No regrets in Summer Bay

EXCLUSIVE: In Part 2 of an interview with Georgie Parker, she reflects on the reasons she joined Home & Away in August 2010, having enjoyed long runs on A Country Practice and All Saints (wining two Gold Logies) plus stints in City Homicide, Emerald Falls and several years with Play School.

When the offer of an ongoing role came up on the Seven soap, it suited family life perfectly.

“My daughter was about 10 at the time. There were about seven years of moving around, doing theatre and a lot of TV was being shot elsewhere. Everything was taking me away from home,” she recalls.

Home & Away came up and I thought, ‘I’m used to long-contract work. I’m used to staying in one place and working.’ I’ve had a long, very fruitful relationship with Seven and they understand my desire to have time off and go and do theatre. So once we’d established those agreements, I said yes.

“I don’t define myself by the work I do”

“But it’s a very personal thing. I did not want to be chasing jobs. I don’t define myself by the work I do, I really define myself by the life I live. Whilst I love working and I’ve got a ridiculous work ethic, I’m not terribly ambitious. So it’s an interesting contradiction.

“(Acting has) given me a very happy life, so I don’t regret any decisions I’ve made.”

Parker was brought in to play Roo Stewart (played many years earlier by a young Justine Clarke). It’s given her a great friendship with TV dad Ray Meagher. Roo is also aunt to Ryder (Lukas Radovich) and now works as a Summer Bay school teacher.

“When they brought the River Boys in, which was a really good concept, it rated very well.”

Indeed, much of Parker’s on-screen work is in family and community-based storylines, rather than Summer Bay’s pattern of bad boys, stalkers and kidnappers.

As she explains it, soaps will juggle ratings popularity and their story origins, which in the case of Home & Away was family fostering.

“When they brought the River Boys in, which was a really good concept, it rated very well. Then you get conflicting ideas and reports about what the audience wants to tune into. So then I think they try to have a foot in both camps. We’ll do a bit of fostering with Marilyn (Emily Symons) and John’s (Shane Withington) characters, or occasionally, the Stewart household takes someone in,” she explains.

“It’s a much smaller story content for the show, and it did become about drug dealers and people on the wrong side of the law.

“How do we bring back the good ol’ Summer Bay scenes?”

“But I think there is room …and I think they’re fully aware of this, because we did discuss it all the time: ‘How do we bring back the good ol’ Summer Bay scenes?'”

She explains further, “When we were doing A Country Practice, there were scenes, which were such ‘A Country Practice scene.’ It’s about the characters, and the way they relate to each other, rather than passing on someone else’s storylines through other characters.

“There’s a passing of a baton a lot with these shows, because you’ve got to figure out ‘Who’s across what’s happening to who?’ or passing on a bit of gossip because they can’t have those people in a scene. So there’s a lot of leeway with the way you tell a story in soap.

“I haven’t seen a gun in years!”

“At the same time, we have definitely talked about getting back to the heart and soul (of the show). In the Stewart household we don’t have anything to do with the River Boys or with the new brothers that have joined the show, because I’m dealing with Ray, Belinda, Lukas and I’m teaching at the school. So I haven’t seen a gun in years!

“Literally, it’s like two different shows, I really don’t have many scenes with those other characters. So the stuff I’m doing really is kind of ‘old school Summer Bay!'”

“The way kids are now compared to what they were 30 years ago… is different”

But she also points out that a drama which began with fostering in 1988 also has to change.

“The way kids are now compared to what they were 30 years ago, the issues are different and the way they deal with problems is different. So it’s evolved, in a way.”

More recently the show has also drawn headlines around its depiction of gay & lesbian characters, including questions about cutting same-sex kisses.

As a long-term ensemble player, how does Parker feel about the show’s diversity and is there room for improvement?

“We’ve got three Maori actors in at the moment, and they are fantastic. We’ve got diverse content, but as far as bringing in more diverse actors and storylines, there’s always room for that,” she acknowledges.

“But you’ve got to get a lot of people over the line, and you’re never going to keep everybody happy. I think it’s vital that we keep telling those stories and that we keep addressing it. And eventually, I’m sure that we would like to have long-term characters in the show, who are LGBTQi.”

Part One: Georgie awaits Home & Away return

Home & Away screens 7pm Monday – Thursday on Seven.

10 Comments:

  1. I fully believe the diversity issue in Home and Away has nothing to do with the show’s creative team and everything to do with the network. I think the writers and cast would be happy to have more LGBTI characters and cultural diversity on the show. It’s the network that’s pushing the “don’t change a thing” mindset and keeping it behind the times, because they’re afraid of losing the audience.

    I’ve heard it said before that Home and Away brings in a lot of conservative viewers. Not sure how accurate it is, but it would explain Seven’s reluctance to try and bring Home and Away into the 21st century.

    At one point, Home and Away did have more ethnic diversity – we used to see a lot of Leah’s Greek family and her cultural heritage. Ada even used to speak Greek on the show. I can’t recall the last time that’s happened.

    • The response to Neighbours here reflecting a more diverse and inclusive culture has also been really positive, from what I’ve seen. As David points out, Neighbours hasn’t rated well since shifting from 10 to ELEVEN. It may not get the praise its due critically, but Neighbours has shown in recent years it isn’t afraid to step out of the box. Look at all the webisodes they’ve done and social media exclusives. They’ve been really creative in this aspect. Home and Away could do a lot with this, and do well, given their large youth demographic, but they don’t.

      The other great thing about Neighbours is that they don’t take themselves too seriously. They embrace the soap opera, the serious issues, of course, but aren’t afraid of doing some comedy, either. And that provides a nice balance. Home and Away tends to get too dark.

    • As someone who really loved H&A for a long time I can safely say that Neighbours is far more bold in it’s creativity and the realistic issues it delves into. Plus it isn’t afraid to laugh at itself or take itself too seriously most of the time. H&A has lost some of it’s magic imo.

  2. Andrew Mercado

    “You’ve got to get a lot of people over the line, and you’re never going to keep everybody happy” … fascinating. Why is their audience so unwilling to accept more diversity? Or is this more of a case of a network too terrified to even try?

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