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.
Blue Heelers, SeaChange, and newcomer The Secret Life Of Us dominated screens during what has been dubbed the “golden era” of Australian drama. There was also All Saints.
The medical drama had established itself as “the show to watch” since its premiere in 1998, with an average audience of 1.3 million viewers, and Georgie Parker, who played nurse Terri Sullivan, was propelled 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 prize that evening. Her thoughts strayed to her seven-month-old daughter Holly as she got her prize.
She was ecstatic to win, but confesses that balancing her job with being a first-time mother was difficult.
“I had just gotten married [to writer Steve Worland] and had just become a mother when I won the first Gold Logie,” Georgie, 57, tells TV WEEK days before the 20th anniversary of her Logies wins.
“I was torn between a number of things at the time — it was both a stressful and a stimulating moment.”
“My difficulty was that I’d never pursued that level of success before, so when I did, I was doing it more because I wanted the programme to succeed.”
“I felt accountable because it [the achievement] revolved around my character.” If that meant putting myself out there, I had no choice.”
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 painful, but I understood what I’d agreed to,” she recalls of the breakup.
“Having a newborn and working 13 hours a day was quite difficult.” Then there were publicity and picture shoots in your spare time.
“However, the network [Channel Seven] made everything as simple as possible for us – it was a gift.” Holly came to set on occasion. It helped me deal with the mental strain of such a large gap.”
Holly, 22, is now an adult who is pursuing her own career as an artist.
“Our chats have always revolved around how to make a creative life work since she was a child. It’s always been assumed that life is difficult, and that if you chose it, you must commit to it. Georgie describes her as “very talented.”
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.
“In many respects, I’ve always believed that you’re always a student,” she explains.
“You can’t rest on your laurels just because you had a wonderful day or received an award; you have to start over and do the work.”
“I had to reassess everything when I became successful on television because it wasn’t part of my strategy.” All I wanted to do was work. Being recognised was, in fact, a bit of a challenge.”
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.”
“There’s a sense of ownership of your character when you’re in the viewers’ loungeroom,” she explains.
“People refer to you by your character’s name, and there is no distinction between you and your role.” It’s more challenging [than theatre], and no one can prepare you for success; you have to figure it out for yourself. [Laughs].
“I had to learn how to be courteous while setting some reasonable limits.” I’m fortunate in that I get to play characters with whom people identify.”
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.
“We’re only a generation apart,” Georgie adds, “but we all speak the same language and approach work in the same way.”
“I enjoy spending time with them,” says the author. I’m spoiled because I get to work with such well-known actors.”
She jokes, however, that her persona could use a little more independence.
“In three years, I’ll be 60, and Roo still follows her parents around everywhere!” she laughs. “Will she ever strike out on her own?” Aside from the severity of the plots, it’s quite amusing.”
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 a lot more than Terri on the street,” she explains. “However, it depends on how people remember you — some people remember me from Play School!”