Abby's perfect role on A Place To Call Home
For her role as Anna Bligh on the Australian drama A Place To Call Home, Abby Earl has had to get used to wearing intricate and often restrictive 1950s dresses. Donning Anna's wardrobe while filming in the Australian summer can be a challenge, Earl says. But, surprisingly, the tight bodices and flared skirts are more comfortable to wear than some of her own clothes.
"If you're shaped the way I am they are (comfortable)," Earl tells the TV Guide from her trailer on the set of the drama. "I'm really meant to wear this stuff, much more than what we wear these days. They make everything I wear. How lucky am I? Now when I go shopping I'm like, 'This doesn't fit', because it's not made for me."
Anna will be putting on a rather important dress this week on the drama, as she prepares to marry her childhood sweetheart Gino Poletti (Aldo Mignone, pictured right). Earl says although she and Aldo are not a couple off-screen like her Kiwi co-stars Craig Hall (Jack Duncan) and Sara Wiseman (Carolyn Bligh), they have formed a close bond while filming. "That energy between them, that electricity is just palpable," Earl says of Craig and Sara. "They've cast it really well because even Aldo and I, we're like best mates. Straight away when we met we were like, 'I really like you'. This thing just formed. I call it an umbilical cord kind of thing. There's just something there that's not tangible but it's there."
Anna's determination to marry Gino, a working-class Italian immigrant, despite the initial disapproval of her family, is one of the qualities Earl admires in her character. In fact, Earl was equally determined to snag the role when she first read the script. "When I read Anna I was just out of acting school and I was reading a lot of girlfriend roles and girls next door," Earl says. "Anna's calling the shots in her own life and she's rebellious. I remember putting down the script and going, 'I'm playing her. I have to play her. That's how I felt. I remember going into the audition… I was ready to go into battle. I bared my soul. It's like I walked in naked. I just gave it everything and it worked out."
Comparisons between Earl and Anna are inevitable. Earl showed she could call the shots in her own life early on when she left high school to attend a performing arts school in Sydney, leaving her hometown of Broulee on New South Wales' southern coast. But Earl looks mystified by the comparison. "I don't see it myself," she says. "I think she's pretty damn fabulous and I don't think I'm as courageous as her. I think when I moved to Sydney I was 15 but I didn't see it as courageous. It was just something I had to do. Back in the 50s to be calling the shots that she calls and, you know, being the instigator for sex, I think that's even progressive for now let alone then. So she's much more fabulous than me."
While A Place To Call Home is soon to wrap up its second and final season on TV One, Earl believes the drama has done a good job of drawing attention to issues that still need addressing today. "We have a gay storyline and that just breaks your heart what happened to him," Earl says of Anna's brother James (David Berry). "But it's not even legal for gay people to marry in our country. I'm so proud to be on a show where that's on television while our Prime Minister denounces gay marriage. "I suppose Anna is kind of the voice of women's rights and women's lib. Sometimes you'll hear a sexist joke or something misogynistic and you'll go, 'That's not OK'. I don't think we've come that far sometimes."
Following the end of A Place To Call Home, Earl has made another big move, relocating to Los Angeles. She will not be entirely alone in the US though, with US-based Kiwi actor Grant Bowler helping her out. "I did my first gig with him when I was still in drama school," Earl says of Grant, whom she starred alongside in The Great Mint Swindle. "He's one of those guys where he's Grant Bowler, but he's just so normal and sweet and genuine. We stayed in touch and he's like, 'Anything you need moving ahead, any support and really honest opinions of managers and agents.' He's an amazing guy. If I had kids, he would be their godfather."
A Place To Call Home
TV One, Sunday, 9.40pm
- TV Guide