In 2001, there was a lot to get excited about at the TV WEEK Logie Awards. Some of Australia’s top personalities in television walked the red carpet at Crown Towers in Melbourne, eager to celebrate a booming industry.
As famous performers such as Ricky Martin flew in for the big night, the anticipation was tremendous.
Often referred to as the “golden era” of Australian drama, the likes of Blue Heelers, SeaChange, and newcomer The Secret Life Of Us were dominating screens. Then, there were All Saints.
The medical drama, which launched in 1998 with an average audience of 1.3 million, had established itself as “the show to watch”, and Georgie Parker, who played nurse Terri Sullivan, was thrust into the spotlight.
Terri and Mitch, played by Erik Thomson, had an on-again, off-again romance that audiences couldn’t get enough of.
Georgie was nominated for – and won – the TV WEEK Gold Logie Award for Most Popular Australian Television Personality in 2001. The following year, she duplicated her accomplishment.
Despite the praise, Georgie didn’t have her sights set on the prise that evening. Her thoughts strayed to her seven-month-old daughter Holly as she got her prise.
She was ecstatic to win, but confesses that balancing her job with being a first-time mother was difficult.
“I got married [in 1999, to writer Steve Worland] and had just become a mum when I won the first Gold Logie,” Georgie, 57, tells TV WEEK days from the 20th anniversary of her consecutive Logies wins.
“I was split between a lot of things – it was a very stressful time, while also being a very stimulating time.
“The struggle I had was that I’d never chased that kind of success, so when I got it, I was doing it more because I wanted the show to succeed.
“It [the success] also pivoted around my character, so I felt responsible. If that meant I had to put myself out there, then I had to do it.”
When Holly was 17 weeks old, the actress returned to the set of All Saints and juggled her days like two spinning plates.
“It was wrenching, but I knew what I’d signed on for,” she says of the separation.
“It was really hard having a newborn and going to work for 13 hours a day. Then, in your spare time, you had publicity and photo shoots.
“But the network [Channel Seven] made it as easy as they could – it was a gift. Holly came to set sometimes. It helped me mentally with such enormous separation.”
“Since she was little, our conversations have always been around how you make a creative life work. It’s always been a given that it’s a tough life and, if you choose it, you have to commit to it. She’s incredibly talented,” Georgie says.
Despite her extensive expertise and several awards, the actor remains eager to learn.
Her upbringing, theatre training, and previous career as a dancer instilled in her the value of hard effort. Her presentation is her unique gift to the audience. She continues to do a job she enjoys in exchange.
“I’ve always been of the mind that you’re always a student, in many ways,” she says.
“You can’t rest on your laurels because you had a good day or you’ve won an award – you have to go back to the beginning and do the work.
“When I became successful on TV, I had to rethink everything, because it wasn’t part of my plan. I just wanted to work. Being recognized was a bit of an obstacle, actually.”
Georgie preferred to keep her family out of the public in order to maintain a separation between her business and personal lives. As she grew accustomed to being a public figure, it proved to be a “saving grace.”
“When you’re in the viewers’ loungeroom, there’s a sense of ownership of your character,” she says.
“People call you your character’s name and there’s no division between you and the part. It’s more confronting [than theatre] and no-one prepares you for success – you have to figure that s**t out on your own. [Laughs].
“I had to learn how to be gracious while creating some gentle boundaries. I’m lucky that I play characters people have felt a kinship with.”
Thanks to her present position as Roo Stewart in Home And Away, their bond is stronger than ever.
Since 2010, Roo has played the heart of the Stewart family, which also includes Ray Meagher as her father Alf and Belinda Giblin as her mother Martha. On and off-screen, the group has chemistry.
“They’re only just a generation older than me, but we all speak the same language and approach work the same way,” Georgie says.
“I love spending time with them. I’m spoiled to work with such established actors.”
She jokes, however, that her persona could use a little more independence.
“I’ll be 60 in three years, and Roo still follows her parents around everywhere!” she says with a laugh. “Will she ever do her own thing? Apart from the seriousness of the storylines, it’s rather funny.”
Georgie has a long list of credits and is well-known for her work. However, her stay in Summer Bay may provide her an advantage with supporters.
“I get called Roo on the street a lot more than Terri,” she says. “But it depends on what people know you from – some people know me from Play School!”
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