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Date with Kate

Date with Kate: Lisa Wilkinson

28th May, 2017

Lisa Wilkinson and I catching up at Bather’s Pavilion in celebration of her 10 year anniversary as co-host of channel 9’s TODAY show

 

Lisa Wilkinson today marks her 10th anniversary as co-host of Channel 9’s Today show. She began her career at Dolly and at 21 she became the magazine’s youngest editor. Kerry Packer appointed her editor of Cleo and she went on to be its international editor-in-chief. Her television career began in the late-’90s as a regular panellist on Ten’s Beauty and the Beast, during the 2000 Sydney Olympics she co-hosted Seven’s The Morning Shift and in 2005 began hosting its Weekend Sunrise. Wilkinson, 57, chatted to me about her biggest highlight, why she almost gave up television and how she defines success.

Congratulations on 10 years with the Today show. What does it feel like to have been in a prominent role on TV for a decade? 

Extraordinary … because at the beginning there I thought, “If I can last six months in this job I’ll be doing well”… So much has happened in 10 years … I mean we’ve just been there with such big stories and against that we have all the fun times and the amazing people that you get to interview. So when I look back over what we’ve covered in 10 years, I’m surprised I’m not exhausted.

What do you love most about your job?

The audience – the feedback that we get, the fact that we’re privileged enough that people actually want to make our show part of their morning; that’s the way that they want to wake up. And that they trust us, they want to have a laugh with us and hopefully we put a skip in their step as they head out to work or send the kids off to school or stay home, or whatever form their day takes. If we can make their start to the day just a little bit better, for me the payback is huge.

Lisa on the Today show. Image source: @lisa_wilkinson

What’s the most challenging aspect of your role? 

The hours, the lack of sleep. I’ve got a sleep debt, but I’ll be a long time paying back to my body!

If you had to pinpoint your biggest highlight in the last 10 years, what would it be? 

Interviewing the entire cast of children from The Sound of Music on their 50th anniversary. It was such a treat because I grew up watching The Sound of Music.

Who do you still hope to interview?

Michelle Obama, closely followed by Barack.

What is it about live TV that really excites you? 

Just the adrenaline rush of having a rough idea what’s coming up next, but invariably things go off the rails, particularly when you’re sitting next to Karl Stefanovic … Some mornings are very challenging, like the one particular morning after the Logies! [Laughs.] Watching it back, I do get offended sometimes when people say that they knew that Karl had had too much drink when he said 76 times that I was beautiful. It was just like, “Thanks a lot, he had to be really drunk to say that.” With Karl and me, we push each other and we know after all this time each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we celebrate them, but we also like to push each other as well. It’s like a marriage.

When something goes wrong live on air, what’s your secret to getting things back on track?

I think, first and foremost, you can’t take yourself too seriously. In the end our viewers will forgive a lot, as long as we’re honest with them, and if things are going wrong, we tell them. We screw up all the time …

Who do you look up to and admire?

I admire so many different women, I mean everyone from Gail Kelly, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett … Ellen DeGeneres, like wow, because she has got such a beautiful heart and the generosity that she imparts daily. I mean the fact that she finishes every show with, “Be kind to each other”, I think says everything about her and it’s such a positive program.

The early covers of Dolly magazine where Lisa’s career began. Image source: @lisa_wilkinson

 

You started your journalistic career in magazines. Did you always know that you would go into TV? 

Not in a million years, I couldn’t have ever imagined that this is where I would end up. In fact, I got that job at Dolly at the age of 19, after answering a three-line ad in the women and girls’ employment section of The Sydney Morning Herald. I still have the ad and remember the exact phone number … It’s the only job I’ve ever applied for.

How did you end up at Cleo?

I was planning to take a trip to Europe for four weeks … It was right then that I got a call from Kerry Packer because he was looking for an editor at Cleo … I just thought, “I’ll go to lunch because he is the legendary Kerry Packer and I just want to be able to one day tell my grandkids, ‘I met the great Kerry Packer and I said ‘no’ to his job offer …’ ”

Did you know he was going to ask you to be the editor of Cleo?

