edenstreet.net talk to Cecily Polson
She was the person you'd want to turn to in times of trouble, and despite having troubles of her own she was always there with a smile and a gentle antidote to share. She ruled the roost from start to finish and if you were a friend of hers you were a friend of ours - she was Martha O'Dare and we were lucky enough to share some memories with the lady behind her - Cecily Polson....
Do you remember your first day on set? What was it like and who was your first scene with?
I can't really remember but probably with Penny Cook in the doctor's surgery. We had a week or so of read throughs and talking about our characters so it was really exciting to be finally on the set! I do remember that the bar in the pub was too high on the first day and everyone looked like monkeys reaching up for their drinks - they had to stand the cast on boxes!
One of my favourite E Street double acts was that of Martha and George. I think they provided great stability for the show and I was pleased to have them there from episode 1 right through until the final episode. Did you enjoy this partnership and was it something you and Les Dayman worked hard to create?
I had worked with Les (and so had my husband Peter Gwynne, who also guested in E Street) some years before and had to do my audition (screen test) with him. We fell into each other's arms and never looked back. Les and his wife, and Pete and I used to socialise quite a bit a few years back.
Martha was a great role model. I think it's quite unusual in soaps to show a woman in her 50s holding down a career, having a relationship and remaining sexy and vibrant. Was it a nice revelation to play someone like Martha and did you have fun playing her?
I was actually only 43 when E Street started (but my hair colour must have made people think I was older) and was somewhat taken aback when a crew guy congratulated Les and myself for kissing on TV!!! I was all for mirroring real life. Martha and George never got married and that was pretty radical for TV in the 80s!
You worked with a lot of soap newcomers; notably Melissa Tkautz, Melissa Bell and Daniel Knight. Did you offer them advice about the industry and did you ever feel protective towards them?
Many years ago I was put off by older actresses saying how they had to tell the young ones how to behave and how to pronounce things and say their lines. So I made sure to leave the young ones, give them support, but let them come to me if they needed advice. My favourite scenes in E Street were usually with Brooke Anderson, Melissa Bell, Melissa Tkautz and Daniel Knight. "Give me kids and dogs!" - You know that old saying "Never work with children or animals" - not me!!!
E Street took a while to get itself established but then went on to be the most popular show in Australia. There must have been a time when you all realised that people were loving the show and talking about it. Do you remember when that was?
I guess for me it was when Wheels was in the show (Marcus Graham). He got a lot of publicity and was such a gorgeous hunk of a guy that people started to watch the show.
I loved watching the friendship between Martha and Elly. It was full of fun and compassion and there were some beautiful scenes between them after Elly had been shot and after Bob died. Was it hard to maintain that closeness when Penny Cook left and Diane Craig took over the role, or was it something that just happened naturally?
I loved working with Penny. We got on really well and it was always exciting working together, trying to make our scenes as believable as possible. However Diane and I had worked together in years gone by and even though it was strange having her play Elly, we liked each other very much and became good workmates and friends and yes it happened naturally.
What was the storyline you most enjoyed on E Street? Either one that you were involved in or one that involved others.
Oh always ones I was involved in - typical actress that I am! I just so loved getting my teeth into a good storyline rather than just being the credible adult ladder for the young cast to build their stories on. Which is what George and Martha eventually became but hey, we still loved doing it.
Was there anything you wanted Martha to do that she didn't do? Were there any dream storylines you had in mind for her?
Yes there were quite a few. I really wanted Martha to represent all the 40-50 year olds who weren't portrayed as ugly, stupid and unimportant!! We sometimes suggested storylines to the production team but they usually had their own agendas. I did love Martha having a fling with Abbys brother though.
During your five years on the show what was the highlight for you?
I guess there were many - being Elly's friend and ally in times of crisis, the weddings, the funerals, the ups and downs with George, the fun scenes in the pub - these were mainly in the first few years. George and Martha really only did bits and pieces in the last couple of years as Channel Ten wanted to attract a young audience. However as you've probably gathered by now I just loved my scenes with all the kids.
When E Street was cancelled it must have been a pretty low moment. Was it something you expected or did it come as a shock? What was the last day on set like?
We had all just signed contracts but Forrest Redlich was losing interest in it and other producers were taking over so it wasn't really a shock. In fact after five years it came as quite a relief it's so easy to be locked into that character forever. The last day was sad but a number of us kept in touch for quite a while, and all good things have to come to an end. I then went on to do some TV and stage work.
Which cast members were you closest to and do you keep in touch with any of them?
The original members such as Penny, Tony, Les and Vic Rooney. I loved working with Paul Kelman, AJ, Marianne and became close to Melissa Tkautz when she came in. I saw Vic and Chelsea, went to their real life wedding after the show finished and was upset by his death. I sometimes do voice overs with Paul Kelman and often see Noel Hodda when recording books for 'Vision Australia'. Kept in touch with Di, AJ and Marianne for a while but then our paths diverged.
Did you take any E Street memorabilia with you? Ie a costume or a prop or something.
Yes, I still wear a couple of shirts I had in the show. They were English and made of good quality. My husband uses a ruler with the E Street logo on it and I still have quite a few photos and articles too.
You have worked in the theatre and in film since E Street finished. Do you have any projects in the pipeline and would you ever do another soap?
Yes I've done two stage plays, have been in a few TV shows (All Saints and The Alice) and have made a horror movie 'Goodnight' filmed up at Warner Brothers in the Gold Coast Studios. Most of my work is voice work now, a lot of narrations and contract work with the odd book thrown in. I probably would do another soap if it could be two days a week!
Finally any special E Street memories you'd like to share with us?
I loved working on E Street. I really feel that every actor should be in a soap for a short time at least. You have to discipline yourself to learn lines, to work as an ensemble, to shut your mouth but also to speak up when you have to and to find enjoyment in everything. The general public often mention E Street to me and that's a great compliment.
Many thanks to Cecily Polson for taking time to do this interview and sharing some wonderful stories with us.