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TV

EXCLUSIVE: The one thing Noni Hazlehurst is asked everyday by strangers

"It's a daily occurrence," the iconic Aussie star revealed.

By Rebecca Sullivan
Noni Hazlehurst long ago cemented her status as a Serious Actress (caps intended), but there's one role from her 50-year career that is so memorable to Australian viewers, that she's approached in the street and asked about it almost everyday by strangers.
The 65-year-old was a presenter on the ABC's iconic children's show Play School for 24 years from 1978 to 2001, so for "just about every day of my life" there's a happy encounter with a nostalgic Play School viewer who cherishes their memories of Noni from childhood.
"Play School reached such a wide demographic and touched so many generations," Noni told Now To Love.
"Many of the children who watched over me over that 24 year period are now parents themselves, so that's a daily occurrence," she says of fans approaching her in public.
While Noni is enjoying a long and award-winning career in film and TV - she hosted Better Homes and Gardens for 10 years and her performance as the uptight matriarch Elizabeth Blight on 1950s Aussie drama A Place To Call Home has earned her a cult following - it's her time on Play School that she is particularly proud of.
"I'm very proud of Play School and it taught me such a lot. If you can hold the attention of a three year old for 30 minutes, adults are a pushover!" Noni joked.
"Preschool children demand authenticity and demand you actively engage with them and that's one of the strengths of the show."
A young Noni pictured with Humpty Dumpty, one of Play School's recurring characters. ABC
Noni presented on Play School for 24 years. ABC
As one of Australia's longest-serving actors, Noni has been around long enough to see the entertainment industry adopt some much-needed progressiveness, including offering women meatier, more substantial roles and ensuring everyone is treated appropriately on sets.
While she won't elaborate on the specifics, Noni says she has directly experienced the sexism and misogyny that sadly we know comes with being a woman in film and TV.
"I think most women have been through what I've been through," she said.
And although the #MeToo movement has has some rumblings in Australia, with the accusations against Burke and Craig McLachlan exposed last year, Noni believes we have a long way to go.
"There is positive movement in the right direction to equality, but there's also been a savage and viscous backlash. It's one step forward, two steps back," she said.
"I was a feminist in the 70s and the mere fact that the world feminist has negative connotations for so many people is ridiculous, because to me it just means equality. I don't know why people are so threatened by the fact that women want to be treated equally."
Noni brings her own clothes to magazine photoshoots. Getty
One of the many reasons why Noni is so popular is that she describes herself as "ordinary" and "normal" - and completely walks the walk.
She's very open about her dislike of the trimmings that come with being an actor - the promo photo shoots, the red carpets and the smiling on cue.
"I'm very uncomfortable with it, because it perpetuates the myth that we think we're special," Noni said.
"Most serious actors find it quite difficult, because it's not you. It's borrowed makeup, borrowed hair and borrowed jewellery and clothes and so you aren't presenting yourself. I'm not at ease with it."
The actor famously brings her own clothes to photo shoots and keeps her look simple and low-key when on the red carpet promoting her work.
"Maybe eventually I'll turn up in my tracky dacks and sand shoes!" she joked of frocking up for the red carpet.
Noni on the red carpet at the Helpmann Awards. Getty
Fans of Noni's will be pleased to know she is back on our screens for the next few weeks as host of SBS' new documentary series Every Family Has A Secret.
The three-part series follows six Australians as they discover the truth about their family's past and confront the secrets that have shaped them.
These ordinary Australians search for real, hard truths about their parents, however confronting, and intimate secrets are unearthed, estranged family members are reunited and lives are forever changed.
Watch the Every Family Has A Secret trailer below.
Every Family has a Secret will air on Tuesday nights at 7.30pm on SBS for the next three weeks.

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