No, he just said, “I really want to meet you” … So I went to the pre-arranged address that his secretary gave me … It was just like this nothing address with no restaurant except for the Channel 9 helicopter, that was sitting there with the blades roaring, and there was Trevor Kennedy, who was Kerry Packer’s right-hand man, ushering me into the helicopter so that we could go up to the Palm Beach and have lunch with Kerry Packer … Needless to say, I was very impressed … He [Packer] just made me so excited about what I was going to be able to do with Cleo. So I was there for 10 years as well.

Having worked at Dolly and Cleo at such young age, what did you learn about yourself?

To listen to your gut instinct … I learnt it’s so important to communicate with the people that you work with and to keep the lines of communication open. For everybody to work together, for everybody to be supportive of each other – and that’s when you get the best out of people – and also being given that extraordinary opportunity at such a young age, I could never understand why I got that, why me.

How do you define success? 

To feel challenged by what I do. To work hard enough that I can feel satisfied that I’ve done a good job, but also to be able to combine that with family and to make sure that the space is there for my kids and for my marriage.

How do you juggle it all?

I’ve always made sure that the kids have been very involved, particularly during the last 10 years, that they’re comfortable with the hours that I’m doing and the ways in which it can impact their lives at times, when they really want me to be at a play performance or parent-teacher night or whatever things come along … I have to be honest, I’ve missed a few. Not a lot, but I’ve missed a few … Every time my contract has come up, it has been a big family meeting about checking in and making sure that no one feels like they’re missing out. There was one time there where I thought, “I think this is impacting too much on the family,” and Pete was doing breakfast radio at that time, but he volunteered to stop doing the same hours … There was a time a couple of years ago where I thought, “I’m not sure that I can keep doing these hours and everyone is going to be OK”, so … I said to the kids, “How would you feel if I gave up the Today show?” There was just like this resounding, “No, you can’t. No, Mum.”

Lisa and her husband Pete. Image source: @lisa_wilkinson

Being married to Peter FitzSimons – a fellow journalist – you must be a great support to one another? 

Pete and I never get enough time together and we just have such common interests …  It’s lovely being married to somebody whose work you’re really incredibly proud of because his main gig now is writing books and so it’s lovely that every six months or so he is onto a new project. I’m always fascinated by the work he is doing and he is probably the most enthusiastic viewer the Today show has … The phone in my dressing room goes at 10 past 9 every day, it’s always Pete, who gives me a critique of what he has seen, and he asks me how the ratings are.

Will your children follow in both your and Peter’s footsteps? 

Well, we’ve got two that are heading for journalism … Our oldest son, Jake, has very strong opinions on things and he challenges us because Pete and I aren’t peas in a pod when it comes to our views on things, and so to now have a third one …

What do you do in your time off when you’re not working?

We’re just about to start some renovations at the house. I think, if I come back, next time around I think I will be an architect … I’m really passionate about photography as well. So they’re kind of the two things that really spark me up.

BITESIZE

We went to Bathers Pavilion, Balmoral Beach

We ate Scones with cream and jam; biscotti

We drank Earl Grey tea and cappuccino

Lisa wore Vitteroy trench

Kate wore Christopher Esber

Photography James Brickwood.

Date with Kate

Date with Kate: Nicole da Silva

7th May, 2017

Nicole da Silva and I at Eastside Grill, Chippendale

 

Nicole da Silva is an Australian actor who began on All Saints and now has an international cult following for her role as Franky Doyle in Wentworth, earning her a nomination for most outstanding new talent at last month’s Logies. Da Silva, 35, talks to me about losing her anonymity, the strangest place she has been recognised and the TV shows she is binge watching herself.

What is a day in the life of you? 

If I’m not working I like to get out and do some meditation and do some exercise … I’m [also] working on a few of my own projects.

Where are you based now? 

I’ve just come back from LA and am looking forward to settling down in Sydney for a while.

What has been the most demanding role you have ever played?

I would have to say Franky in Wentworth. [The show] just requires so much of us and all of the time. It requires a complete ability to go to the nth degree. We need to be so primal and vulnerable and there is no room for sidestepping around it.

What is it like to be part of the Wentworth phenomenon?

It is pretty huge, crazy and unexpected. Our fans are so loyal and dedicated to the show… They are constantly in contact.

What did you think when you first read the script?

I was really excited about Franky Doyle … I was excited about who she was and what was going on for her. I really connected with her, she was so strong on the outside but really quite vulnerable to what was going on in her life. It was a gift to bring [her] to life.

How do you prepare for role? 

