Blue Heelers: articles

Simone McAullay

Simone McAullay

The new girl in Blue

AFTER years of searching, Simone McAullay has found her Holy Grail. Robert Fidgeon reports.

Next Wednesday, Simone McAullay makes her debut in Seven's Blue Heelers as Constable Susie Raynor, replacing Caroline Craig's Tess Gallagher, who left the series last week.

McAullay's signing in April to join the top-rating rural police drama was the perfect end to a 10-year journey of self-discovery that took her around the world and back.

The result is that when one chats to her, you come away feeling a whole lot better about life.

With a positive outlook and infectious million-dollar laugh, the blonde, 27-year-old possesses an energy and enthusiasm that sweeps you along with her.

The life story comes tumbling out in a rush: her childhood years in Perth with an elder brother Nathan, ballet at four which gave way to callisthenics and jazz. But by the time she was 12, she had decided that dance was decidedly "uncool", began to learn how to play the cello and took up volleyball at Rossmoyne Senior High School, because it allowed her to hang out with boys from other schools. Volleyball was her strong suit. She represented Western Australia for three years.

She did well throughout Year 12, enrolled at Curtin University but immediately deferred. Perth appeared suddenly "nice but small" to an adventurous 17-year-old, so she decided to explore "the mystical eastern states".

"I worked damn hard that last year of school to lift my grades and prove to my parents that I was clever enough to be allowed to escape," she says while sipping some exotic foul-smelling tea.

"Travelling started out as a search for something I figured I was never going to find in Perth. I had this feeling there was something out there for me to do but I hadn't discovered what it was. I live in fear of being blinkered. The most important thing to me is to remain open and receptive, and travelling seemed to be the best way to do that."

Reflecting on it now, McAullay admits her parents "freaked out" when she told them she was going to travel. "They trusted me, so they felt they could either support me or fight it – so they chose to support me, which they have done ever since," McAullay says. "Even when times were really hard and I was heading in a direction they might not have agreed with, they were still supportive."

In April 1994, McAullay headed east, celebrated her 18th birthday in Adelaide and lasted a day in Sydney's Kings Cross before pushing north to Cairns. The bus took too long so she hopped off in Byron Bay to stretch her legs and stayed a year.

Then it was overseas for almost four years – Thailand, England, France and Spain – before returning to Western Australia to celebrate her 21st birthday.

"Travelling was wonderful when you'd had the sort of sheltered upbringing I'd had," she says. "I mean, it's beautiful being sheltered, but when you've got that adventurous spirit, you've got to go, even though you don't know what you're looking for."

Still unsure of what she wanted to do with her life, McAullay enrolled in Murdoch University, intending to major in psychology. "I thought it might help me find some direction," she says.

Disappointed when the psychology course appeared to be concerned more with statistics than people, she found greater stimulation in the university's creative writing course.

In 1999, a lecturer gave her a brochure on The Actor's Centre in Sydney. Despite not having acted before, McAullay sold everything she owned, moved to Sydney, auditioned, was accepted by the centre and graduated in December 2000.

"It was like finding the Holy Grail," she says. "I was in heaven. The theatre was the first place in my life where I'd felt right."

Work came quickly. A "10-second bit" as a gangster's moll in Billy Zane's US movie Invincible, a four-month stint on TV's Crash Palace, TV commercials, a play for Sydney's Belvoir Street Theatre Company, more commercials and a small part in a US movie Future Tense took her through to the end of 2002.

In April this year, she auditioned for Blue Heelers, won the role and began filming in July. "I'm having the time of my life and everyone's been wonderful," she says.

By Robert Fidgeon
September 21, 2003
The Daily Telegraph