Mortified: cast

Marny Kennedy as Taylor

Marny Kennedy

Marny Kennedy, who turned 12 during the making of Mortified, has wanted to be a professional actor ever since she can remember. She has been studying acting since she was six although she began as a two year old telling her parents that she wanted to be on television. She's always dreamed of walking down the red carpet as the star of a show.

Mortified is Marny's first major role and meant Marny had to leave her home and school in Melbourne for six months and move to the Gold Coast where the series was filmed.

"It was the longest and best six months of my life. Time and everything else feels quite different on a set. At the beginning people told me that once the show finished it would be like losing my family. I didn't think I could be that close to so many people but it is true, every single person in the show is like family to me."

Marny had an astonishing work load for a 12 year old but she coped with a grace that belies her years. As well as being in virtually every scene throughout the series, she had to keep up with her school work with daily tutoring.

Marny describes her character Taylor: "She has wild, crazy ideas and even though she is certain that they will turn out right, they never do because they're so wacky. She's 'out there'… and she's often mortified, particularly by her parents. She's self conscious about what others think of her and her family; she's very protective of her reputation."

"As we go through the series Taylor matures and relaxes. She notices that everyone she is trying to impress around her is embarrassed as much as she is; she accepts that her parents aren't going to change because they're great people just the way they are."

Nicholas Dunn as Hector

Nicholas Dunn

Nicolas Dunn's father was a drama teacher in his home city of Brisbane. He's been going to drama school every since he was a small boy and has always wanted to perform comedy, like his cinema hero Jim Carrey.

Previously, Nicolas had a small role in the mini-series about the Lindy Chamberlain trial, Through My Eyes.

"Being one of the lead characters is a little less glamorous than I thought it would be but it has been lots of fun. The long hours were hard for the first week but then you get used to it and you realise how much school work you can get through when you're working with a tutor," Nicolas says.

Nicolas says he and Hector have many characteristics in common, "but I'm not as smart as Hector," he laughs. "Hector is deeply in love with Taylor but she doesn't recognise it, she likes Leon. He thinks he's completely misunderstood."

Maia Mitchell as Brittany

Maia is from Lismore in northern New South Wales. Her first experience at acting was in her kindergarten year in her school play.

"After the play I was backstage crying, my mum asked me why I was upset and it was because it was a whole year before I could get on stage again, so she put me into classes and I have been acting ever since," Maia says.

Maia has had one role in a short film before being cast in Mortified.

"It has been an amazing experience, every day you learn so many new things," she says.

Maia describes her character Brittany, who is Taylor's next door neighbour: "She is very posh, self obsessed and all the time thinking about how she looks. Brittany comes from a very rich family and I think in the beginning Taylor envies Brittany and wants to be like her - she sees Brittany's life as absolutely perfect - but actually Brittany feels a bit intimidated by her family and she feels like she doesn't quite fit in."

"At the beginning Taylor and Brittany have a kind of love/hate relationship, they are friends but they don't really 'get' each other. Then Brittany starts to be intrigued by Taylor's family and they get to know each other better and become really good friends."

Luke Erceg as Leon

Luke Erceg is from Sydney. He did some acting when he was very little and then two years ago enrolled in a one week summer course at the National Institute of Dramatic Art. During the course he was asked to audition for The December Boys, a major new feature film featuring Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, but was too young for the role. Inspired by the experience, Luke found an agent and soon after was asked to audition for Mortified.

Luke's character Leon is the cool guy in school, the one all the girls, including Taylor, swoon over: "Luke pretends to be dumb in class, but he's not as dumb as he makes out. He just thinks it isn't cool to be intelligent. He surfs, skateboards, plays soccer and does cross country running. I had to learn to surf for the role, and I loved it, so now I want a mini mal so that me and my Dad can go surfing together," Luke says.

Dajana Cahill as Layla

Dajana Cahill

Mortified is Dajana Cahill's first role as a professional actress. She was discovered by the production through her acting school in Brisbane. She shares, she says, many traits in common with her 16 year old character, Taylor's older sister Layla.

"Layla is the nasty older sister. She's a typical 16 year old girl, breaking away from her family and being rebellious. Layla is at times pretty mortified by her parents as well as Taylor but she's learned to deal with it by breaking away from them. If she's at home, which isn't often, she's usually fighting, most often with her Mum," Dajana says.

"I'm the same age as Layla so of course I fight with my Mum too and I can totally understand her. At home I'm the nasty older sister to two younger brothers," she laughs.

