Revenge is sweet
for Home And Away star
Penny McNamee is a household name in Australia and the actress says she owes her success – in part, at least – to three girls who bullied her at high school. “I really struggled to fit in. I just felt that I was never quite cool enough,” says the 35 year old who plays Home And Away’s Dr Tori Morgan.
“I was never included in the cool parties or activities that were going on outside of school and my interests (musical theatre) were quite nerdy. “Then, come year nine, a few girls really made my life very difficult. “I was a really happy teenager naturally but, for six months, I used to cry and ask my parents to let me stay home because of these three nasty girls. In the end they pulled me out of school and sent me to a different school.” McNamee thrived at her new environment and went on to become an award-winning stage actress and star in movies and television in both Australia and in the competitive American market. She was based in New York and appeared in shows such as Elementary, The Pacific and Blue Bloods. Then she and her financier husband Matt decided to return to Sydney to raise their son Jack, now two. Scoring a job on Home And Away upon her return was the icing on the cake. Ironically, McNamee believes some of her achievements are a direct result of the misery she endured at the hands of her bullies. “They know who they are because two of
them have, in fact, rung me in the past and apologised for how badly they treated me,” she says.
“However, I’m actually quite grateful to them because I wanted to prove to them they weren’t going to beat me. In my early years out of high school, I had a bit of a mentality of, ‘I’ll show them. I’ll show them how successful I can become and they’ll be sorry’.”
McNamee hopes by talking about her own experiences she can help other teens who are going through similar traumas.
“I do think it’s important to tell girls that when you leave school it’s not about who was invited to the cool parties. It’s about the girls who go and follow their dreams, work hard and are motivated and driven to do the right thing in life,” she says.
“They’re the girls who really thrive. Often (the cool girls) finish school and don’t have any drive other than looking pretty and going to the parties. They are often the girls who become the least happy in real life.”
Home And Away, she adds, goes some way towards highlighting the issues affecting teenagers.
“We’ve got some really heavy storylines coming up this year that revolve around teenagers and the things that they’re struggling with at the moment. I think that’s good,” she says.
“I think it promotes conversation between parents and teenagers and also helps teenagers to realise they’re not alone. Bullying, eating disorders, self-harm, the quite dark and awful things teens can go through are not things that happen in just one person’s school. They are worldwide and I think it’s good for them to know they are not alone.”