If you’ve never heard of Kerry Armstrong, then I reckon you’ve never watched the box. Never pressed the remote button to surf from channel to channel to happen upon her energetic svelte form, wide smile and intense stare coming at you at a rate of knots. This authentic Australian actor and two-time Australian Film Institute Award winner has got the acting goods. At 61 she’s still delivering stellar performances with creative grunt and is as much in love with her craft as she was when she began her career.
We are chatting over the phone on borrowed time. She’s in between everything to do with SeaChange, in which she has revised her role of Heather Jelly with passion, and there’s plenty to be done. So why is Mornington Peninsula Magazine chatting with her — apart from the fact that she’s had an amazing career? She’s a Peninsula resident to boot.
Kerry explains: “I’ve been living on the Peninsula for a few years now but kept a very low profile. I’d been coming down for years before settling. I used to go camping with the Robinsons (the family of former husband and Australian Crawl guitarist Brad Robinson) at the Point Leo camping ground and I’ve always been a surfer. My three boys and I love the water. I love everything about the region and have met some great people. And Clarissa, who rescues the possums — she’s amazing! I’m thrilled to be playing Heather again and to be working with John Howard and Sigrid Thornton. They are such fine actors. Heather Jelly’s low in confidence but has a heart of gold. I based her on a Chauncey Gardiner Being There-type character, and she’s a bit frozen in time. She hasn’t changed much 20 years on, but Pearl Bay has. It’s more multicultural, for one thing.”
Kerry is as smart as a whip and no-fuss too. When I ask her if she gets recognised as a “personality” around town, she replies: “I’m not a personality. I’m an actress. I hate all that stuff that goes on. Acting is a job.” And it’s a job that has taken her across the ocean and back again to land on Western Port Bay. She moved to the States in 1981, where she did a wide variety of stage work and a stint on Dynasty before returning to Australia and getting down to the business of appearing in multiple Australian series, including Police Rescue, Prisoner, Skyways and Bed of Roses. There were more films too. She also won an AFI Award for her leading role in the film Lantana (2001) and was named Best Actress for SeaChange the same year. She’s one of only two Australian actors to do it.
But back to the Peninsula. She continues: “I started sailing when I lived on boats in America on Long Island, and I’ve always loved sailing at Merricks and Mornington yacht clubs. I’m currently training for the Sydney to Hobart yacht race so am spending lots of time on the water. I’ve always been pretty active riding bikes, playing tennis — anything that keeps me moving.”
And with that she’s on the move again and off to another commitment. Having made the seachange herself to the Mornington Peninsula, she’s all set to bring the best of Pearl Bay into our lounge rooms once again. With class.
SeaChange airs on Tuesdays at 8.45pm on Channel 9.