The final series of A Place To Call Home took fans on an emotional journey through Noni Hazlehurst’s character Elizabeth’s grief, as she struggled to come to terms with her on-screen husband Douglas’ death.
And now, as the show prepares to release the DVD of the final ever series this week, the actress, 65, has opened up on how she empathised with her complex character and acted out the tough moments – revealing the last scenes left almost the entire cast in tears.
“I think it’s been brought to a fitting end,” Noni revealed in an exclusive chat with Starts at 60. “I do think that it evolves beautifully, there was a strong sense of satisfaction and probably a large increase in tissue sales! We all got emotional watching it back.
“Foxtel conducted a number of interviews for fans with us all and most of us were howling through them! Nearly everyone was crying, it was all quite emotional.”
Noni’s character Elizabeth is still grieving Douglas’ death in the final series and, asked how she felt filming the tough scenes, the legendary Aussie actress said: “I understood Elizabeth and the whole notion of the secrets and maintaining appearances and the status quo, being a fish in a small pond and all those things. I think the interesting journey for her – for me – to explore was how she came to understand that what really mattered was love.
“The relationship with Douglas was an important part of that. He saw through the bluster and the front and the façade and for the first time in her life really, she had someone who saw her as a person and not as an image or front.”
Viewers watched on in season five as Douglas asked Elizabeth to help him end his life, having battled cancer for months, and Noni revealed she truly connected with her character as she faced the tough decision and then the subsequent onslaught of grief.
“The legacy of Douglas was something quite profound for her, as it can be for people. I had a lot of empathy for her,” she added.
The actress has previously been open about not wanting Elizabeth to die – and even told TV Week: “There are plenty more things a 60-something woman can do than die.”
However, she said her wish not to be killed off went beyond that too, and she explained to Starts at 60: “Also, to try and remove some of the myths surrounding what actors are paid, I couldn’t afford to die! I said to them, ‘If I’m going to die then leave it to the very end, but is there not something else you could do?’
“To their credit they chose a lovely path for her to tread, largely because of Douglas’ legacy to do good and to be of service.”
Noni explained that she wanted her character to portray the huge wisdom and complexities of many over-60 women, in an attempt to bridge the gap between different generations.
“It’s important to me to show that older people have wisdom, often,” she explained. “Particularly in these days when social media and screens consume so much of young people’s energy, there’s a chance of a further disconnect between generations.”
Elizabeth is certainly a complex character, and when she first burst on to screens at the start of the show, many viewers struggled to warm to her seemingly harsh exterior.
However, as her love story with Douglas developed, fans grew to love her too – and Noni said it’s those mixed emotions and complexities that she loved portraying so much.
Asked if there’s a need for more complex female characters on screen, she said: “I think they’re coming through, they’re now making the incredibly dramatic discovery that women in leading roles in films are actually attracting audiences! Who’d have thought!
“I think the fact there’s been such a horrible backlash over the last 20 or so years to the feminists, of which I was one in the ‘70s, I think older women like me and many younger women are thinking, ‘Hang on, this isn’t acceptable’. The #MeToo movement is part of that.
“Men have got away – and women – have got away with things like abuse and overwhelming power for too long and people are saying enough. I think the change is happening but we’re riding a glacier.”
The final series ends in 1960 which, Noni believes, is a fitting time as the show would have changed dramatically in the ’60s.
All the same, it’s a sad finale to another much-loved Aussie show. Noni revealed that there’s a need for more classic dramas like it, as TV begins to focus more on reality shows – which she claims are focusing too much on the “trashing of young people”.
“It’s people behaving badly and utter exploitation and utter manipulation,” she said. “Plus product placement so everything’s one long ad, it’s a very cynical exercise. The arts in in this country have been reviled and vilified for many, many years and it’s really sad.”
“What really worries me is that we now have generations of parents not knowing life without all this stuff and children are growing up thinking that Real Housewives are actually real housewives,” she added.
“None of reality TV is reality, and that’s the biggest myth of all … It becomes this slimy reality which is not true, but who’s going to contextualise it for the kids whose parents don’t know any different either?”
She concluded: “There are people understanding how manipulative they are, but sadly there will always be young people wanting their 15 minutes of fame … It really is quite revolting.”
A Place to Call Home season 6 is available on DVD from March 13.