Home » Noni Hazlehurst says there’s no stopping forward momentum

Noni Hazlehurst says there’s no stopping forward momentum

01 Jul 2018 | BY Shelley Lee - @ShelleyLee_

Noni Interview shot

Two years on from the Logies Hall of Fame acceptance speech that went viral, the fire in Noni Hazlehurt’s belly over intolerance and negativity still burns.

Noni Hazlehurst doesn’t pull punches. She doesn’t need to.

With a career spanning four decades across stage and screen the veteran actor and television presenter was mother to a generation for more than 20 years on Play School and became a part of our homes as host of Better Homes and Gardens.

One of the most recognisable faces in Australian entertainment, her dramatic and comedic chops mean after an initial “That’s Noni” moment, we lose the star in the roles the plays as she allows her characters to shine.

In 2016, Hazlehurst became only the second woman (Ruth Cracknell was the first) to be inducted into the Logies Hall of Fame. She used the platform of her acceptance speech to launch an unapologetic critique of an industry and country lacking in tolerance.

  • Noni in APTCH
  • Noni and Marta in APTCH
  • Noni as Elizabeth in APTCH
(Source: Noni Hazlehurst in A Place to Call Home, on Foxtel)

 

“I fear our hearts are growing cold” she told those in the room and watching the live telecast from The Crown in Melbourne. “The fact that I’m only the second woman to be given this honour is merely a reflection of the prevailing zeitgeist” she said , calling-out out a culture of sexism, racism and negativity in a powerful, uncompromising monologue that went viral.

She did offer a silver lining, “Things are clearly changing, but they are changing glacially slowly, The great thing about glaciers is that if you aren’t riding them you go under”

Kerri-Anne Kennerley joined the Logies Hall of Fame ranks in 2017, and ahead of 2018 ceremony on the Gold Coast , Hazlehurst reflected on what has and hasn’t changed  since her captivating speech two years ago.

“I wasn’t just calling out sexism, the main thrust of it was negativity, bombarding us and particularly our children” she told The FIERCE.

Hazlehurst has long been an advocate for children, raising sons Charlie and William, and her time on Playschool have made her acutely aware of just how fragile our kids are.

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(Thumbnail image source: @realNoniH/Twitter, Noni Hazlehurst and son William)

 

This vulnerability extends to their ability to be moulded by the media, and she has concerns about the way women are represented, the way men behave, and what’s being perceived as being reality  when it clearly is not. Hazlehurst has addressed these issues head-on in her own home “We’ve had a lot of discussions right from the time they were little about how to contextualise. Until a child is five, they don’t know the difference between an ad, the news, or an animation unless someone tells them”.

The 64-year-old is a true matriarch in the Australian entertainment industry – and appropriately has spent the last six years playing another matriarch in Logie Award-winning drama A Place To Call Home (APTCH).

A Place to Call Home Season 6 Trailer

After 5 seasons, Australia’s most loved drama says its FINAL GOODBYE. A Place To Call Home | Season 6 | Premieres 19 August | only on showcase

Posted by A Place To Call Home on Sunday, July 15, 2018

As Elizabeth Bligh, and later Elizabeth Goddard, her character has undergone a massive moral and emotional transformation. The 1950s-set piece providing enough distance for audience comfort while exploring uncomfortable topics like sexism, homophobia, racism and bigotry.

(Thumbnail image source: A Place To Call Home, Foxtel)

 

Hazlehurst knew Elizabeth’s story had further to run when the show was cancelled by Network Seven two seasons in, the following seasons have created for broadcast on Foxtel, after the subscription service brought it back.

They’re about to call wrap on the sixth and final season, and Hazlehurst has mixed emotions about the upcoming finale, “I think it has come to its natural end, which is terrific cause I knew it wasn’t finished. Of course I’m sad to see it go.”

(Thumbnail image source: A Place To Call Home, Foxtel)

 

The ‘family’ of cast and crew, many of whom have been with the show since the beginning will also be dearly missed. She credits their dedication with APTCH’s international success, airing in more than 120 countries.  “They’re very proud of it and they want to stay in Australia telling Australian stories of the highest quality. And we’ve been able to do that, and it’s resonated throughout the world for that precise reason”.

Pragmatically, she adds she’ll also be sad to part with the security of a regular pay cheque “It’s unusual to have six years continuity of work for five, six months of the year” she says. “That’s extraordinary for an actor”.

Not that Hazlehurst is lacking job offers, she’s simply incredibly picky, becoming even more selective as years progress.

“The kinds of stories that we tell have been predominantly male centric” she says, “I had to pay my dues like any young actor, I had to play victims, I had to play bad girls, good girls turned bad. But gradually I guess I’ve become even more choosy than I’ve always been about wanting to promulgate stories that are actually going to have a positive impact, that are going to touch the human spirit”

“It causes you again to reflect on how different things were for women then. If you got married, you couldn’t keep your job in the ’50s.”

We’ll see her on the big screen from October in Ladies in Black,  director Bruce Beresford’s adaption of Madeleine St John’s 1993 novel The Women in Black.

“It’s a beautiful story about some similar themes to “A Place to Call Home”. Sexism, the role of women in the ’50s, in Australia, and about the increased migrant intake and the effect that that was having on this very white-bread country”.

(Thumbnail image source: ‘Ladies in Black’ trailer, Sony Pictures)

 

“It causes you again to reflect on how different things were for women then. If you got married, you couldn’t keep your job in the ’50s.”

Female focused productions like these aren’t just winning audiences, they’re seizing awards. In 2017 Big Little Lies and The Handmaid’s Tale dominated TV categories in Hollywood’s award season.

At tonight’s Logies APTCH is nominated for Most Outstanding Drama, the prize it took home in last year. It sits in a pack alongside other female driven dramas Wentworth and Top of the Lake:China Girl, competing against Harrow and Doctor, Doctor.

noni and marta

(Noni Hazlehurst and A Place to Call Home co-star Marta Dusseldorp)

The shift a welcome one to Hazlehurst “The former perception that any film that just dealt with women, or any television show was just a ‘chick flick’- I think that derogatory phrase is becoming a thing of the past, as is the false perception that stories about women and feelings don’t sell.”

“There have been huge strides made. But the backlash against further strides is ever present. I think we need to just let those who will backlash against us backlash all they like. It’s not going to stop the forward momentum”

She is concerned though, some people are focusing their energies in the post-#MeToo world in the wrong areas. “What upsets me a lot is that so many people spend so much time denigrating other people’s causes instead of working on their own” she explains, in another swing at the negativity and combative discourse bombarding Australians.

Hazlehurst is politically minded and has no qualms voicing her opinions, but a move into the arena of elected official is off the cards. “Absolutely not!” she declares when asked about entering politics, appearing repulsed by the thought.

Reflecting again on her current productions and the predicament of women 60 years ago. she says firmly  “There have been huge strides made. But the backlash against further strides is ever present. I think we need to just let those who will backlash against us backlash all they like. It’s not going to stop the forward momentum”

A Place to Call Home Season 6 will premiere on showcase on Foxtel  Sunday August 19

Seasons 1-5  of A Place to Call Home are available to stream on Foxtel Now.

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