Pho­tog­ra­phy DAMIAN BEN­NETT Styling KELLY HUME In­ter­view NA­DIA SALEMME

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Front Page - Neigh­bours airs 6.30pm week­nights on Eleven.

trange as it may sound, when Kerry Arm­strong finds her­self in front of a lens, she just wants to dis­ap­pear. Never mind that she firmed up her sta­tus long ago as one of our most ac­claimed ac­tors, known for roles on shows such as Seachange (where she played bub­bly house­wife Heather Jelly) and Bed Of Roses (as widow Louisa Ather­ton), or films like 2001’s Lan­tana, for which she won an AFI award.

She can cer­tainly act her heart out in front of a cam­era; it’s just the pos­ing that she finds dif­fi­cult. And play­ing her­self may be the hard­est role of all. “I’m not that good at get­ting my photo taken,” Arm­strong ad­mits to Stel­lar with a laugh. “That’s not my thing. On the red car­pet, I al­ways look like some­one’s lost aunty.”

Even for this shoot, Arm­strong would have pre­ferred to be snapped in char­ac­ter mode – kit­ted out, say, as Alice Wells, the Mary Pop­pins-es­que nanny with a dark side she is about to play in a guest role on Neigh­bours. (She ends up set­tling for a chic green suit, and opts to go bare­foot.)

It has been a big year for Arm­strong. She turned 60 last month, joined the cast of Neigh­bours and made head­lines with her spiky run on Net­work Ten’s re­al­ity se­ries I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!.

And there were smaller, more triv­ial things for her to con­tend with as well. “I had to learn about In­sta­gram!” she says. “I think the Bri­tish girl [Vicky Pat­ti­son] had four mil­lion fol­low­ers; some­one else had two mil­lion. Si­mone [Holtz­nagel] looked at me and said, ‘How many have you got, Kez?’ I said, ‘28.’ And she said, ‘Only 28,000?’ I said, ‘No… 28.’”

The jun­gle also brought Arm­strong back to her first love. “I stopped act­ing for quite a while,” she says. “I loved be­ing be­hind the scenes.” Join­ing Neigh­bours was pred­i­cated on a par­tic­u­lar idea. “I said if I did it, I had spent my life play­ing good­ies. Why not a bad guy role?” she ex­plains. She rel­ishes play­ing against type and push­ing against any no­tions that age may be an im­ped­i­ment. “Act­ing has noth­ing to do with your age,” she ar­gues. “There’s no use-by date on an ac­tor be­cause you’re al­ways telling a story. And hu­man be­ings don’t stop at 40. I al­ways knew it’s a game of leapfrog, that there was a lily pad to land on.”

But she does un­der­stand why plenty of ac­tors, young and old, might think dif­fer­ently. “No-one wants to grow up,” Arm­strong says. “You know, the coolest age was 30, then it was 21, and now it’s ap­par­ently about 15. Peo­ple tend to put lids on us a lit­tle bit as you get older. We un­der­stand a woman in a cardi­gan, knitting or mak­ing cups of tea, and we un­der­stand a rough one with moc­casins.”

Arm­strong has long been privy to not just ageism, but also sex­ism in her cho­sen in­dus­try – and be­lieves it kept her from land­ing roles. “I know that be­cause I didn’t play the game here or in the States,” she says. “There were as many good men and women as there were a whole bunch of peo­ple who, I think, imag­ined this busi­ness was about get­ting laid. We’re start­ing to find out what right and wrong is again.”

In the mean­time, she tries to stay philo­soph­i­cal about life in the pub­lic eye and aims to keep it real. Ex­hibit A: those truth bombs she dropped in the jun­gle. “When you leave the planet, you won’t leave with any­thing ex­cept what you’ve be­come to the peo­ple around you,” she says. “I can’t bear bullsh*t. We bullsh*t our­selves some­times. I want every­one to be them­selves. Please show me who you are! So in­stead of judg­ing you, I can try and un­der­stand you.there’s a dif­fer­ence.

“There are sto­ries about me that are lu­di­crous,” Arm­strong con­tin­ues. “The in­ter­net says I’ve been mar­ried four times and I think, ‘ Wow, that’s more than is true.’ ” (For the record, she has been mar­ried twice.) “And then they an­nounced that I was 60 when I was still 59. I thought, ‘That’s so un­fair!’

“There’s an in­vented world that we all live with, be­ing in the pub­lic eye,” she says. “You have to laugh.”

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