Bed of Roses: articles

Kerry Armstrong

Kerry Armstrong finds that life's not a bed of roses

STAR of the new ABC series, Bed of Roses, Kerry Armstrong explains why she has always put creative satisfaction before a pay cheque, but a new project may bring both.

As a star of films including Lantana and acclaimed TV dramas SeaChange and MDA, you'd expect Kerry Armstrong to be at the peak of her creative and financial powers.

Artistically, Armstrong has integrity and accomplishment, but her commitment to her craft has come at a cost.

She has never been one to make decisions based on the size of a pay cheque, preferring not to work than to sign for a role she knows is incapable of arousing her artistic passions.

In industry circles, Armstrong is considered to have more balls than a beanbag -- a single mother of three who has the courage to knock back well-paid gigs.

Her finances were once so strained she was forced to sell her car to cover the mortgage.

"I've said no to so many things when I needed the money," the star of new ABC mini-series Bed of Roses says.

"When you have three children (Sam, Callum and Jai) and you need to be responsible and pay school fees and a mortgage, it's tough.

"But I just can't take work for the sake of working. It's so important to be fulfilled in your work.

"I have had to turn things down that could have brought me great financial freedom because I knew the audience would not appreciate them.

"What I love about being an ABC stalwart and working with great people is that there's a standard set that is not dropped or compromised. I don't want anyone to be watching something where they're not being entertained or moved.

"I was offered this series in Rome and because of my boys and being a mum I just couldn't do it. But there is something that has come from my heart and soul -- a flowering that just might make things easier for me (financially)."

Armstrong, never afraid to follow life's less conventional path, is referring to the anticipated international success of the self-help book she has penned, The Circles.

She drew on experience and spiritual teachings to create the book, a guide to gaining insight into feelings and relationships.

The book's US release is being handled by publisher Beyond Words.

"They have already said they've had a call from one of the largest book clubs in the US and that the club wants 21,000 copies," she says.

"They want me to go to the US in September and talk about the book on shows like Oprah.

"This is like having a toddler who is running down a hill chasing ducks towards a pond. You know the toddler will probably catch a couple and get wet in the process, but it's exciting to watch.

"I feel I can be so much more useful if I'm not so busy struggling to create funds for my own life. I'd be much happier being in a position to help create funds for other people's lives. I've always wondered if there would ever come a time where I had the freedom to be more philanthropic.

"I've known, absolutely, that I'd never have a racy car or fur coat. For me (financial stability) would be about causes and people I'd really want to support. That, to me, would be sheer joy."

As far as acting is concerned, Armstrong continues her search for roles of artistic merit.

She's proud of Bed of Roses, in which she plays a woman and mother who must come to terms with the sudden death of her husband. She must also cope with revelations that she has been left with massive debt and that her husband had been having an affair.

Armstrong's own private life has had its ups and downs.

She had a relationship with Australian Crawl guitarist Brad Robinson in 1981, but faced separation when she won a place to study at the prestigious Herbert Berghof acting studio in New York.

Her career took off and she played the lead in Tom Stoppard's Dalliance and Isabella in the US Shakespeare Company's Measure for Measure.

But she hit a snag: she didn't have a green card.

She had taken a bite of the celebrity cherry by accepting a $15,000-a-week role on Dynasty, but the experience left her unfulfilled.

Robinson -- supporting his partner's career endeavours -- agreed with Armstrong's American agent that she should marry a US citizen (it turned out to be friend Alexander Bernstein) to resolve her work-permit difficulties.

The marriage to Bernstein was for professional purposes only, but Armstrong and Robinson struggled with the separation and their relationship disintegrated.

Then she met Tim Robbins, ditched Dynasty and found creative solace with artist group The Actors Gang.

Armstrong and Robbins became romantically attached, though Armstrong says Robbins, who later married Susan Sarandon, was "gorgeous, but way too bossy".

Several times in the 1980s, Armstrong was on the cusp of major fame. Robbins, Cusack and Armstrong auditioned for the legendary TV show Saturday Night Live, but Armstrong was the only one the producers wanted. She also was offered a three-film deal.

She declined all offers to focus on The Actors Gang.

She had also fallen at the final hurdle in auditions for Fatal Attraction (Glenn Close scored the role) and was testing for Everybody's All-American in 1987 when her grandmother died and Armstrong came home.

Back in Melbourne, she met writer-producer Mac Gudgeon. They married in 1990 when their son, Sam, was three months old, but the relationship foundered.

Later she met builder Mark Croft, with whom she had twins Callum and Jai. The couple separated in 2001.

Armstrong was later to say she felt empowered by a decision to become celibate.

"I'm happy sitting on my small mountain of self-imposed celibacy!" she said.

Armstrong, a master at the art of self-deprecation, is asked if she has any pearls to add about the male population.

"It's thrilling to be accepting how unpredictable life is," Armstrong says.

"Whenever people's lives are a bit tragic they can open a magazine and see mine has gone slightly off the rails and comfort themselves!"

Armstrong, who lives in the Yarra Valley with her boys, adds: "The pleasure I have gained from being a mum of three boys is amazing. The tenderness and unpredictability of men is highlighted on a daily basis.

"Mine are wonderful boys. Sam is as gruff as they (twins) are sweet. They show me the way."

By Darren Devlyn
May 07, 2008
Herald Sun