Andrew Blackman as Don

A graduate of the National Institute of Dramatic Art, Andrew Blackman became well known to Australian television viewers for his long running role as Dr Harry Morrison in A Country Practice. He has had numerous television roles since in series including Law of the Land, Halifax f.p., Mercury, Blue Heelers, State Coroner, Neighbours, Stingers and the Australian Children's Television Foundation series Crash Zone and Legacy of the Silver Shadow. Andrew runs his own theatre company which performs in schools around Australia.

He says working on Mortified has been a great experience: "It is one of those dream jobs as an actor — it's a lovely cast, a lovely crew, the stories are really well written, the situation comedy plays itself and Don is a lot of fun to play. He gives me carte blanche as an actor to go nuts!

"I run a company which puts on productions in high schools in Victoria and that's hard work. So, from directing Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, the big heavy tragedies of the world, and then being asked to come up to the Gold Coast to be a part of Mortified has been an absolute delight."

Unlike many drama programs for children, the adult characters in Mortified are more than the stereotypical mum and dad, Andrew says: "Although the series centres around the character of Taylor and her problems which she needs to work through in each episode, the parents feature quite a bit and we're not the archetypal mum or the archetypal dad. Mum's a bit of a hippy, dad's a surfie who runs his own business. He's the underpant king of Sunburn Beach and drives around in an old van with homemade fluorescent sign… so he is a huge embarrassment to his daughters."

Other kids, of course, tell Taylor that her parents are really cool… and usually by the end of each episode she realises that they are worth loving and that they love her dearly.

"In this day and age where profit is king, this is a family that can find happiness in the smallest of things. I'm sure it helps that they live right at the beach, but they're in an old shack and don't feel the need to keep up with the Jones' or the Flunes'. They don't want to knock down their house and put up a mansion in its place," Andrew says.

Rachel Blakely as Glenda

Rachel Blakely's television career includes a leading role in the three series of the international production The Lost World, roles in other international productions including Tale of the South Seas, Xena: Warrior Princess and Tribe, and in the Australian series Neighbours, Blue Heelers and One Way Ticket. She featured in the telemovie Attack on the Queen and has also made several films in Australia and Europe.

Rachel first moved to Queensland for her role in The Lost World, fell in love and never left.

Until now, she has most often played the 'bad girl' so had a ball playing Glenda: "Glenda is emotionally a bit free wheeling; she is kind of a bit all over the shop but when it comes to her family she's very centred and together. They really truly are the most important thing in her life. She's never really found anything else. She does lots of different things — jobs and hobbies — but is one of those women whose husband and children are everything to her, she says.

"I love the fact that she and Don are so in love after all of these years, they still hold hands and kiss and, rightly so, that's mortifying for any 12 year old."

Some of Glenda's escapades include taking up spray on tanning for a living with some disastrous results. She's a masseuse for a while, she dons koala suits to collect money for charity, and is always running around putting up fliers for another cause about which she is passionate — again embarrassing her children.

"As a child I would be totally mortified if I had a mother like Glenda — for kids, anything out of the mould is embarrassing! But there is a great message in Glenda — she just enjoys being herself."

Steven Tandy as Mr McCluskey

Steven Tandy was one of the best known faces on Australian television from 1976–1982 as Tom Sullivan in the much loved seminal Australian series The Sullivans. His other television appearances include All the Rivers Run, Rafferty's Rules, Spyforce, Sons and Daughters, Paradise Peach, Pacific Drive and Earthwatch. Steven is a regular on the stage in Queensland and New South Wales and his recent feature film credits include Gettin' Square and Rough Diamonds.

"Mr McCluskey is a warm, approachable and kind teacher whom the students respect and listen to. His influence is genuinely positive and reassuring and not at all intimidating. With Taylor, there seems to be a special empathy, as he is able to sympathetically coax her into sharing her private thoughts and fantasies. As a mentor to young minds, he is encouraging and positive and held in high esteem," Steven says.

"The scripts were novel and interesting and gave me an insight into communication methods employed by teachers. Mr McCluskey was a delightful character to play, with his quiet authority, wry humour and empathy. I'd always wanted to play a 'Mr Chips' type character such as this."

Steven loved the opportunity to work with directors Pino Amenta and Paul Moloney, old friends who directed him on The Sullivans, and to work on the Gold Coast which has been home to his parents for 30 years.

