Striking a bullet-proof balance (The Courier Mail – 18 November 2009)

‘You have a baby and your heart is kind of broken forever’

THE gritty, blood-splattered, bullet-ridden crime show City Homicide is not the sort of television fodder that would be considered baby-friendly but that’s where the conversation heads with two of the show’s stars this week.

Nadine Garner plays the savvy and ambitious Detective Jennifer Mapplethorpe on the popular series, while Kate Kendall guest stars this week as Jacinta Hansard, a woman who’s subjected to extreme violence and struggles to come to terms with events leading to the death of her husband.

Both actors are relieved to move away from the intensity of filming those roles for a moment to talk about the intensity of their real lives, juggling careers and motherhood.

Garner has two boys, a seven-month-old, Jem, and a four-year-old, Edan, while Kendall also has a baby boy, Darcy, whom she had on set with her while filming her City Homicide part earlier this year.

“This role took an awful lot out of me because I was breastfeeding Darcy at the time so I had a machine (pump) in there in the breaks, having to express,” Kendall says.

Garner also regularly brought Jem along to the set and had a babysitter on hand but admits finding time to be with her boys while filming can be difficult.

“The two boys are fantastic but it is stressful and some days are harder than others,” she says of getting the balance right.

“It’s not forever though. So you think, you work when you’re working and enjoy it because it is not going to be forever. There’s a time to knuckle down and work and a time to be home with the kids.

“You go through different chapters of your life, you re-address the balance at some point down the track but certainly when you’re working these hours it’s very hard to find any kind of balance. It is kind of confusing for them too, because we don’t have a really dead-set routine. Sometimes I’m home in the morning, sometimes I’m not there.

“They don’t really get their head around it yet. It is hard to explain why my hours are so strange. It’s all a bit abstract (to them).”

Kendall says having her bub around helped with the stresses of working.

“Without sounding too over the top, you have a baby and your heart is kind of broken forever,” says the actor who is probably best known as Angie Piper in the undercover cop drama Stingers.

“It feels like something has really shifted and so when you go home from work to this beautiful little thing after playing the mother of a boy who has been exposed to awful violence, everything (emotion) becomes far closer to the bone. I found it exhausting.”

The pregnancy had come as a surprise, though Kendall, 35, said she and husband, former Carlton football champion Wayne Johnston, had planned to have a family at some point.

Johnston has four children, Marc, Tomi, Elli and Clay, from his first marriage. He lost a son, Matt, to an asthma attack in 1999. He married Kendall in 2004.

While Darcy has proven to be an easy-going baby, his birth was difficult.

Two weeks overdue, he was induced, weighing almost 4.5kg.

“I had a traumatic birth . . . I’m sure Darcy would still be in there now if he had his way,” Kendall says with a smile that belies the turmoil she endured.

“He was a very big baby at two weeks overdue.

“You are so out of it. If no one had taken photos, I wouldn’t remember a lot because I have wiped out chunks of it (birth experience) emotionally because it was so full-on. I was exhausted and in hospital for a week after having him. Then there’s the whole sleep thing.

“It’s such a freak out, and wonderful, but it was pretty intense coming home and not being able to move that well. You just get down and do it.”

Meanwhile Garner and husband Cameron Barnett say keeping up with two boys can be exhausting.

“I’m either at work or at home bathing, feeding or lying down myself. I literally have no leisure time. In fact, it is a point of contention at the moment,” she says.

“I talk about it a lot, not just with people here but with a lot of my female friends, who are mothers and workers. You just lament the fact that there’s no downtime. You finish and clock off here, and you clock on at home.

“It is a real conundrum and it is a really interesting time for women. I don’t know where it is going in terms of women’s health and wellbeing because it can’t sustain itself.”

Although she does have a plan to relieve some of the stresses – unfortunately for viewers it means Garner will be taking a step back from acting.

“I’ve said to myself that by the time my first one goes to school I want to be at home,” she says.

“I can’t imagine my son going off to school without being able to be at the school gate. What am I going to do, just kind of go, `Oh Mummy’s off to work at 6.30 in the morning, have a great first day at school, won’t you?’

“That ain’t gonna happen.”

City Homicide, Seven, Wednesday, 8.30pm.


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