All Saints: articles

Saintly star and the bum double

THERE'S a raucous laugh before the voice at the end of the phone answers with an earthy frankness. "You know, my arse isn't too bad, but I have absolutely no interest in sharing it with the whole of Australia."

It's Georgie Parker on the line from Sydney, the diminutive raven-haired actor with the piercing blue eyes and to-die-for cheekbones, who is currently the toast of the television world after picking up her second Gold Logie as Australia's most popular TV personality.

We're discussing a "prude Parker" jibe that was levelled at her when it was revealed that the naked bottom viewers glimpsed during the recent steamy love scene between her character, nurse Terri, and handsome doctor Mitch in the top-rating Seven drama All Saints, wasn't hers.

The very down-to-earth Parker is completely nonplussed about it.

"The director decided he wanted a shot of a bum, and I said, 'Well that's fine, but you're not going to use mine' so he found this lovely woman who was quite willing to show her bum and she did."

Did the owner of the stand-in derriere get paid well for the exposure? "I hope so," Parker says, and lets rip another hearty laugh. "I didn't ask how much for each cheek!"

It's not the first time in her lengthy acting career - she's been continually employed on stage and screen for the past 15 years - that Parker has been asked to bare a bit of flesh. But nudity is a line she won't cross.

"You can do an hour's work but then all it ends up about is 'Oh I saw her tits' "

"I was asked to expose my breasts in (the TV series) Fire and I've always been very clear," she says. "I'm comfortable implying nudity but I'm not comfortable showing it because when you see someone's breasts, the reaction is 'Oh my God I saw her breasts'. It's never, 'Oh I hope they love each other after this'.

"I think nudity really shocks you out of a scene. You can do an hour's work but then all it ends up about is 'Oh I saw her tits'. I'd rather not go there because I don't think there's any way around that (reaction)."

The no-nonsense, forthright way Parker, 37, deals with questions about screen nudity is the way she deals with all interview questions, including inquiries about her private life.

She's warm, open and obliging, full of beans and seemingly completely at ease with the demands of celebrity which inevitably accompany acting success.

But then, she has had quite a while to get used to it.

She had her first real taste of it when she joined the cast of the TV drama A Country Practice in 1989 as nurse Lucy Gardiner.

Pretty and vivacious, she quickly became an audience favourite and the glossy magazines couldn't get enough of her. Over the years her life has been dissected on their pages. The youngest of three kids, she had a comfortable middle-class upbringing (her parents Tony and Rosie created Parker furniture).

She spent her early teenage years in a confining back brace

She studied ballet, but any thought of a dancing career was thwarted by scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and she spent her early teenage years in a confining back brace to stop the condition worsening.

Not that this setback particularly bothered Parker: She also had a childhood passion for acting and a knack for easily memorising scripts so she just powered on.

After high school came acting classes, co-op theatre, TV commercials and the usual bread-and-butter jobs for a struggling actor - waiting tables, working in a department store, in a video store and dressing up as Mickey Mouse for a promotion (because she was the only one tiny enough to fit into the outfit).

With A Country Practice came fame and a heightened level of interest in another part of her life: who she was dating. The magazines followed her romances with Julian McMahon and Eden Gaha, her broken engagement to theatre director John O'Hare and then her marriage to Bootmen scriptwriter Steve Worland and the birth of their daughter Holly.

While Parker probably hasn't always welcomed public fascination with her personal life, she understands the power of television and celebrity.

Holly has shown a keen interest in using Gold Logies as teething rings

"I am comfortable with being acknowledged on the street. You find a place for it, and most people are actually acknowledging the character that I play rather than me as a person because I'm so fantastic or something," she says.

"I know where it sits and I don't really play the celebrity game. I don't go to the opening of everything. I'm not a particularly glamorous person."

When I demur that she always looks pretty gorgeous in photos, there's another guffaw on the end of the phone line.

"You're not seeing me now! When I go to the Logies or something I've sat in the make-up chair for an hour and someone has dressed me. Most of the time I don't like make-up, I'm not a particularly flamboyant dresser. I dress from K mart. That's my life."

And a busy life it is too, especially since Holly's arrival.

Parker clearly relishes motherhood and happily chats about how Holly gets spoiled by the cast and crew of All Saints ("she always says 'Ta' for the presents, she's very polite"), and how her husband has put her Gold Logies out of reach beside the stereo in their Sydney home because Holly has shown a keen interest in using them as teething rings.

"She's a pretty good kid," Parker says of her daughter, who is approaching the age many mothers refer to as "the terrible twos".

