked but I’m definitely getting better. It doesn’t have to be long to make a massive difference.”
The mum-of-three has always been candid about the challenges of parenthood, both in interviews and on social media, and admits her third stint at motherhood hasn’t been easy.
While she has been able to co-host her Hit Network radio show with Tommy Little from home for the past four months, her return to television has taken a little longer than expected.
“Addie was a really tough baby,” she says. “She had reflux and we couldn’t put her down for months. We were exhausted. She’s just a snuggly little monkey and not the sort of baby to cope (with being away from me). In a weird way I’m glad I’ve had the time for the other kids. I get to be part of that normal
routine I (usually) miss out on and those normal conversations and those titbits you pick up on. It’s quite a precious time. I’ve always loved my job, but I know it’s going to be tough going back.”
Carrie reunited with her co-stars Waleed Aly, Peter Helliar and Lisa Wilkinson at Sunday’s TV Week Logie Awards.
It was her and Chris’s first night together without the kids since she gave birth to Adelaide.
“It was my first night away from the bub. I was more excited about the sleep than anything else,” she laughs.
“It was nice to have some time together with Chris. I’m somebody who loves the Logies; I always have. It’s a time to catch up with people from not just my own network but the industry. I still stayed out until 4.30am last year (when I was pregnant). I’ll be honest, when I heard about it moving to the Gold Coast I was like ‘What?’ Now I think it’s reinvigorated it.”
She’s not surprised by Gold Logie winner Tom Gleeson’s antics, even though she was barracking for her good mate Amanda Keller to win Australian TV’S top gong.
“I think Tom is doing exactly what you’d expect Tom to do,” she says. “It must be hard for a comedian to accept being part of an awards process.”
Winning the Gold Logie in 2015 was a watershed moment for Carrie. Wearing a bright blue beanie, she dedicated the award to her late husband Greg, who died of brain cancer in 2010, in a passionate and emotionally-charged acceptance speech.
That beanie has become the symbol of her charity Beanies 4 Brain Cancer which, alongside her services to broadcast media, earned her an Order of Australia Medal last month.
“Every step along the way has taken me by surprise. I remember my first ever Logies, and then winning Best New Talent a few years later. I would have been happy if that was my peak,” she says.
“I um’d, and ah’d about whether to mention brain cancer in my Logies speech, but I’m so glad I did because that started an incredible journey for me with the foundation. We’ve now raised almost
$11.5 million. I could never have ever dreamed of that on that night of the Gold Logie.
“I had the opportunity to do a full special on The Project launching our campaign a year later and within one hour live on air we raised $2 million. I remember thinking at that time that we have the most special audience who have been on this journey with me. I felt so touched by that.”
The Project will celebrate a decade on air on Friday, July 19, with a special 90-minute episode.
When it debuted as The 7pm Project in 2009, few expected the half-hour show – produced by Rove Mcmanus’s Roving Enterprises – to last the year.
“I was actually really nervous about leaving Rove for this new show because I loved working on Rove and I had no idea what to expect from this new show,” Carrie says. “Weirdly, I had no expectation the first night we went to air. I was happy if we got one night away, maybe we’d be given the chance to do a week’s worth of show.”
On that first night, Dave Hughes, Carrie Bickmore and Charlie Pickering sat behind the desk in a very ‘brown’ studio, while Ruby Rose and James Mathison were roving reporters. They were so caught up in hitting their cues, they forgot to sign off at the end of the broadcast.
“After the first show I remember thinking ‘oh, that wasn’t great’,” she says.
“After the show we had a debrief that went for about three hours discussing what we’d do differently the following night. We were all in a state of shock. Those first few weeks were so terrifying for me.”
With the brave backing of Channel 10 and some early tweaks, the show found its footing. One of its stand-out features, compared to other current affairs and evening news shows, is the studio audience, which helps the hosts and guests gauge the success of their jokes.
“I remember during the day of our first show hearing Hughesy talk to our bosses about needing an audience and I didn’t fully appreciate why it was so important at the time,” Carrie says. “I was thinking, ‘Don’t worry about it, we’ll deal with it tomorrow or the next day.’ But Hughesy couldn’t have been more right. The studio audience has been one of the fundamental parts of our show – it enables the guys to be funny, it enables interaction and now I really appreciate why he was so insistent on having a big live audience.”
Now a prime-time staple, The Project has been a springboard for Charlie, Hughesy and Tom Ballard, all of whom have gone on to their own TV projects.
The show itself has made plenty of headlines over the years, whether it be for an outspoken guest, Waleed’s pointed
‘something we should talk about’ segments or poaching Lisa from the Today show in her highly publicised departure from Channel 9.
The line-up, studio, format and hairstyles may have changed over the years, but Carrie has been the one constant.
“To be here 10 years later is so awesome and so unexpected,” she says. “The show has evolved and changed so much over the years. With every new person who joins the show and every person who leaves, the show shifts slightly. That’s what’s beautiful about it – you can’t have a show on air for 10 years without it growing and changing. I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved. I still pinch myself I’ve been given the opportunity.”
The Project airs Monday at 7.30pm on Ten.
“THE SHOW HAS EVOLVED AND CHANGED SO MUCH OVER THE YEARS. WITH EVERY NEW PERSON WHO JOINS THE SHOW AND EVERY PERSON WHO LEAVES, THE SHOW SHIFTS SLIGHTLY.”