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Interview: Noni Hazlehurst and A New Place To Call Home @NikoleGunn @Foxtel @SoHoTVAU

InterviewsNikole Gunn

Noni Hazlehurst
image - supplied/Foxtel

Channel Seven triggered a social media backlash when, after just two seasons, it decided to axe period drama A PLACE TO CALL HOME.

Furious fans waged a social media war for its return and that lobbying paid off.  In an Australian first, people power won out, with the show thrown a lifeline by Foxtel.

Produced by the Seven network, but financed by Foxtel, A Place to Call Home has been revived for at least two more seasons to be aired on pay TV channel SoHo.

The entire cast, including Brett Climo, Marta Dusseldorp and the Noni Hazlehurst signed up for the resuscitated show.  It premieres this Sunday, September 27th.

Nikole Gunn chatted with Hazlehurst for DeciderTV about the new series, the fan revolt and the need to explore the Australian story.

“It was absolutely the best news any of us had for a long time, I can tell you.  We were sad that the story was curtailed and so were the fans. They were outraged. So, we were thrilled when it was brought back.  Absolutely thrilled”.
“There’s also a real hunger for quality and a hunger for our own history and it’s actually getting generations together. They can watch this show together and talk about what life was like.  It’s a gentle and kind of respectful era, which is certainly in stark contrast to today”.

The show returns this Sunday night and has remarkably kept the same cast and crew.  It’s also maintained the same ‘look’ as the original.

“One of the wonderful things is that all of our heads of department wanted to return. Our cinematographer, the camera operator, the wardrobe department; everyone”.
“They didn’t have to make themselves available, but they did and that really helps with the visual continuity as well as the chemistry on set, which is so very important. It’s so nice to work on something that you can be proud of”.

A Place To Cal Home - cast
Image - supplied/Foxtel

While cast and crew were on board, there was the delicate issue of resolving the story arc from season two.  As it turns out, two different endings were filmed. One to wrap up the show on Seven, the other designed to kick off the series for SoHo.

For Hazlehurst, there was no difficulty in picking up where she left off, finding it very easy to slip back into the Elizabeth Bligh’s shoes.

“When you get to know a character, it’s part of you.  I understand who she is and why she is the way she is.  Then you get the hair, the make up and the wardrobe and there she is; terrifying”.
“She’s an interesting character and I remember my mother was similar in some ways to her too.  And we all have secrets.  We all have layers that we put on.  But Elizabeth is the Mistress of the Layers”.

Whilst A Place To Call Home has been described as a melodrama about love and loss, Hazlehurst is quick to point out that this is no ‘dopey soapie’. There are some scenes that viewers might confronting as 1950s bigotry is played out on the small screen.

“None of us want just want to be in a soapie about characters’ love lives.  It’s really important that the social and political contexts are there to give these people a reason for being they way they are.”
“In those days there were probably people who wouldn’t buy a Japanese car because of the war.  These prejudices are very hard to shake and I think it’s essential that we examine them and it’s exactly what the program does."
“I actually think it’s very interesting to look back and ask ‘is it OK to be a bigot’ and if we’re to compete with the quality programs from all over the world, then we have got to do something serious with some depth with people who are at the top of their game. Again, that’s one of the reasons we’re so proud of it."

Season four has been commissioned and the cast has high hopes for a fifth season of A Place to Call Home.

“I’m hoping Elizabeth might end up, you know, demonstrating against Vietnam by the 60s.  In a wheelchair, she’ll be there.  Anything’s possible."

Season 3 of A Place To Call Home premieres 8.30pm September 27th on SoHo.