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Interview with Judy Nunn

Judy Nunn

Judy Nunn has played a variety of roles on both stage and screen, but is probably best-known for her portrayal of Ailsa Stewart in Home and Away and, in the mid-1980s, her stint as Irene Fisher in Sons and Daughters.

The actress has also written several novels, two of which - 'Beneath the Southern Cross' and 'The Glitter Game' - are pictured at the bottom of the page. All of Judy's books are available in the UK and Australia. Further information is available from Darren Gray.

Judy kindly agreed to answer some questions about her time in Sons and Daughters, which appear below.

How were you cast as Irene Fisher?
I auditioned, was cast for a six week storyline, the producers ended up liking the character so I stayed for nearly two years.

Do you have a favourite storyline from your time in Sons and Daughters?
Having decided to make the six week character a regular, the writers further decided to 'expand' Irene's background. She'd been a 'one of the boys' type who enjoyed a pizza and a tinnie, but when Gordon (Brian Blain) dropped to the floor from a heart attack, Irene jumped on him, gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and cardiac massage, then rose to announce to astonished onlookers 'I'm really a doctor but it's a long time since I practiced.' Frightfully funny.

Do you have a least-favourite storyline?
Saying goodbye to my son who was going off to die in a clinic in Switzerland. I found it difficult to believe that I wouldn't have gone with him. Most untruthful, but then his contract was up and mine wasn't.

What did you think of how far-fetched the storylines got at times?
Bold, inventive and outrageous. Particularly when Pat the Rat left in the form of Rowena Wallace and came back in the form of Belinda Giblin. The 'plastic surgery' she'd had somehow explained the two inch height and three stone weight difference. But then both women are terrific actresses (and great mates of mine) and the viewers accepted it.

As a writer yourself, did you ever approach the storyliners with ideas for stories?
Never. Don't like to interfere in other people's work unless I'm asked.

Were you ever interested in writing an episode yourself?
No. I would never wish to write for a series in which I was acting, and I would not enjoy acting in an episode which had been written by a fellow cast member. Dangerous situation.

What do you think it was about Sons and Daughters that made it so popular?
Can't really answer for overseas. On the home front - simple. To be a success in Australia a show must rate in the two major cities - Sydney and Melbourne. Very difficult as the cities are very competitive and favour the homegrown product. Sons and Daughters revolved around a split family - one half living in Melbourne, one half living in Sydney. Viewers in both cities thought the show was shot in their hometown so it was equally popular in both places. It was actually shot in Sydney. Local licence plates were not shown on screen and the Melbourne cast members were taken interstate once a month and filmed walking past local landmarks so no-one knew the difference. Very clever.

How did you come to leave the series: did you ask to be written out, or were you told you were going?
Told I was going. Too many single 'nice aunty' types - myself, Cornelia Frances and Pat McDonald, so Cornie and I were given our walking orders and they stayed with Pat McDonald, the original nice Aunt Fiona.

Do you have any interesting or amusing anecdotes about your time on Sons and Daughters that you have time to share?
The interminable jumper I was knitting for my dying son. A props person took it home each night and it grew and grew over the agonising weeks of the storyline. I'm a lousy knitter so we never had closeups of me doing the actual handiwork. Many years later I had a letter from a very nice fan in the UK apologising in case I thought she was being tasteless, but could she please have the pattern of the jumper I knitted for my dying son.

'The Glitter Game' by Judy Nunn     'Beneath the Southern Cross' by Judy Nunn


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