"She's quite wilful, but then they all are (at this age) which is good because if they weren't it would be like, 'hey show a bit of backbone'. She's just a cruisey kid. She's quite happy to be on her own and play and she's happy when people come over. She's pretty adaptable. I love motherhood. I just love it. It's nothing like you think it will be.

"You never stop worrying about them, you never stop thinking about them, and just when they're in a routine everything changes. Motherhood teaches you to be incredibly adaptable in your own life."

Paparazzi pics? 'It would be me at Woolies or me at the park wiping snot from my daughter's face. It's beyond my control, and who gives a rat's arse?'

While Parker is happy to talk about family life, photos are off limits. She has knocked back several lucrative offers from the glossies to pose for exclusive shots.

"I particularly didn't want any photo of Holly and me in it, condoning it," she says. "I want her to have her own start to life, I want her to be her own person. It's hard, especially she's a girl and her mum's a successful actor. God knows if she wants to be an actor or a scientist. I want her to find her own way there, not be constantly told 'You must be proud of your mum'. "

But does she worry about paparazzi seeking to peddle some snaps taken in the street?

"You just know that you can't control that kind of thing, and because I'm not particularly tabloid fever and I'm not dating Heath Ledger or something, I don't think it's particularly interesting," she says. "It would be me at Woolies or me at the park wiping snot from my daughter's face. It's not particularly exciting, and if they do that, it's beyond my control, and who gives a rat's arse, you know?"

Parker says when she's out and about with her family, fans are respectful of their privacy.

"Because I haven't sold us as an image to the public, when I'm out with my husband and Holly, people are great. They give us space. If they want to come up to me then they come up to me, but they don't usually intrude, so I'm very lucky that I've found a good level."

That phrase "I'm very lucky" is one Parker uses frequently.

She considers herself fortunate that the All Saints producers allow her to bring Holly and the family's nanny to the studio and that she gets paid - and paid well - to do something she loves. Which is one of the reasons why she has signed on with the show for another year.

'The audience wants to see her happy, you know?'

"I'm going to work each day and I'm exactly where I want to be, working with the people I want to work with, and I don't take that for granted.

"I've got a really good position and I'm not looking the gift horse in the mouth. I don't want to be hitting the road again (with a touring theatre production) because of my child.

"Plus All Saints is still challenging for me and Terri (her character) still has good legs. I think it would be unfair to put an end to her too quickly. The audience wants to see her happy, you know?"

While Parker is not eager to tour, she misses the energy of live performance.

So when David Atkins asked her to be in The Man From Snowy River Arena Spectacular which his company and Jacobsen Entertainment are mounting, she didn't hesitate to say yes.

"It's not a huge part for me, which is why I can do it because I'm still shooting All Saints, but it's integral because I'm really the only girl in the show," she says.

"I can't wait. I love theatre because you get the adrenalin from the audience and vice versa. The energy from the audience in an arena event is immense."

Parker will play Kate, the daughter of station owner Conroy (played by Bud Tingwell), and the love interest of the Man. Rehearsals for the actors haven't started yet, but Atkins says Parker will be singing a couple of songs, including a duet.

He chose her for the show not just because she can act and sing but because of her pulling power.

"Arena shows, unlike theatre shows, live and die on their ability to secure an audience before they are performed," Atkins says. "We can't really rely on word of mouth, so having a high-profile cast was important but more importantly it was having a high-profile cast who were going to be able to deliver."

Atkins last worked with Parker when she was 19 - they made a TV commercial for a milkshake drink together.

"To be honest, she doesn't seem any different to me than when she was doing that commercial," he says. "She doesn't pull the star stuff, she's got her feet on the ground.

"Georgie's fame has been long earned and hard earned. In the last couple of years she's come into her own, and it's not something that's just been handed to her. It's something she's earned."

While Parker doesn't dismiss the accolades and awards that have come her way, her philosophy is to look forward, not back.

"It's so important to be acknowledged for the work you do, to be told that you're doing a good job and I accept those awards with pleasure and really appreciate them," she says. "But it doesn't guarantee that I will have work for the rest of my life. It doesn't mean that I've made it and I can relax.

"You're only as good as the last day's work you've done. Work to me is always a work in progress. It's what I'm going to, not what I've done."

The Man From Snowy River Arena Spectacular is on at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on August 31 (2pm, 8pm) and September 1 (1pm, 6pm). Tickets 131 931.

June 15, 2002
Karen Milliner
The Courier Mail