I am what I am – Sun Herald

Sunday Life
Nadine Garner
Interview Paul Connolly
2 August 2009
Sun Herald

I am what I am

the city homicide actor remembers early screen roles with kylie and life as a cabaret chorus girl.

1. baby makes five

In 1976 we adopted our little sister Mitali from Bangladesh and, because it was a big deal in those days, we were interviewed by The Age. This photo, or one similar, appeared on the front page. I was five at the time [Garner is pictured at left] and my sister Kerryn [at rear] wasn’t much older, but I think the move to adopt came through my parents’ strong sense of social responsibility. They felt they had enough means to care for another child and Bangladesh was very much in the zeitgeist at that time. Mitali is the glue in the family now.

2. one of the kids

I had a standard upbringing in Knoxfield, Melbourne. But that got very un-standard when my parents separated. Strangely, it coincided with me starting work in TV, on The Henderson Kids. It wasn’t the best timing because I didn’t deal with what was going on in my family. But, over the show’s two series in the mid-1980s, I threw myself into this other family, the cast and crew of the show. I took refuge there and developed strong friendships with people much older than myself. They were the most significant years of my life. This photo is on the set of the show; I’m 14. That’s Ben Mendelsohn and, in the background, Kylie Minogue. Kylie was two-and-a-half years older than me and was incredibly influential. She was worldly and had a great sense of herself. We were very close. Ben was also the first real love of my life. We didn’t have a relationship at that stage but down the track and into my early 20s we did develop one. I remember when the first season of The Henderson Kids finished and I had to go back to reality – to home and school – I was devastated. It had opened doors and solved so many problems.

3. life was a cabaret

When I was five I started calisthenics and was soon taking dance and singing lessons. Musical theatre was my original aim. In 2002 I was cast in the musical Cabaret, which toured the country. I was a down-and-out hooker – a great character role – but I also got to do all the numbers with the chorus.

It was probably the hardest but most rewarding job I’ve ever done. This is me [second from right] with the cast in 2003. They were the most inspiring, talented bunch.

4. we are family

At the time of Cabaret, when I was 32, I was living with someone. Touring with the show was the catalyst for me to end that relationship and assess who I was and what I wanted. Shortly afterwards I reconnected with Cameron [Barnett], whom I’d met years earlier and been in sporadic contact with since. As a couple it had never been the right time for us but suddenly it was. We got married and two months later I was pregnant. Our son Edan was born in 2006. Jem was born earlier this year; they had to disguise my pregnancy on City Homicide. I was back at work six weeks after he was born, still breastfeeding, because I’d been offered a role on a film called King, set in Melbourne. At one point I was going off to the set with him in the car at 5.30am. Somehow the film got made, Jem is thriving and we’ve settled into a good family routine. We’ll remember 2009 as a big year.

5. absolutely fabulous

In 2007, with my son, Edan, I caught up with Joanna Lumley at her London home. I’d worked with her in 1993 and 1994 on the comedy series Class Act. I’ve made a point of keeping in touch. She’s poised, funny and the most compassionate, intelligent being I’ve ever met. She’s made such an impression on me on how to treat people and present oneself professionally.

City Homicide returns to the Seven Network on August 10.

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