An interview with Paula Forrest, the actress who played Shelley, mother of the Sutherland family from 2000 until 2003.
Interview conducted by Stephen in February 2002 for homeandaway.org — the site merged with BTTB in 2004
What was your first role on television?
My first role on television – was I did a kids’ show called Spellbinder, GP, Police Rescue- that was probably my first real television role about 10 years ago.
I actually went to arts high school when I was 14. I did drama and ballet. After graduating I went to a theatre company in Perth in WA. Then I went to acting school.
Then I came to Sydney. There have been very lean times. I’ve done usually waitressing to pay rent. From job to job, normal actors life.
What I love about acting is working with people, is the combination of working with them and to make a scene work with the director and other actors. I really like that collaborative feeling.
With Home and Away because we have a very large cast, which I like—–. That’s what I like about this show, its very collaborative.
Do you enioy playing Shelley?
I really do enjoy playing Shelley because she keeps it quite grounded. I think she is a lot more grounded because she’s a social worker.
The similarities between us are she feels passionately about her family as I do and she has this conflict that’s on going as all working mothers do between her work and her family life. Because I have two little boys and I feel very much and that’s a similarity I definitely share with Shelley. She feels that she is always awaiting her children too much which is what I feel and yet at the same time she has a great need to do her social work.
Would you like to be her?
No not really. I get to play her, which is just enough. I can be Shelley at work and that’s lovely, explore her life and go back to reality.
How do you feel about playing a role very similar to that of Pippa?
I never thought I’d be playing the role of Pippa. The roles I had before Shelley, they were basically very much coordinated- Doctors, Lawyers, people that I played were very much career driven women. Coming to this job was lovely because to get to play a warm earthly loving mother which is lovely for me because I’m a mother. It’s lovely to explore that side of myself.
I’m not trying to fit into Pippa’s shoes, I just have to create Shelley’s shoes. Shelley is different to Pippa.
Do you have any embarrassing moments?
I have many embarrassing moments all the time. I forget lines. If I’m tired I tend to trip over my words a lot. That can be embarrassing, have to retake. I’m just a normal person, just embarrass myself like normal people do. I can’t think of anything at the moment.
What are you going to do when your contract expires?
The contract is up in a year I think and do I have any idea? Em no.
Would you like to stay on?
I may want to stay on. I may not. I’d rather not talk about that.
Have you done much travelling?
I haven’t done a lot of travelling. I’ve done the usual trips we do in Australia. I’ve been to Bali, Fiji. I’ve only been overseas to Vienna and Scilily. I haven’t been to Ireland, I want to go. I’d love to go to Ireland really. I haven’t been to London, New York, Paris, I have a lot of travelling to do but I’d love to get to London and Ireland. I’d love to do a trip through England all the way up and across to Ireland and spend a long time doing it.
Would you like to go to Hollywood?
No, I’m not that interested really.
Have you ever done a pantomime?
No I haven’t. Yes I would love to experience doing a panto one day.
A lot of Home and Away actors go over
Yes I know Kate just came back and Lynne McGranger just came back. Anyway we’ll see maybe I’ll get lucky and I try and get to do one.
Do you have any children?
Yes I have two little boys. I come from a family of three girls. They are gorgeous characters. They are all very individualist, intelligent. Sometimes they speak to me or express themselves in a way and I think maybe I wouldn’t let them get away with that if they were my kids. But then maybe I would, I’ve not had any teenagers yet so I’ll have to wait and see. I’m sure having teenagers is a whole different kettle of fish to that- a whole new experience that awaits me in the future because my little boys are only 3 ½ and 2 ½. So I’ve a long way to go.
What would be your perfect day?
It would be probably be with my family my boys and my husband. Just a whole day together and beautiful weather and spending all day together. I think that would be lovely, no pressure, no home work to do.
If you could spend the day with a movie stay, who would it be?
I wouldn’t mind spending the day with George Clooney. He is very famous and very sexy. But also before George Clooney I’d like to spend the day with Gerard Capetu. I just think he is gorgeous and funny and he probably be the top of my list.
There are lots of people I’d like to spend the day with- Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Emma Thompson- I’d just love to talk to her about acting. She also won an award for her screenplay of ‘Sense and Sensibility’ I just find people like her inspiring.
There are also lots of Australian people I’d like to spend the day with as well. I’m just trying to spend the day with- Kat and Nick Dobson. They are two Aboriginal leaders in Australia. Lots of people who could teach me lots of things.
Do you have any embarrassing moments?
Well I can’t remember peoples names- that’s my main embarrassing moment- forgetting peoples name. I do it when I’ve got too many things going on in my head. Forgetting peoples names and calling them the wrong name.
What about characters’ names?
I do it with Cristy and Kirsty all the time. It drives us all mad and I wish they’d change. You do a scene and you call her Kirsty and you think to yourself, did I call her Cristy. Another thing I’ve done- I’ve said ‘good morning them’ instead of ‘us’.
Were you filming today?
We were filming at the drop-in centre today. Shelley came to Summer Bay and she is running the drop in centre.
Are you still working today?
Yes I’m here till the end of the day and then I’ve a day off tomorrow. Then I’ve 14 scenes on Friday.