Veteran actress Betty Bobbitt, best known as Prisoner‘s Judy Bryant, has died aged 81.
She died earlier today following a massive stroke last Wednesday.
Earlier today her son Chris broke the news she was not expected to recover, followed by a sad update.
Bobbitt played Judy Bryant from 1980 – 1985, Australian TV”s first sympathetic lesbian portrayal and becoming one of the show’s longest running characters.
“I loved working in the show. I made friends with all the cast members and had a good time,” she told TV Tonight in 2011.
“To me it was a happy experience. It gave me unbelievable money I never thought I would have. I bought a house while I was doing it.”
The Philadelphian-born actress was lured to Australia by US performer Jonathan Daly, who cast her in his 1960s variety show, Daly at Night, filmed at Channel Seven’s Teletheatre in Fitzroy.
“I was appearing as Agnes Gooch in Auntie Mame and he thought I was funny so he said ‘Come to Australia and appear on my show as a comic,’” she said.
“I got Frank Thring to do Macbeth with me, and I did it in a Southern accent with a lot of fake blood.
“It went live to air, but now nobody has anything of it. I saw a Channel Seven history special and it wasn’t even mentioned.”
Prior to Prisoner there were ensemble roles with the Melbourne Theatre Company, plus Tikki & John’s famed theatre restaurant, allowing her to do everything from vaudeville to Shakespeare.
But it was as lesbian Judy Bryant that she would become best known. She lived 40k from the Nunawading studio and didn’t drive, so there were long taxi rides. On top of the long days she was a single parent of two boys.
“It was an amazing journey, but Elspeth (Ballantyne) was the same as a single parent, Val Lehman had three children, so we were all actors with a beautiful gig that paid us well and it was amazing.
“Towards the end I was keen to do something else. Enough already playing the same character. I’d been an actor all my life and I wanted to play someone else. I loved the cast but the ones I had been most bonded to had left,” she says.
“So the last year I was a little bit restless, but I still enjoyed it.
“When I finished I went straight into a play at the MTC. In ’86 I went back to the States to connect with my brother. When I came back I went straight into Nunsense on tour, which I later directed with June Bronhill.”
She had other credits including Matlock Police, Homicide, Special Squad, A Country Practice, The Flying Doctors, Blue Heelers, Neighbours, and All Saints.
Unlike many of her colleagues who feared type-casting, Bobbitt didn’t feel the need to shun her Prisoner days. But she re-connected with fans via Facebook, including in the UK.
“I didn’t believe that this show we did in the early 80s was still popular. It’s only been in the last year that people have contacted me,” she said.
“Then I realised the following and it was amazing. I’m not very keen on being a star and all of that stuff. You want to pay me money for my autograph? Shutup!”