Real Life

Iconic Blue Heelers star John Wood makes a very special return to the limelight for his beloved character

25 years ago, John Wood's character, Tom Croydon, from Blue Heelers was a household name. Today, he still holds a warm spot in Aussie's hearts.

By Mitchell Jordan
For 12 years, John Wood was a household name on the iconic Aussie crime show, Blue Heelers.
Now, he's written a memoir and shares with Take 5 his fondest memories of his beloved character, Sergeant Tom Croydon, and co-star Lisa McCune.

Below, John Wood shares his story;

As I sat down to speak with the police sergeant, I was taken aback by how stylish his office was.
French impressionist paintings hung from the walls and a cow skin rug was placed over the floor.
It felt so homely here. This wasn't how I imagined a police station to be.
After a successful audition, I'd just landed the role of Tom Croydon in a new police drama, Blue Heelers, and had come to speak with this man at the Healesville station in Victoria to gain an insight into what life was like for a cop.
The sergeant cleared his voice and began to speak.
"I don't treat people like criminals, but rather like locals I know who are in a bit of trouble," he explained.
"I'm here to try and help them out of it."
Hearing his philosophy made me think about how my character Tom, a well-respected senior officer at Mount Thomas's police station, would share a similar view.
My first acting headshot. (Image: Supplied)
Prior to landing this role, I'd spent three years playing magistrate, Michael Rafferty, on the TV series, Rafferty's Rules.
Some thought I'd be too well-known as that character to play such a different one, but I believed that if an actor did their job, anything was possible.
After reading the scripts for Blue Heelers and learning more about its premise, I felt quite an affinity with Tom.
I was brought up in the Melbourne suburb of Croydon and my father, grandfather and father-in-law were all named Tom.
Call me a little superstitious, but I believed that the character was mine.
Lisa McCune, a young actor best known for her appearance on a Coles ad, had been cast as the lead character of Constable Maggie Doyle.
In our first meeting, Hal McElroy, the show's creator asked me to share any advice I had for Lisa and my co-stars.
"Always look after the guest artists," I told them. "Without them, there would be no story, and no show."
Lisa and the other actors were incredibly professional – it didn't surprise me when ratings for the show went through the roof.
Me with the cast of Rafferty's Rules. (Image: Supplied)
At the time, Victoria Police's reputation was at a very low point – there'd been a high number of police shootings but Blue Heelers helped to restore faith in the force.
Many wonderful police advisors helped us in our roles and some of their stories were remarkable.
One officer told me about a time that a woman had chopped her lover to death, then cut off his penis and thrown it out the window.
That officer had to spend his shift guarding the body part from a kookaburra!
Shooting the show was lots of work: we filmed 42 episodes a year, each with 50 to 60 scenes in them, but I wasn't complaining.
As a dad, it was great to have a steady income to provide for my family.
At the height of Blue Heelers' popularity, we were invited to do a promotional tour in the UK.
My wife, Leslie, accompanied me, while Lisa took her partner at the time.
As we wandered through London's West End and went out to see musicals, I realised just how close Lisa and I had become – the cast and crew really felt like family to me.
The Blue Heelers cast were like family. (Image: Supplied)
There, Lisa and I were invited onto a breakfast TV program watched by 11 million people – it was hard to imagine just how far I'd come from a high school drop-out whose first job was as a brickie!
When Lisa left the show after six years, people were devastated – Maggie was killed off, and many viewers felt like they'd lost a friend.
Lisa is a real talent – she has a beautiful soprano voice and I was thrilled to see her later wow audiences on stage in The Sound of Music and South Pacific.
But by 2005, ratings for Blue Heelers were going down and the show was cancelled abruptly, leaving a lot of loose ends.
Ironically, I later won a Gold Logie after 10 years of being nominated.
The moment was bittersweet for me: I'd achieved the highest acting honour in Australia, but in a few weeks, Blue Heelers would be over forever.
Looking back, I can see why everyone loved the show – and my character – so much.
It would be hard to hate Tom: he was pretty much the bedrock of Mount Thomas and represented a certain kind of bloke who really epitomises the best of the Australian character.
He was ordinary but extraordinarily decent and dedicated to doing the right thing.
Lisa McCune and me at the Logies. (Image: Getty)
Even now, 25 years later, people still recognise me.
I'm often asked if there will ever be a reboot, and while I've thought about it, I suspect the show has had its day.
The only way it could work is to bring in a whole new generation of coppers: Tom would have retired by now, though there's a chance Julie could still be running the pub.
I've recently published my memoir, which shares my stories of half a century as a professional actor.
These days, I'm busy with theatre and am writing a play based on some of the stories police officers told me.
Acting has given me an amazing life.
It was a pleasure to be part of something that meant so much to Australian audiences.
How I Clawed My Way To The Middle by John Wood (Viking) is out now.

read more from