"Making a series in such a wonderful part of Queensland is an exhilarating experience. The climate was superb, locations picturesque and the possibilities seem quite endless. I think Mortified will show off a unique vista of scenery with its beautiful coastline and beaches. The air is clean and fresh and the crew were remarkably talented and professional. All in all, it was one of the most happy experiences of my acting career.

Sally McKenzie as Mystic Marj

Sally McKenzie is an actor, writer and director. She is a regular performer with the Queensland Theatre Company and La Boite Theatre in Brisbane and has directed her own plays also for La Boite. Her screen credits include The Leaving of Liverpool, The Flying Doctors, A Country Practice, Mother and Son and Rafferty's Rules.

Mystic Marj has been part of the Fry family for years; she's Glenda's cousin and whilst she doesn't live with them, always seems to be hanging around with some scheme or other. A reader of tea leaves and tarot cards and able to predict the future, Marj is also a marriage celebrant. She married Don and Glenda many years ago and also officiated at the ceremony when they renewed their vows.

"Mystic Marj is a bit of a character. She drives a moke and has rather strange looking outfits, mostly with lots of leopard skin. And she has two cats. She carries a lot of the comedy in the series but like all good comedy you can't play it for gags, you've got to find the truth behind it," Sally says.

Veronica Neave as Loretta Flune

Veronica Neave trained with the Flying Fruitfly Circus and has had a significant career in physical theatre for the Circus and Legs on the Wall. She has won the Robert Helpman Award for her production Same Same But Different, the Matilda Award for Excellence in Theatre and The John Harris Critics Award for Contribution to Queensland Theatre. Veronica has appeared in dozens of theatre productions including for the Sydney Theatre Company, the Melbourne Theatre Company, La Boite and the Royal Queensland Theatre Company. She appeared in the acclaimed Australian film The Boys and on television in the mini series Through My Eyes and Changi and the series Wildside, Medivac, Big Sky and GP.

Veronica, hilariously, plays against type to transform herself into the Frys snobbish neighbour Loretta Flune.

"We live next door to each other but we are from opposite ends of the spectrum. Loretta is very uptight, a perfectionist and needs everything to be the latest, the best and she only wants the best for her daughter in every possible way. That creates a nice contrast to the Frys who are very free for all and happy go lucky. It is a bit unfortunate for the Flunes to be residing next door to the Frys; and at one stage they do try to move," Veronica says.

"We come to understand that the Flunes look like they have it all but they really don't. They have a façade which makes everything look good but it is at great cost to their personal lives. As a result they do come undone as a family several times and they don't really stack up against the Frys."

Veronica notes that one of the delights of working on a children's series, apart from the fun of exploiting Loretta's insecurities, is the happy atmosphere on set.

"Because we're working with children, everybody makes an effort to keep up and bright and that's infectious, it's a really nice way to work."

Peter Kent as Michael Flune

Peter Kent featured in the Beastmaster series filmed in Queensland and also acted as American accent coach for the entire Australian cast. He also featured in Time Trax, Paradise Beach, Medivac and Flipper (II and III). Peter's film credits include Crocodile Dundee in LA, Joey, Blackwater Trial and Little White Lies.

In Mortified he plays Michael Flune, husband of Loretta, father of Brittany, and next door neighbour to the Fry family.

"The Flunes are a very accomplished family through the strict guidance of Loretta. Michael does everything she wants him to. He does have pockets of resistance and every now and then will snap at Loretta… but he doesn't like to leave her angry and always ends a snap with a kiss," Peter says.

"Michael gets along very well with Glenda and Don next door but he has to hide it from Loretta. He's not quite the snob that Loretta is. Being a lawyer he's seen lots of different things in life, but his wife is very much into acquisition… bigger house, more cars, better, better, better… onwards and upwards is her favourite saying.

"I relate to it very much as I was raised by worldly people who didn't have a lot of money so we were always struggling."

Michael supports Brittany's friendship with Taylor, even though Loretta thinks the Frys aren't good enough to associate with: "Taylor is a much more grounded kid. Even though she lives in a fantasy world she is a good influence on Brittany… unlike Loretta who has taught her that she's better than other people. The family might have a stronger sense of decorum than some people but we certainly don't have as much fun."

As Michael, Peter has had to learn the tango and fake classical piano and cello playing — all as part of Loretta's relentless pursuit of perfection for her family.

"The writing on this show is second to none. They're an entertaining read and it is beautifully layered. It's nice to poke gentle fun at people who like to have two BMW's in the driveway and always dress beautifully. It seems our society has become addicted to the idea of acquisition and one of the lovely messages from Mortified is that money and possessions don't necessarily make you happy."