Josephine Mitchell’s first visit to Summer Bay was in 1990 when she played Constable Jane Holland. The passage of time has left some things unchanged, namely the crew. "They’ve stayed there which is beautiful and some of them worked on A Country Practice as well, which is really nice. The major difference is coming back as someone’s mother instead of someone’s love interest (Craig McLachlan) that’s really big difference"Jo laughs.
Jo returns as Romeo’s (Luke Mitchell) mother, Jill Carpenter. She flirts with every man she meets no matter what age, size, shape or race. She’s cheeky, good natured and bright. However Jill has a dark side. When under the influence of too much alcohol she can turn nasty and make sharp, barbed comments which really hit their target.
Another big change is working with Shane Withington (John Palmer) again, Shane played Brendan Jones in A Country Practice. "As a thirteen year old school girl, I was not on his emotional level, I was a child and he was an adult. I have seen Shane over the years with his wife Annie, so it’s lovely to work with him now."
Acknowledging 'Loveday' as favourite character, Jo explained that this was her first television role and important in her formative years. "I was surrounded by these beautiful nurturing people, who gave me lots of love and support and I feel I grew a lot, and then I would have to say Jill would be on the other end of the spectrum because I have never played an alcoholic, which was challenging, so I did a lot of research about functioning alcoholics, because Jill isn’t someone who just goes out and gets drunk, she drinks all the time."
Romeo is definitely the adult in this relationship and whilst he loves his mother and wants to help her, he also gets humiliated by her actions and desperately wants her to just be ‘normal.’ "Luke is a really interested actor, and I guess that’s the difference from the time I was on the show to now, the younger cast members are very focused and take the craft of acting really seriously. There were a lot more hi-jinx in the 1990’s because Craig (McLachlan) was a real practical joker and loves a laugh. Luke is constantly challenging himself to be better and trying to find things to make the scene more complex, it was a real joy to work with him, apart from that fact that he looks so good, that wasn’t hard either, it’s nice to have such a handsome son" She laughed.
Jo’s own children are 14 and 11 and she still hasn’t decided whether she wants them to watch her tonight. "It’s a hugely popular show with my girls' friends, but I am never comfortable watching myself and apart from a few re-runs of A Country Practice they haven’t seen me act as all my theatre work was too adult."
Although it is often dismissed as a soap, Jo agrees that Home and Away holds an important place in Australian Television. "I think it’s the only show that can step in and out of it’s genre, between serious TV and soap. When they had the riots in Summer Bay it was only months before that we had our own horrible riots in Sydney. It’s the same with my character, high functioning alcoholics are in our society and the storyline allows you to talk about these issues with the family."
Although Jo credits the internet’s usefulness for research and getting world news, she confesses that she does not use Facebook or Twitter, but loves using it to research "really weird historical facts." Having obtained a degree at Sydney University in Medieval and Religious studies, she feels a strong connection to Medieval times. "I swear I have had about four past lives from that period, since I was very little it has always fascinated me. Medieval times were the beginning of what our society is, if you want to ask questions about why we are and who we are, a lot of the grounding is actually in that period."
Jo’s passion for the theatre began at the age three, which was her first performance, although she doesn’t remember it. "I grew up in the theatre, both my parents were actors and directors and my father wrote and I was always around it. It’s a wonderful way of telling our own history and stories. When the curtain goes up it’s just you, the other cast members and the audience and it’s fantastic when you manage to convey the story and the emotions on stage, you actually have a little bit of magic happening. It’s thrilling, I love seeing people rip their guts off on stage!” she laughed.
"We have so many fantastic actors in Australia, and many of the theatre actors don’t get the publicity, but I’d have so say Cate Blanchett who I adore, Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts are great. Jeremy Sims is one of my all time favourite actors and he has just directed Beneath Hill 60, he always brings something different to a role and he was in Home and Away not long ago. I also love Lisa McCune and Rebecca Gibney and I have to say I think Ray Meagher is one of the best actors in Australia, he’s done so much and continues to do really great work in Home and Away."
Jo's opening scene was with Ray and she is sure to ruffle a few feathers in Summer Bay. Check out her entrance.
And her interview on the Morning Show.Interview by Tania Seager