I started training like she would train: I wanted to physically look really wiry and competitive. For the actual audition, I dressed down in a really ratty singlet. I covered my arms and neck in tattoos.

What is it like to be recognised around the world?

It is great and it has taken some getting used to. It is on Netflix now, so more and more people are catching wind of it. I don’t know how I feel about losing my anonymity, but it is just part of the package.

What is like to transfer from a dark character like Franky Doyle in Wentworth to Charlie in Doctor Doctor?

It was a relief, actually. It is so taxing to maintain that level of intensity required for Wentworth.

Is it hard to get out of character when you leave the set and go home? 

In my mind, I think I have quite a good grasp on it. I guess my family would have a different take on it. They would say I have a tendency to stay in that dark world during the period of shooting. Not to any extreme degree, but it is hard to shake it off after a full day.

How did you get into the industry? 

I graduated from drama school and started teaching speech and drama. I was going to a few auditions and the first gig I got was a semi-regular role on All Saints as an ambulance driver.

What was the best thing you learnt from All Saints? 

To not project my voice [laughs]. I had trained in theatre and it was all about expressing with your body and voice. However, on camera it is such an intimate medium with the camera only one metre away.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

The world can knock you down seven times, but you get back up eight.

If you hadn’t gone down the acting path, what would you have done? 

I don’t think there was any other path for me. I considered being an architect as I was really interested in building houses … It always came back to acting for me, though.

What would be your dream role? 

I’d love to do an action trilogy … maybe bring back Lara Croft.

What is next for you?

We are shooting season two of Doctor Doctor in a few weeks and I’m working on a few projects at the moment, too, which I have to keep under wraps.

Who do you look up to?

I like a lot of the unsung heroes of our industry. I think there is something really valid about an actor keeping some mystery to their life.

Is that something you consciously do?

Absolutely. I would hate people not to be able to engage with the story because of things they think they know about me.

What do you do for fun when you are not working?

I chill out. When I am working it is so intense and it requires every part of your life. I am really low-key. I binge watch television, I go for walks and do yoga.

What shows do you binge watch?

The Fall … Unreal … and The Night Of.

Have you noticed that TV has changed during your career?

When I was growing up, film was the pinnacle of storytelling. Now I feel we have moved into an age where television is the best way to tell a story over 10 episodes and five seasons. People really absorb themselves into the characters and we didn’t have that when I was growing up.

Have you noticed people are so invested in the characters? 

I get asked a lot if I have read Wentworth fan fiction… It is fiction about the characters which the fans write. There are whole online communities of our fans writing …

Where is the strangest place you have been recognised?

In bathrooms I find it confronting. I was in a supermarket in LA and I was asking for toilet paper because I couldn’t find where it was. She was like “Franky!?” so we had a photo in front of the toilet paper [laughs].

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Hopefully producing my own work in Australia … There is something really special about coming home and working here.

Do you prefer TV or theatre? 

I think in a lot of ways I prefer film. I prefer working with the camera in that respect and I know that is where I am right now. Theatre is so great as it requires a real physical and mental rigour; you rehearse and then open the show and still have five weeks of season to go. You really need to find the freshness each night … My preference is always shifting based on where I’m at.

BITE SIZE

Location: Eastside Grill in Chippendale

We drank: Eastside Bramble mocktail and Passionfruit & Lemonade mocktail

We ate: Mixed breads; Sustainable Tuna Poke with cucumber relish; Berkshire Pork Skewers with Rum Pickle Back; Salad of Autumn vegetables with Buffalo Mozzarella, Fig and Black garlic pesto.

Nicole wore: Kaliver dress, Samantha Wills Jewels, NineWest heels

Kate Wore: A TOME shirt and jeans.

Photo: Fairfax

Date with Kate

Date with Kate: Sally Obermeder

30th April, 2017

Sally Obermeder and I catching up at Mr G’s

 

Television host, lifestyle blogger and cancer survivor Sally Obermeder welcomed her second child, Elyssa Rose, via surrogacy last December. Obermeder had been diagnosed with cancer during her pregnancy with her first child, Annabelle, and began chemotherapy after the 2012 birth, later learning she wouldn’t be able to safely have another child. Obermeder, 43, talks to me about her surrogacy journey and Australian attitudes around it, the thrill of live TV, and her new range of frozen smoothies.

