City Homicide: articles

Noni Hazlehurst reflects on life and City Homicide

NONI Hazlehurst is relishing the chance to play a strong woman in her latest role in City Homicide, but she is finding life art is imitating life.

Noni Hazlehurst is a 55-year-old divorcee who is juggling her career with being mother to sons Charlie, 20, and William, 14.

Her City Homicide character, Det Supt Bernice Waverley, is a fifty-something single mother juggling a law-enforcement career with raising a 14-year-old son, Josh.

Adding to the mix is the fact William is playing Waverley's son Josh on the Aussie crime series.It's a parallel that hasn't escaped Hazlehurst, who believes playing Bernice was "meant to be" at this stage of her life.

To Hazlehurst, it's a role that brings together multiple strands of her own life experience.

"There's no such thing as coincidence," Hazlehurst says. "I believe you attract the people or the situations or the acting roles that you have to have at the time. Whether you like it or not, that's what you've got and you deal with it.

"I think every actor looks for parallels in their lives to draw on for roles. When it involves mothering, you come armed with experience whether it's good, bad or indifferent."

As with Waverley, Hazlehurst is an achiever, with four AFI awards (Monkey Grip, Fran, Waiting at the Royal, Little Fish), an Order of Australia for her services to children and the performing arts, plus credits including iconic television series The Sullivans, Play School and Better Homes andGardens across a 30-year career.

"There aren't too many women in their fifties in life, never mind on Australian television, who are achievers in their field and authority figures," she says.

"It was a strong role and that's why I found her appealing. I'm glad, though, that the show doesn't focus too strongly on the mothering side of Waverley — that they keep it subtle and not turn it into a soapie."

Hazlehurst's own life was in danger of becoming a soap opera with her very public divorce from actor and Better Homes and Gardens co-presenter John Jarratt 11 years ago.

She moved from the couple's Blue Mountains home to Mount Tamborine in the Gold Coast hinterland. In January this year she returned to Melbourne with her partner of six years, cameraman Ian Marden, and her two sons.She acknowledges motherhood is a constant test of skill and patience.

"Parenting is a juggle, alone or together. It's a huge job," she says.

"The best thing you can do is have as many strong male role models around as you can. (Charlie and William) have had a lot of male presences in their lives.

"And you have to allow as much access to the other parent as you can, if that other parent's willing."

So how does Hazlehurst gauge the effect of family breakdown and divorce on children?

"Since time immemorial we've fallen for romantic love in Western society, and that's not going to change, but I do think we give up too easily," she says.

"Ideally a child should be raised by people who are adults and too many people (these days) are behaving like children in the world — professionally and personally and in all walks of life.

"Realising you are an adult (means) you need to work together to benefit not only children but everyone in the world."

It's clear Hazlehurst, who is a fan of the Steiner education system, is remarkably proud of her two sons and she says it's their welfare that has steered her decision-making.

"I've always tried to encourage a love of nature, to their horror most of their lives — look at the sunset, look at the birds — but it pays off."

Hazlehurst acknowledges she has lived a colourful life with its share of highs and lows, but as she ponders her success on City Homicide, her current relationship, and the accomplishments of her two sons, she wouldn't have it any other way.

"You've got to be tough and you've got to be resilient in life — you've got to earn your stripes, as Bernice would say," she says.

"The truth is that life is mad and awful and terrific and amazing and disgusting and vile and scary and incredible and if you're not experiencing that there's something wrong with you. We have these emotions for a reason and the reason is to feel them."

Colin Vickery
October 01, 2008
Herald Sun