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EXCLUSIVE: Georgie Parker looks back on living a double life at the height of her TV fame: “I had to rethink my whole career”

''The struggle I had was that I’d never chased that kind of success.''
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There was plenty to be excited about at the TV WEEK Logie Awards in 2001. The red carpet at Crown Towers in Melbourne greeted some of the biggest names in Australian television, all ready to celebrate a thriving industry.

The excitement was palpable as international stars, including Ricky Martin, flew in for the big night.

Often referred to as the “golden era” of Australian drama, the likes of Blue Heelers, SeaChange and newcomer The Secret Life Of Us were dominating screens. Then, there was All Saints.

Georgie is one of Australia’s most recognisable actresses.

(Image: TV WEEK)

The medical drama, which launched in 1998 with an average audience of 1.3 million, had established itself as “the show to watch”, and Georgie Parker, who played nurse Terri Sullivan, was thrust into the spotlight.

Audiences couldn’t get enough of the on-off romance between Terri and Mitch, played by Erik Thomson.

In 2001, Georgie was nominated for – and won – the TV WEEK Gold Logie Award For Most Popular Personality On Australian Television. She repeated her success the following year.

Despite the acclaim, Georgie didn’t exactly have her eye on the prize that night. As she accepted her award, her mind wandered to her seven-month-old daughter Holly.

She was thrilled to win, but admits she felt the burden of juggling her career with being a first-time mum.

In 2001, Georgie won the TV WEEK Gold Logie Award For Most Popular Personality On Australian Television.

(Image: Supplied)

“I got married [in 1999, to writer Steve Worland] and had just become a mum when I won the first Gold Logie,” Georgie, 57, tells TV WEEK days from the 20th anniversary of her consecutive Logies wins.

“I was split between a lot of things – it was a very stressful time, while also being a very stimulating time.

“The struggle I had was that I’d never chased that kind of success, so when I got it, I was doing it more because I wanted the show to succeed.

“It [the success] also pivoted around my character, so I felt responsible. If that meant I had to put myself out there, then I had to do it.”

Georgie returned to the set of All Saints when her daughter Holly was just 17 weeks old.

(Image: Seven)

The actress, who returned to the set of All Saints when Holly was 17 weeks old, juggled her days like two spinning plates.

“It was wrenching, but I knew what I’d signed on for,” she says of the separation.

“It was really hard having a newborn and going to work for 13 hours a day. Then, in your spare time, you had publicity and photo shoots.

“But the network [Channel Seven] made it as easy as they could – it was a gift. Holly came to set sometimes. It helped me mentally with such enormous separation.”

Now all grown up, Holly, 22, is pursuing her own path as an artist.

“You can’t rest on your laurels because you had a good day or you’ve won an award.”

(Image: TV WEEK)

“Since she was little, our conversations have always been around how you make a creative life work. It’s always been a given that it’s a tough life and, if you choose it, you have to commit to it. She’s incredibly talented,” Georgie says.

Despite decades of experience and many accolades, the actress is still eager to learn.

Her childhood, background in theatre and former life as a dancer taught her the rewards of hard work. Her own gift to the audience is her performance. In return, she continues to do a job she loves.

“I’ve always been of the mind that you’re always a student, in many ways,” she says.

“You can’t rest on your laurels because you had a good day or you’ve won an award – you have to go back to the beginning and do the work.

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“When I became successful on TV, I had to rethink everything, because it wasn’t part of my plan. I just wanted to work. Being recognised was a bit of an obstacle, actually.”

To keep a distance between her professional and private life, Georgie chose to keep her family out of the media. It proved to be a “saving grace” as she adapted to being a public figure.

“When you’re in the viewers’ loungeroom, there’s a sense of ownership of your character,” she says.

“People call you your character’s name and there’s no division between you and the part. It’s more confronting [than theatre] and no-﷯one prepares you for success – you have to figure that s**t﷯ out on your own. [Laughs].

Georgie starred as Lucy Gardiner in A Country Practice.

(Image: Seven)

“I had to learn how to be gracious while creating some gentle boundaries. I’m lucky that I play characters people have felt a kinship with.”

That kinship is now stronger than ever thanks to her current role as Roo Stewart in Home And Away.

Roo, who she’s played since 2010, is the beating heart of the Stewart household, which includes Ray Meagher as her father Alf, and Belinda Giblin as her mother Martha. The trio have chemistry both on and off screen.

“They’re only just a generation older than me, but we all speak the same language and approach work the same way,” Georgie says.

“I love spending time with them. I’m spoiled to work with such established actors,” Georgie says of her Home and Away role.

(Image: Instagram)

“I love spending time with them. I’m spoiled to work with such established actors.”

Although, she jokingly adds, her character could use a nudge of independence.

“I’ll be 60 in three years, and Roo still follows her parents around everywhere!” she says with a laugh. “Will she ever do her own thing? Apart from the seriousness of the storylines, it’s rather funny.”

With a long list of roles, Georgie is often recognised for her work. But her time in Summer Bay might have a slight edge with fans.

“I get called Roo on the street a lot more than Terri,” she says. “But it depends on what people know you from – some people know me from Play School!”

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