Listen: Actor Kerry Armstrong chats to Katrina Roe
When the final episode of SeaChange aired on Australian TV screens on November 25, 2000, it left a large hole in the hearts of millions of doting fans.
The quirky ABC TV drama starred Sigrid Thornton as lawyer Laura Gibson who moves to Pearl Bay for a quieter life, and John Howard and Kerry Armstrong as the town Mayor and his loyal but nervous wife. SeaChange lasted only 18 months on our screens, yet it made an indelible mark as the nation’s top-ranking show at the time, and left audiences wanting more.
Now, 19 years later, Laura’s back in Pearl Bay to see her daughter, and the show has made a surprise return on the Nine Network.
A Character Frozen in Time
In an interview with Hope 103.2’s Katrina Roe, ‘Heather Jelly’ actor Kerry Armstrong said she took a little convincing at first about the idea of returning to her beloved character; did she really want to go back to those short 90s office dresses? But once she’d opted in, she insisted her character should not change her fashion sense.
“Hair and makeup and wardrobe at first were wanting to push Heather forward and make her modern, and I said, ‘I honestly believe she’ll be frozen in time’,” Kerry said.
“You know those women who just have a look and it never goes away? That was kind of interesting to be brave enough, as they do in American soaps, [to] never change. In Friends, Elaine never changes.
Imagine Elaine or Jerry Seinfeld or Chandler or any of the ‘friends’ ever modernising. We have a habit in Australia of making people grow and I actually like the thing of arrested development. So for me it was really good to see what happens when you get frozen in a look.
“My job for women is to be daring enough, for all of us to be ourselves and not judge. That’s what I want to do.” ~ Kerry Armstrong
“I remember the producer once saying ‘Kerry darling, can you take less time in the makeup chair? You’re taking forever!’ And I said ‘I’m not taking forever, I don’t wear makeup, but Heather Jelly takes forever’.
“My job for women is to be daring enough, for all of us to be ourselves and not judge. That’s what I want to do. For Heather, let her be. “We want to modernise, her we want her to get more courage, but try as hard as she will, she has a heart of gold but not much self-esteem.”
A More Multicultural Cast
The 2019 season of the show features a lot of newcomers including indigenous, Indian and Maori actors, which Armstrong said she is grateful for: “We’re more colourful. We’re less, I guess, ‘bleached’.”
Many of SeaChange’s early stars went on to become Australian screen royalty, including Sigrid Thornton, David Wenham, John Howard, William McInnes and Shaun Micallef. While not all their characters are back for 2019, to the delight of many fans, town Mayor and Heather’s husband Bob Jelly (played by John Howard) is.
“John Howard and I are so in love with Bob and Heather,” Armstrong said of her co-star.
“We tend to trust each other instinctually, and I never know what he’s going to do, and he never knows what I’m going to do, and that in itself creates havoc and laughter.”