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EXCLUSIVE: Kat Stewart on Offspring, Five Bedrooms and why she's so much happier playing "flawed, messed-up" characters

''I love playing a messed-up fortysomething!''

By Helen Vnuk
Melbourne is in lockdown when TV WEEK rings Kat Stewart for a chat. She warns there could be the sounds of remote learning in the background.
"I've just shut myself in the bedroom," she adds with a laugh, "so hopefully we'll be right."
As a married mum of two, Kat's stable home life is a world away from the chaotic lives of the characters she's become famous for playing.
Kat's home life is nothing like those of the chaotic characters she plays. TV WEEK/Tina Smigielski
Her latest character, Liz, the uptight lawyer in Five Bedrooms, is newly single in her forties.
This season, Liz's ex-husband Stuart, the "monstrous cad" who ruined her life, suddenly reappears and she finds, to her horror, that she's still sexually attracted to him.
Kat was "thrilled" when her former Underbelly co-star Rodger Corser said yes to the role. "He's very good at doing cad, but he's also really charming," she says. "You go, 'Oh, I get how this happened!'"
Kat with Rodger on the set of Five Bedrooms. Ten
This season also sees Liz give dating apps a try. It's something Kat thinks she'd struggle with.
"I'd be eaten alive! I'd have no idea what I was doing. So it's great to do it from within the safety of a script and a character."
It doesn't look like Kat is going to need dating apps anytime soon. She's been married to actor David Whiteley for 13 years.
They started acting opposite each other at the Red Stitch Actors Theatre more than two decades ago, sharing a kiss on stage before they got together in real life.
"We've done romantic shows, we've done very adversarial dynamics, at one point he was a tramp and he didn't speak and I basically kidnapped him in some weird show... we've done everything," Kat explains.
"I fancied him as an actor first. He's wonderful. He's very powerful. The last play he did, he was dynamite. I can't imagine being with someone who was a bad actor."
On TV, David played a cop alongside Rodger in The Doctor Blake Mysteries, and has also popped up in Kat's shows Offspring and Mr & Mrs Murder.
Kat met her husband David Whiteley while starring together in a stage production. Getty
"He was the only character that my character Nicola ever took a dislike to, which amused us."
Kat and David's two children, Archie and Gigi, were born while Kat was playing Billie Proudman in Offspring.
She returned to work when Archie was five weeks and Gigi three weeks, bringing them both on set.
"We had babies on set the whole time, and it was very much a family atmosphere," she remembers. "It's a bit of a blur – it's not like I had a lot of sleep – but I was just so happy to be able to do what I loved and have them with me."

She says David has always been "fantastic" with taking on parenting duties.
But sadly, the couple don't have the support network they had when Archie was born.
"In the early days we had both our mums, and unfortunately we lost both of those about five years ago. That obviously had a big impact."
Since becoming a mother, Kat, 48, says she hasn't wanted to take jobs that would take her away from her family. That's meant knocking back some "great opportunities" to work interstate, especially in theatre.
"With them being little, that's not something that I could even consider. When they're little like this, I want to be around."
Motherhood has been an incredible journey for Kat. TV WEEK/Tina Smigielski
Kat's son Archie is now nine, and showing an interest in what his mum does for a living.
"Archie last year wanted to see something, so we had a look at a show I did 15 years ago called Supernova, with Rob Brydon. That was fun."
As for Gigi, who's five, Kat has learnt that she really doesn't care about her mum being on TV.
"I did a little Play School storytime thing, specifically to impress the kids. Gigi was one or two, and she just went, 'No no no!' Could not have been less impressed."
During lockdown, the family found plenty of ways to keep themselves entertained, including baking.
"We were doing it way too many days," Kat explains. "We were going to roll out of lockdown, so we started just doing it on Sundays. And we had movie afternoons on a weekend with popcorn.
Kat will 'never say never' about returning for another season of Offspring. TV WEEK/Tina Smigielski
"We'd all sit down and watch together, the four of us and the cat. And we'd have discos. We'd close all the blinds and load up on sugar and just dance it out.
"You have your good days and your bad days, but I think the kids have handled themselves really well."
Kat is "just so grateful" to be in Australia right now.
But she almost ended up living and working in the States, and she's still open to it.
"I got close a couple of times to seven-year things where you sign your life away, but for whatever reason, they chose someone more famous or whatever.
"I'd never say never. But with a family, I'm too old to be couch-surfing and just lining up. I would have to go over with something."
Something else Kat would "never say never" to: another season of Offspring.
"I loved playing Billie so much. She's so dear to my heart.
"Whether it would happen again, I don't know, but if the call came through, I wouldn't be screening it, I'd pick it up."
Right now, Kat is loving being Liz on Five Bedrooms.

"I love playing a flawed, messed-up but gutsy fortysomething on a show that's brilliantly written. I've said this before, but it's exhausting pretending to be 39 and three-quarters.
"I want to play more flawed, dynamic, full-blooded, real, passionate, messed-up, brave characters.
"We're seeing more and more of it for women and I think we're hungry for it. I'm hungry for it."

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