Do you love being a mum the second time around? 

It’s so different this time. I said to [husband] Marcus, “I can’t remember Annabelle smiling, I can’t remember this, I can’t remember that” … It was so tough at that time with Annabelle. It’s almost like this is, not like becoming a mum for the first time, but this experience, this new-born experience, is my first experience of it in this way and it is heavenly.

What was your surrogacy journey like? 

It was really good. Rachel [the surrogate mother, who lives in the US] is amazing. I still speak to her all the time … I think we’ll have a very tight bond for life.

Sally with her two daughters, Annabelle and Elyssa. Photo: @sallyobermeder

 

Will [Rachel] be involved in your life going forward?

Yeah I think so. We FaceTime all the time … it feels very natural. It’s just like sending photos of your kids to your friends.

What were the biggest challenges you faced during your surrogacy journey? 

A long distance is definitely hard because you’re not going to the appointments, you can’t physically. I would get up at 2am to be on a call when she was at an ultrasound or whatever … I think it’s also a challenge with Annabelle, because even though we talked about the pregnancy all the time and that her sibling was coming, for her it wasn’t in her face every day … And then suddenly you take her overseas, you’re like, “Bang, here’s the baby.” She’s like, “What?”

How is Annabelle [aged five] adjusting to being a big sister to Elyssa? 

She is a lot better now … I think she [initially] thought she was getting a sibling she could play with [right away], so she was not happy at all … With Elyssa, I see how her face lights up when Annabelle looks at her. It is amazing to see that bond that is already there…

What advice would you give to someone going down the surrogacy path? 

I’d definitely say, “Do it … If you can afford to do it and you want to do it, do it.” I have not one bad thing to say about the experience.

What attitudes did you experience in response to surrogacy? 

I think people are really blown away, obviously, by Rachel’s kindness … You will always get people who say things like, “Oh, you just went and bought a baby” … There’s nothing you can do about it. For us and for our family, this is like an amazing dream come true … If I could have adopted, I would have, but … adoption laws need to change because they’re so backward. Surrogacy laws need to change, they are just as backward …  I would like to see it become legal and I would like to see paid surrogacy become legal.

Where do you see yourselves in five years’ time? 

I don’t know, I think I’m still so obsessed with having a baby. I said to Marcus today, “I could have another one.” He was like, “Are you mental?”

Congratulations on your new frozen smoothie range, Super Green Smoothies. 

We’ve been working on that for about three years now … I had been doing smoothies for ages, and to really do them well, in a sense that you’re being efficient with your time and with your money, you need a prep day … I had this light bulb [moment]: I was like … why can’t you just buy it ready done? And then you can just add the liquid, like I would at home … We really agonised over making sure that everything is in there that you need, so that you’ve got this great big shot of health.

How do you juggle it all? 

There just always is someone unhappy. If you’re spending lots of time at home, then someone at work is unhappy. If you’re spending too much time at work, then someone at home is unhappy. And it’s very hard. For a long time, I drove myself crazy trying to make this perfect set routine … Now I’m like, “Oh, I give up” .. I really just roll with each day as best I can …

When do you head back to work [on Channel 7’s afternoon show The Daily Edition]? 

I go back at the end of August … I popped in a couple of weeks ago to introduce Elyssa to the team … The adrenaline rush comes back and it’s funny … that buzz of live TV, there’s nothing like it.

What do you love most about live TV? 

It’s not pre-recorded, and then if something happens, it’s just on. It’s unfolding as you speak … You realise there’s more to the world than the small little bubble that you live in, and that’s actually really quite exciting … To be a part of it and to be able to share it, it’s amazing.

What has been your biggest pinch-me moment in your TV career? 

In terms of celebs, definitely I would say Jon Bon Jovi, just because it’s like that was the era that I grew up in. I went to every Bon Jovi concert. The whole time the 13-year-old in me was like, “I cannot believe that this is happening”.

BITESIZE

We went to Mr G’s, Intercontinental Hotel Double Bay

We ate Fish Tacos with kingfish tartare, finger lime & flying fish roe; King Crab Sliders with Alaskan king crab, cucumber, celery & lemon aioli; French Beans with smoked bacon & herbs; BBQ Creamed Corn

We drank Still mineral water

Sally wore vintage Levis and a Swiish choker knit

Kate wore Skins and Threads