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TV

Noni Hazlehurst's proudest career moments

Noni looks back on life as an up-and-coming star in the 1970s.

By Stephen Downie and Helen Vnuk
When TV veteran Noni Hazlehurst’s career began, back in the early 1970s, colour TV hadn’t even come to Australia yet. Television was a little misunderstood, and attitudes more old-fashioned.
“I remember the day after I gave birth in The Sullivans, I was at the supermarket after it had been on air,” the 64-year-old says. “A man came up and berated me for not being with my child. He said, ‘You should be home with the baby.’”
The bonds formed making that show and other 1970s dramas like The Box and The Ernie Sigley Show were strong. Noni has stayed close to many of her castmates from The Sullivans, including Michael Caton (The Castle and Packed To The Rafters), Maggie Dence (Neighbours and Prisoner) and Andrew McFarlane (Glitch and Cleverman).
Noni as Elizabeth in A Place To Call Home
“I think a successful show always makes people feel far more bonded than if you’re in a stinker,” she says.
Noni is more proud of her 24 years as a Play School presenter than anything else she’s done in her career. That became clear when she delivered her Logies Hall Of Fame acceptance speech in 2016.
“It was the basis of my Logies speech, really, that we need to be mindful that this period is utterly crucial in a child’s development,” she says.
But Noni admits that when she first tried out for the show, she wasn’t really thinking about the young viewers.
“My mother rang me and said, ‘You should audition for Play School so you can show producers watching it with their kids that you can sing and do funny accents,’” she remembers.
One of Noni’s most memorable drama roles was the tough-as-nails Bernice Waverley in City Homicide. But she reveals she almost didn’t get cast because of her age.
Flashback to when Noni was on Play School!
“I was initially approached to be in the pilot, but then didn’t hear about it for a while,” she explains. “I asked my agent, and she said, ‘They think you’re too old.’
“I said, ‘Fine, OK.’ But they did make a pilot, and came back and said, ‘We’ve reconsidered – would you consider it?’
I found out it was because they needed someone who could boss Shane Bourne [who played Detective Senior Sergeant Stan Wolfe] around convincingly!”
A decade after nearly missing out on City Homicide, Noni seems to be popping up everywhere. “A female Shane Jacobson” is how she describes herself, with another laugh.As well as continuing to star in A Place To Call Home, Noni has been in new ABC comedy series The Letdown. She’s also been shooting the Bruce Beresford-directed movie Ladies In Black, alongside Rachael Taylor and Julia Ormond.
“I’m delighted to be offered all these different things,” she says. “It’s exciting.”
To read the full story, pick up the latest issue of TV WEEK.

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