Whether chatting to a veteran rock star on RocKwiz, meeting a Eurovision icon or appearing as a guest herself, she’s drawn to delving deep into the person behind the spotlight.
Now she gets the chance to do just that with 5 local comedians on Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery for ABC1.
The good news is, she still gets to continue with her SBS shows. In fact she’s made so many appearances on other shows now it’s hard to keep up.
“I think I’ve done something for every channel,” she says, reflectively.
Last night she was acting in ABC1’s An Accidental Soldier. Then there was It Takes Two, Randling, Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation, Good News Week, Agony Aunts, The Circle, Thank God You’re Here, 20 to 1, What a Year, Totally Full Frontal, The Bob Downe Show, The Wedge, Lowdown, Conspiracy 365 …the list goes on. There’s no network shackles to stop her from appearing on other projects.
“SBS is very generous in saying go and do other things. It only works back in favour for us really, because if you see Agony Aunts or Thank God You’re Here, then Shane Bourne and the Working Dog people are always so generous in saying ‘Julia from RocKwiz on SBS.’ That’s such a huge audience.”
For her new series she accompanies comedians as they return to their childhood homes. Her guests include Alan Brough, Carl Barron, Noeline Brown, Shane Jacobson and John Safran.
“What I like about it is the guest knows the area better than you do, and the viewer, and takes you on a bit of a trek. So I can have my questions ready to go but if they take us on a tangent somewhere then my ‘impro’ background is ready to go and investigate extra information,” she says.
“These people are natural storytellers. They’re comics who do funny things and know how to express themselves. Comics often mine their own childhood for stuff on stage anyway. I think with a lot of them when something happens that’s a bit hard or sad they turn it into a funny story to entertain their friends or get it out of their system.
“So hopefully by the end of the episode you get to know the person a bit more rather than the personality, if you like.”
The episodes take her to the West coast of the North Island of NZ, Burleigh Heads in Queensland, Stanmore in Sydney, and Melbourne.
“Alan Brough has a beautiful story because in Hawera and New Plymouth in New Zealand, everything is still there: the house, the repertory theatre company that his parents ran, the primary school, the high school.
“Mt. Taranaki looms over you the whole time as a dormant volcano.
“Carl Barron was a real catch because he hardly does any publicity at all. He took us to Burleigh Heads and we went on his paper run from his house to his primary school.”
But Zemiro admits to being very taken by meeting longtime television idol Noeline Brown.
“As a 10 year old I was glued to The Naked Vicar Show thinking ‘How can you be that sophisticated and be funny?’ She was equal to the boys on her left and her right and then she’d be Lois the Tea Lady,” she recalls.
“Meeting Noeline was like meeting someone from another era and yet to me she’s still 40, in my mind. I’d never met her before until she opened the door in Bowral where she lives now. We spent a whole day together never having met before. Part of my premise is ‘Never meet your idols because you’re always disappointed.’ But that turned out to not be true with her.
“Alan is very candid about boarding school and his first few years there, but I won’t give it all away. Noeline is very candid about certain moments in her primary (years) and Carl is reflective.”
Yet the reflections weren’t always pleasant memories and Zemiro admits to probing some of her subjects.
“It’s a conversation. It’s me talking to them, not an empty vessel. I have opinions too and I challenge them on a few things,” she insists.
“It’s not just nostalgia and “weren’t the good old days great?” because sometimes they weren’t.
“But it’s like they’re writing a little love letter to their home.”
If the series, produced by Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder, wins another season, Zemiro is hoping to repeat the process with another group of like-minded subjects, possibly actors or musicians.
She’s also resisted the temptation to revisit her own past, in case she gets the opportunity for a Home Delivery reversal, where another presenter asks about her own upbringing.
“I grew up above a restaurant in Bondi and I went to an Australian public school that had a mini-French primary school within it. So there would be great stories to tell about that.”
Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery airs 9:05pm Wednesdays on ABC1.